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Large-scale temperature inversions occur in the lower atmosphere when warm air overlies cooler air These widespread inversions are caused by a variety of factors The four primary types of inversions are the marine inversions regional subsidence inversions high-pressure inversions and radiation inversions Marine inversions occur near the coast mainly near the western side of continents where marine air is blown inland by prevailing winds The ocean is cool compared to the land therefore the air right above the ocean is also cool The prevailing winds blow this cool air toward the land Meanwhile the land is warm due to solar radiation The warm air rises and circulates above the cooler air creating a temperature inversion At night the land cools quickly This causes a reverse circulation where cool air moves from the land over to the water Regional subsidence inversions are created when air flows over an obstacle such as a mountain range or blows from a high plateau and descends into a lower basin After the air crosses the obstacle it descends and is heated by adiabatic compression This means that the air becomes hotter as it compresses into the lower regions of the troposphere due to its own energy This air is typically dry which causes it to warm very quickly this is known as a dry adiabat The air will descend until it reaches the denser colder air found at the surface Once there it will spread out over the cooler air and form a temperature inversion A high-pressure inversion can form when a stationary high-pressure system settles over a region This is a common occurrence in the southern California coastal zone Inside the high-pressure system dry air slowly descends as it circulates The subsidence causes the air to pressurize and warm The warm air then traps the cooler coastal air and a temperature inversion is created A radiation inversion occurs when heat is rapidly lost from the surface by thermal radiation
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