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How Does Air Move Around the Globe?
Review of last lecture
• Thickness of the atmosphere: less than 2% of Earth’s
• Definition of temperature. 3 units.
• Four layers of the atmosphere, what separate them?
• Definition of pressure and its unit.
• Definition of pressure gradient. Pressure gradient sets
the air in motion.
• Equation of state (Relationship between P, ρ, and T)
• Vertical Pressure Distribution. How does pressure
change with height? What is the hydrostatic
Review of last lecture (cont.)
• Know 3 Forces that affect wind speed /direction
• Especially work on Coriolis force, as this is the
hardest to understand. Which direction is air
deflected to by Coriolis force?
• What is the geostrophic balance? At which level is it
valid? Difference between upper level and surface
• Does cyclones correspond to high or low surface
pressure? Is the air moving clockwise or counterclockwise around them? How about anticyclones?
• What are the troughs and ridges?
The most common atmospheric
circulation structure
or No
Imbalance of heating  Imbalance of temperature
 Imbalance of pressure  Wind
• Well-defined heating, temperature and pressure patterns exist
across the globe
• These define the general circulation of the planet
• In describing wind motions:
– Zonal winds (east-west): flow parallel to lines of latitude
• Flowing eastward: Westerly wind
• Flowing westward: Easterly wind
– Meridional winds (north-south): flow parallel to lines of
• Flowing northward: Southerly wind
• Flowing southward: Northerly wind
Annual mean precipitation (heating)
Extratropical stormtrack
Tropical rainfall
Extratropical stormtrack
Primary Highs and Lows
Equatorial low
Subtropical high
Subpolar low
Polar high
Three-cell model
Zonal mean circulation
Each hemisphere is
divided into 3 distinct
Hadley Cell
Ferrel Cell
Polar Cell
Vertical structure and mechanisms
Polar Cell (thermal):
Driven by heating at
50 degree latitude
and cooling at the
Ferrel Cell (dynamical):
Dynamical response to
Hadley and polar cells
Hadley Cell (thermal):
Heating in tropics  forms
surface low and upper
level high  air converges
equatorward at surface,
rises, and diverges
poleward aloft 
descends in the subtropics
Zonal mean structure of temperature
Two characteristics:
Horizontally uniform
in the tropics
Steep gradient in
the extratropics
Vertical structure of zonal wind
Two characteristics:
Westerly winds in the
extratropical troposphere
(caused by the Coriolis
force). Explains why storms
move eastward, flight times
Jet streams: local
maximum of winds
(caused by sharp
pressure gradient across
the boundary between
warm tropical air and
cold polar air)
The Jet Streams
• Caused by steep temperature
gradients between cold and
warm air masses
• Polar front - marks area of
contact, steep pressure
gradient  polar jet stream
• Low latitudes  subtropical
jet stream
• Stronger in winter, affect daily
weather patterns
Semipermanent Pressure Cells: NH winter
South Pacific
South Atlantic
South Indian
Low pressure centers: weather and precipitation
High pressure centers: warm, drought and desert
Semipermanent Pressure Cells: NH summer
South Pacific
South Atlantic
South Indian
General circulation of the oceans
• Ocean surface currents – horizontal water motions
• Transfer energy and influence overlying atmosphere
• Surface currents result from frictional drag caused by
wind - Ekman Spiral
• Water moves at a 45o angle (right)
in N.H. to prevailing wind direction
• Due to influence of Coriolis effect
• Greater angle at depth
Global surface currents
• Surface currents mainly driven by surface winds
• North/ South Equatorial Currents pile water westward, create the Equatorial
• western ocean basins –warm poleward moving currents (example: Gulf Stream)
• eastern basins –cold currents, directed equatorward
• Three precipitation (heating) belts. Primary high and
• Three-cell model. Mechanism for each cell
• Two characteristics of zonal mean temperature structure
• Two characteristics of zonal mean wind structure. Why
does westerly winds prevail in the extratropical
troposphere? What cause the jet streams?
• Semipermanent pressure cells. Low pressure is
associated with clouds and precipitation. High pressure
is associated with warm surface temperature, drought,
and desert.
• What drives the ocean surface currents? In the case of
Ekman spiral, what is the direction of surface current
relative to surface wind?
Works cited