Other terms that mean the same as orographic lifting are upslope flow, topographic uplift and forced land lifting. When this type of lifting occurs the land forces the air to move to a higher elevation. Several thermodynamic variables change when air rises. The temperature of the air cools as air is lifted. In this situation it is common to notice cooler temperatures in the higher elevation regions and warmer temperatures in the lower elevation regions. As unsaturated air rises the relative humidity of the air will increase. This occurs because the temperature of the air is decreasing. As air cools the saturation vapor pressure of the air decreases. Since relative humidity is (vapor pressure / saturation vapor pressure) * 100%, the relative humidity will increase as saturation vapor pressure decreases toward the vapor pressure. Another way to think of this is that more moisture can evaporate into warmer air than cooler air. As temperature cools, not as much moisture has to be evaporated into the air to reach the saturation vapor pressure. As air cools, eventually the saturation vapor pressure will drop to the actual vapor pressure and the relative humidity will reach 100%. When this occurs clouds and precipitation can develop. It is common for an orographic lifting situation to produce cooler and damp weather especially if the air has to rise a significant vertical distance.

The wind direction will determine which side of a high elevation region experiences orographic lifting. Since weather in the mid-latitudes tends to move from west to east it is common for the western side of high elevation regions to have significant orographic lifting. Examples of such locations are the west side of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada range in the western U.S. In some situations the wind will blow from another direction. Orographic lifting will occur in the Rocky Mountains on the east side of the range when the wind is from the east. Since the flow is counterclockwise around low pressure, winds will flow from the east on the north side of the low pressure system. This can bring upslope rain and snow on the east side of the Rocky mountains and out into the higher elevations of the plains.