Prediction of barometric pressures at high altitude with the use of model atmospheres

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1996 Oct;81(4):1850-4. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1996.81.4.1850.


It would be valuable to have model atmospheres that allow barometric pressures (PB) to be predicted at high altitudes. Attempts to do this in the past using the International Civil Aviation Organizations or United States Standard Atmosphere model have brought such models into disrepute because the predicted pressures at high altitudes are usually much too low. However, other model atmospheres have been developed by geophysicists. The critical variable is the change of air temperature with altitude, and, therefore, model atmospheres have been constructed for different latitudes and seasons of the year. These different models give a large range of pressures at a given altitude. For example, the maximum difference of pressure at an altitude of 9 km is from 206 to 248 Torr, i.e., approximately 20%. However, the mean of the model atmospheres for latitude of 15 degrees (in all seasons) and 30 degrees (in the summer) predicts PB at many locations of interest at high altitude very well, with predictions within 1%. The equation is PB (Torr) = exp (6.63268 - 0.1112 h - 0.00149 h2), were h is the altitude in kilometers. The predictions are good because many high mountain sites are within 30 degrees of the equator and also many studies are made during the summer. Other models should be used for latitudes of 45 degrees and above. Model atmospheres have considerable value in predicting PB at high altitude if proper account is take of latitude and season of the year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Altitude*
  • Atmospheric Pressure*
  • Climate
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Seasons
  • Temperature