An arctic front is a boundary between an arctic air mass and a polar air mass. This boundary tends to exist more or less continually in northern latitudes, although it will change location as seasonal weather patterns are expressed. The equivalent on the other end of the planet is an antarctic front. The movement of arctic fronts is a topic of interest among meteorologists and weather researchers.
Arctic air masses tend to be cold and dry. When they run up against a polar air mass, which is slightly warmer, the arctic air mass creates a wedge which pushes under the polar air. This causes air movements which can lead to weather phenomena such as rain and snow along the line of the arctic front. This “cold front” can create weather which may range from relatively mild to quite intense, depending on a number of meteorological factors.
People who live at high latitudes often experience winter weather which is brought by arctic fronts. In the winter, the arctic front tends to drift south in response to changing weather patterns, dragging snow and rain with it. Sometimes a front may hover in an area for an extended period of time, dumping a high volume of snow. Eventually, the arctic front will be pushed further south or further north.
As an arctic front retreats, the weather warms up, because the warmer polar air mass is moving over the landscape. In areas where the arctic air mass moves in to stay, the weather can get much colder, because of the cooler temperature of the arctic air mass. Snow and ice will be retained as a result, because the weather does not warm up enough to permit melting. In some areas, snow may remain all winter long as a result of extremely cold conditions.
The arctic front can also pose a threat to travelers. It is generally dangerous to drive or fly during heavy winter weather because visibility is obscured and high winds can present a hazard. People may be forced off course and may not realize it if heavy snowfall has occurred, as this can obscure landmarks and the landscape in general. Arctic fronts are also a matter of concern when it comes to maintaining comfortable living conditions, as the blast of cold weather can require extra work from heating systems to keep structures at a usable and comfortable level of warmth for their occupants.