A system used to identify and to characterize the different air masses according to a basic scheme.
A number of systems have been proposed, but the Bergeron classification has been the most widely accepted. In this system, air masses are designated first according to the thermal properties of their source regions: tropical (T); polar (P); and less frequently, arctic or antarctic (A). For characterizing the moisture distribution, air masses are distinguished as to continental (c) and maritime (m) source regions. Further classification according to whether the air is cold (k) or warm (w) relative to the surface over which it is moving indicates the low-level stability conditions of the air, the type of modification from below, and is also related to the weather occurring within the air mass. This outline of classification yields the following identifiers for air masses: cTk, cTw, mTk, mTw, cPk, cPw, mPk, mPw, cAk, mAk, mAw; the last of which is never used. H. C. Willett, in his classification, introduces further distinction between stable (s) and unstable (u) conditions in upper levels. Some authors may include equatorial (E), monsoon (M), or superior air (S) in their classifications. Others prefer to omit the arctic (A) type and describe all air masses on the basis of polar and tropical air, separated by the polar front.