High mountain air is dry and may be drier in the winter. Cold air has a reduced capacity to hold water vapor. Because of this increased dryness, equipment does not rust as quickly and organic material decomposes slowly. The dry air also requires soldiers to increase consumption of water. The reduced water vapor in the air causes an increase in evaporation of moisture from the skin and in loss of water through transpiration in the respiratory system. Due to the cold, most soldiers do not naturally consume the quantity of fluids they would at higher temperatures and must be encouraged to consciously increase their fluid intake.
a. Pressure is low in mountainous areas due to the altitude. The barometer usually drops 2.5 centimeters for every 300 meters gained in elevation (3 percent).
b. The air at higher altitudes is thinner as atmospheric pressure drops with the increasing altitude. The altitude has a natural filtering effect on the sun's rays. Rays are absorbed or reflected in part by the molecular content of the atmosphere. This effect is greater at lower altitudes. At higher altitudes, the thinner, drier air has a reduced molecular content and, consequently, a reduced filtering effect on the sun's rays. The intensity of both visible and ultraviolet rays is greater with increased altitude. These conditions increase the chance of sunburn, especially when combined with a snow cover that reflects the rays upward.
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