General Circulation

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General Circulation

Warm air rises and cool air sinks, or subsides. If the Earth had no continents and did not turn, then the circulation of the atmosphere would appear much like this.

[pic] The air at the Equator would be heated by the warm Earth and so rise, flow toward the poles where it is cooled by the cold Earth, subside at the North Pole and South Pole, and then flow back to the Equator along the surface of the Earth.

But the Earth does have continents and it does spin on its axis, so the “General Circulation” of the atmosphere actually looks more like the images on the next page. These are sometimes referred to as the three-cell general circulation model. Air rises at the Equator and near 50( to 60(, and it sinks near 30( and 90( (the poles). The winds do not blow directly north and south due to the coriolis effect. The coriolis “force” deflects moving objects to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere.

Winds are named for the direction from which they blowing. As indicated, the general circulation of the atmosphere is from the East at latitudes poleward of about 50( North Latitude and 60( South Latitude. The general circulation of the atmosphere is also from the East at latitudes equatorward of about 30( north or south of the Equator. The general circulation is from the west at middle latitudes, and these are the “Prevailing Westerlies” that we experience in most of the continental United States. This is why weather systems generally move from west to east across North America.



Several distinctive features result from this three-cell general circulation model.

Convergence means “coming together.” The…...

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