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Part One:

Describe global patterns of atmospheric heating and circulation.

Even with disruptions like weather fronts and storms, there is a consistent pattern to how air
and heat moves around our planets atmosphere. This pattern, called atmospheric circulation, is
caused because the Sun heats the Earth more at the equator than at the poles. It is also affected by
the spin of the Earth, (UCAR ,2015).
The global atmospheric circulation can be described as the world-wide systems and
movements of wind or air at all levels of the atmosphere over all parts of the planet. The driving
force behind atmospheric circulation is solar energy, which heats the atmosphere with different
intensities starting at the equator, then the middle latitudes and finally the poles. In the tropics,
near the equator, warm air rises. When it gets about 10-15 km (6-9 miles) above the Earth
surface it starts to flow away from the equator and towards the poles (creating a low pressure
system). Air that rose just north of the equator flows north. Air that rose just south of the equator
flows south. When the air cools, it drops back to the ground (creating a high pressure system);
flows back towards the Equator, and warms again. The, now, warmed air rises again, and the
pattern repeats. This pattern, known as convection, happens on a global scale (UCAR, 2015).
According to the site, UCAR (2015), .. Because Earth is spinning, the air that moves north
and south from the equator also turns with the spin of the Earth. Air going north turns to the
northwest. Air travelling south turns to the southwest. The power of Earths spin to turn flowing
air is known as the Coriolis Effect. If the Earth didnt spin, there would be just one large
convection cell between the equator and the North Pole and one large convection cell between
the equator and the South Pole. But because the Earth does spin, convection is divided into three
cells north of the equator and three south of the equator. To conclude, the rotation of our earth on

its axis and the unequal arrangement of land and water masses on the planet also contribute to
diverse features of atmospheric circulation.
What mechanisms produce high precipitation in the tropics?
Precipitation - rain, snow, sleet and hail - is associated with areas of rising air and low
pressure. The tropics are a region surrounding the Equator. The highest rainfall totals occur near
the equator; this is to be expected because the air here that is rising and being warmed, is capable
of storing considerable amounts of water vapor. Take note that the warm air which comes from
both hemispheres, brought by trade wind patterns and subsequent air convection, meet up at the
tropical convergence zone (ITCZ); they cause a high amount of precipitation in the tropics. Such
cycling is called the Hadley Cell. Thus, it is the equator that influences the high precipitation in
the tropics.

What mechanisms produce high precipitation at temperate latitudes?

The Sun's rays hit the equator at a direct angle between 23 26 22N (Tropic of Cancer) and
23 26 22S latitude (Tropic of Capricorn), the closest point, of course, depending on exact time
of the year. Solar radiation that reaches the atmosphere is most intense between these latitudes
(the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn). Everywhere else, the Sun's rays hit at an angle to
the surface and are therefore less intense. The closer a place is to the poles, the smaller the angle
and therefore the less intense the radiation.
Our climate system is based on the location of these hot and cold air-mass regions and the
atmospheric circulation created by trade winds and Westerlies. Trade winds north of the equator
blow from the northeast. South of the equator, they blow from the southeast. The trade winds of
the two hemispheres meet near the equator, causing the air to rise. As the rising air cools, clouds

and rain develop. This cycling rise and fall is called a Hadley cell. The resulting bands of cloudy
and rainy weather near the equator create tropical conditions -- temperate zones.

What mechanisms produce low precipitation in the tropics?

What is observed is that precipitation decreases with the movement from the equator
towards the subtropical regions. The main cause is the shifting locations of the global wind and
pressure system. The seasonal migration of the equatorial convergence zone (ITCZ) and the
subtropical high accounts for the low precipitation in the tropics, specifically, the Tropic of
Cancer. The ITCZ, which is located between the northern and southern Hadley cells, is formed
when the North East Trade Winds (the winds that blows to the Equatorial low pressure belt in the
Northern Hemisphere) and South East Trade Winds (the winds that blows to the Equatorial low
pressure belt in the Southern Hemisphere) meet. When this occurs the subtropical high pressure
belt is formed in both hemispheres where in the Southern Hemisphere it becomes warm and
moist over the Atlantic while in the Northern Hemisphere is hot and dry. The shifting of the
ITCZ is caused by the movement of the Earth. Due to this the direction of the direct hit of the
Suns radiation shifts on the Equator. This causes a shift in the Hadley cells which affects the
movement of the ITCZ.
. Part Two
Use what you know about atmospheric circulation and seasonal changes in the suns
orientation to earth to explain the highly seasonal rainfall in the tropical dry forest
and tropical savanna biomes.

The tropical dry forest and the tropical savanna biomes are located at the tropical and
subtropical latitudes. These areas receive as much as several hundred centimeters of rain per a
year. Savannas are the tropical version of the temperate grasslands and are located between the
Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. Most of the savannas are caused by climate patterns where there
is a strong dry season for a significant portion of the year. Large tracks of Savanna are also found
in South America, India, and in Australia. The annual rainfall, in a Savanna, ranges from 50.8 to
127 cm per year, and is more concentrated in one season of the year.
According to Tapio Schneider (2014), Rainfall on Earth is most intense in the
intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), a narrow belt of clouds centered on average around six
degrees north of the Equator. The mean position of the ITCZ north of the Equator arises
primarily because the Atlantic Ocean transports energy northward across the Equator, rendering
the Northern Hemisphere warmer than the Southern Hemisphere. On seasonal and longer
timescales, the ITCZ migrates, typically towards a warming hemisphere.. The reason that the
rainy season in these biomes comes during the warmer months of the year is due to the position
of the sun and the hot humid air. During the warmer months, the humid air rises off of the ground
and then collides with the cooler air from above and then turns into rain. The warm air of the
warmer months is needed for this process to occur and create the rain.

1. John E. Oliver. 2005. Encyclopedia of World Climatology. Springer. New York.
Unknown Author. 2015. Hadley Cell. Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. Accessed at:

2. Tapio Schneider, Topias Bischoff & Gerald.H.Haug. (2014). Migrations and dynamics of
the intertropical convergence zone. Nature. Accessed at:
3. Unknown Author. 2013. General Circulation of the Atmosphere. NC State University.
Accessed at:
4. Unknown Author. 2015. A Global Look at Moving Air: Atmospheric Circulation. UCAR
Center for Science Education. Accessed at:
5. Couth China Normal University. (2015) Ecology. Accessed at: