Chapter 5

Winds and the Global Circulation System


This chapter examines how unequal surface heating and the rotation of the earth generate global circulation systems in the atmosphere and oceans.


intertropical      anticyclones       Rossby waves       
convergence zone   Hadley cells       jet stream         
pressure gradient  doldrums           thermocline        
isobars            Subtropical        ocean currents     
wind vane          high-pressure      gyres              
anemometer         belts              El Niño            
Coriolis effect    monsoon            La Niña            
cyclones           geostrophic wind                      


  1. What is the normal value of atmospheric pressure at sea level? How and why does it change with altitude?
  2. Use the example of land and sea breezes to illustrate how differential surface heating produces pressure gradients and winds.
  3. Define the Corliolis effect and describe how it influences winds and ocean currents at the earth's surface.
  4. Describe the three-dimensional pattern of air flow in cyclones and anticyclones in the northern and southern hemispheres. What forces drive these air flow patterns?
  5. Sketch a diagram to show the following features of the global atmospheric circulation system: the doldrums, equatorial trough, Hadley cells, ITC, trade winds, subtropical high-pressure belts, westerlies, polar front and polar easterlies.
  6. Describe the seasonal pressure and circulation patterns of the Asian monsoon.
  7. What are local winds and what factors lead to their development?
  8. What are Rossby waves and what role do they play in the process of poleward heat transfer?
  9. What are jet streams? How do they form and where are they found?
  10. Describe the thermal structure of the oceans.
  11. Sketch a diagram to show the general pattern of ocean currents in the Pacific ocean. How are these current patterns related to global wind patterns?
  12. What are El Niño and La Niña?
  13. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using wind as a power source?

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