A high-pressure area, high or anticyclone is a region where theatmospheric pressure at the surface of the planet is greater than its surrounding environment.
Winds within high-pressure areas flow outward from the higher pressure areas near their centers towards the lower pressure areas further from their centers. Gravity adds to the forces causing this general movement, because the higher pressure compresses the column of air near the center of the area into greater density – and so greater weight compared to lower pressure, lower density, and lower weight of the air outside the center.
However, because the planet is rotating underneath the atmosphere, and frictional forces arise as the planetary surface drags some atmosphere with it, the air flow from center to periphery is not direct, but is twisted due to the Coriolis effect, or the merely apparent force that arise when the observer is in a rotating frame of reference. Viewed from above this twist in wind direction is in the same direction as the rotation of the planet.
The strongest high-pressure areas are associated with cold air masses which push away out of polar regions during the winter when there is less sun to warm neighboring regions. These Highs change character and weaken once they move further over relatively warmer water bodies.
Somewhat weaker but more common are high pressure areas caused by atmospheric subsidence, that is, areas where large masses of cooler drier air descends from an elevation of 8 to 15 km after the lower temperatures has precipitated out the lighter water vapor. (H2O is about half of the molecular weight of the other two main constituents of the atmosphere—Oxygen, O2, and Nitrogen, N2.)
Many of the features of Highs may be understood in context of middle- or meso-scale and relatively enduring dynamics of a planet'satmospheric circulation. For example, massive atmospheric subsidences occur as part of the descending branches of Ferrel cells andHadley cells. Hadley cells help form the subtropical ridge, steer tropical waves and tropical cyclones across the ocean and is strongest during the summer. The subtropical ridge also helps form most of the world's deserts.