Scientists Say: Jet Stream

These mighty winds can alter our weather and shorten our flight times

This image shows a model of the polar jet stream, highlighted in red, above North America. 

Goddard Multimedia/Wikimedia Commons

Jet stream (noun, “JET streem”)

These are fast-flowing air currents high in the atmosphere. They occur on Earth, as well as on planets such as Jupiter. On Earth, there are major jet streams in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Planes can sometimes use the push offered by jet streams going in their direction to cut travel times by riding these winds over long distances.

In a sentence

Warmer winters can make the Northern Hemisphere jet stream “wiggle,” which can change the weather further south.

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Power Words

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jet stream  A fast-flowing, high-altitude air current. On Earth, the major jet streams flow from west to east in the mid-latitude regions of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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