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Global wind patterns: Winds are named by the direction from which they blow.

The globe is encircled by six major wind belts, three in each


hemisphere. From pole to equator, they are the polar easterlies, the westerlies, and the trade winds. All six belts move north in the northern
summer and south in the northern winter.

Polar Easterlies: At about the latitude of Norway and northward (60-90 degrees), the Polar easterlies blow irregularly from the east and
north.

Polar Front: Between the polar easterlies and the westerlies is the polar front.

Prevailing Westerlies: At about the latitude of Western Europe and the United States (30-60 degrees), theWesterlies blow from the west,
tending somewhat toward the north. This causes most weather in the United States to move from west to east.

Horse Latitudes: Where the Westerlies meet the trade winds at about 30 degrees (Jacksonville, Florida) is theHorse latitudes, also Variables
of Cancer, Subtropical High, or Subtropical ridge. This is a region of high pressure, dry air, and variable winds, and is associated with deserts
over land.

Trade Winds: South of about 30 degrees the northern or northeast trade winds blow mostly from the northeast toward the equator. These
were the sailor's favorite winds, since the weather was warm, and the winds usually blew steadily in an advantageous direction. Columbus
used these to sail to the Caribbean.

Doldrums: At about the equator is Intertropical Convergence Zone or doldrums, a region of light and irregular wind broken by occasional
thunderstorms and squalls. The width and exact location of the doldrums is hard to predict. Sailing ships are sometimes becalmed here for
many days waiting for a proper wind.

Southern hemisphere: In the southern hemisphere the belts are reversed. The southeast trade winds blow from the southeast toward the
equator. The southern equivalent of the horse latitudes (or Variables of Cancer) is called the Variables of Capricorn. The southern westerlies
start somewhat south of South Africa. They tend to be stronger than the northern westerlies because they are mostly over water (roaring
forties). The southern polar easterlies are mostly over Antarctica.

Seasonal shifts: All of the belts move north during the northern summer and south during the northern winter. Because global heating and
cooling lags behind the position of the sun, they reach their northernmost latitude at or after the end of the northern summer. This brought the
trade winds within reach of the Spain and Portugal and determined the sailing time of the Spanish treasure fleet. The northernmost position
of the wind belts corresponds to the Atlantic hurricane season.

Land and sea breezes: Land gains and loses heat more rapidly than water. During the day, the land warms more rapidly than the water.
The air above land warms, becomes thinner, and rises, drawing cooler air landward from the sea. At night, the process reverses, and cool
heavy air from the land flows out to sea. These land and sea breezes are important along the coast.

Monsoon: The annual equivalent of the daily land and sea breezes is the yearly monsoon. During summer, the continents heat more rapidly
than the oceans. Air over the continents warms, thins and rises drawing cooler moist ocean air landward, producing a wet season. During
winter, the process reverses and cold, dry heavy air flows outward from the continents, producing a dry season. The monsoon is most
striking in south Asia because of the size of the Eurasian landmass and because the Himalayas tend to bottle up the air above the continent.
Approximations of the Indian monsoon exist in other places, but they are poorly developed.

The five major ocean gyres


Ocean Gyre: The fact that the westerlies and trade winds blow in opposite directions and that the continents prevent water from circling the
globe contributes to the formation of circular ocean currents, clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the southern
hemisphere. The Coriolis force also plays a part. The trade winds push water west. At the doldrums it flows back east producing
the equatorial countercurrent. See Ocean gyre.

Coriolis force, Hadley cell and other things: In the northern hemisphere, the Coriolis effect causes wind and water currents to bend to the
right (clockwise). Cold heavy air flows south from the north pole and is bent west, forming the polar easterlies. Warm air rises at the equator
drawing air from the north which bends to the west, contributing to the trade winds. The Coriolis effect bends the westerlies and trade winds
slightly clockwise in the northern hemisphere.

Hot air rises at the doldrums. As it rises, it cools producing thunderstorms. The dry air flows north at a high altitude and descends at the
horse latitudes and flows back to the equator with the trade winds. This is called the Hadley cell. There is also a Ferrel cell over the
westerlies and a polar cell over the pole. There are other complexities, not all of which are properly understood.

Prevailing winds are winds that blow predominantly from a single general direction over a particular point on the Earth's surface.
The dominant winds are the trends in direction of wind with the highest speed over a particular point on the Earth's surface. A region's
prevailing and dominant winds are often affected by global patterns of movement in the Earth's atmosphere.[1] In general, easterly flow occurs
at low and medium latitudes globally. In the mid-latitudes, westerly winds are the rule and their strength is largely determined by the polar
cyclone. In areas where winds tend to be light, the sea breeze/land breeze cycle is the most important to the prevailing wind; in areas which
have variable terrain, mountain and valley breezes dominate the wind pattern. Highly elevated surfaces can induce a thermal low, which then
augments the environmental wind flow.

Wind roses are tools used to determine the direction of the prevailing wind. Knowledge of the prevailing wind allows the development of
prevention strategies for wind erosion of agricultural land, such as across the Great Plains. Sand dunes can orient themselves, or
perpendicular to, the prevailing wind regime within coastal and desert locations. Insects drift along with the prevailing wind, while birds are
able to fly more independently of it. Prevailing winds in mountainous locations can lead to significantrainfall gradients within the topography,
ranging from wet across windward-facing slopes to desert-like conditions along their lee slopes.

Contents
[hide]

 1Determination for a location


 2Climatology
o 2.1Trades and their impact
o 2.2Westerlies and their impact
o 2.3Polar easterlies
 3Local considerations
o 3.1Sea and land breezes
o 3.2Circulation in elevated regions
 4Effect on precipitation
 5Effect on nature
 6See also
 7References

Determination for a location[edit]


Wind rose plot for Fresno Air Terminal (FAT), Fresno, California for the month of April 1961

Main article: Wind rose

A wind rose is a graphic tool used by meteorologists to give a succinct view of how wind speed and direction are typically distributed at a
particular location. Presented in a polar coordinate grid, the wind rose shows the frequency of winds blowing from particular directions. The
length of each spoke around the circle is related to the frequency that the wind blows from a particular direction per unit time. Each
concentric circle represents a different frequency, emanating from zero at the center to increasing frequencies at the outer circles. A wind
rose plot may contain additional information, in that each spoke is broken down into color-coded bands that show wind direction ranges.
Wind roses typically use 8 or 16 cardinal directions, such as north (N), NNE, NE, etc.,[2] although they may be subdivided into as many as 32
directions.[3]

Climatology[edit]
Trades and their impact[edit]
Main article: Trade wind

The trade winds (also called trades) are the prevailing pattern of easterly surface winds found in the tropics near the
Earth'sequator,[4] equatorward of the subtropical ridge. These winds blow predominantly from the northeast in the Northern Hemisphereand
from the southeast in the Southern Hemisphere.[5] The trade winds act as the steering flow for tropical cyclones that form over world's
oceans, guiding their path westward.[6] Trade winds also steer African dust westward across the Atlantic ocean into the Caribbean sea, as
well as portions of southeast North America.[7]

Westerlies and their impact[edit]


Effect of prevailing wind on aconiferous tree, western Turkey.

Main article: Westerlies

The westerlies or the prevailing westerlies are the prevailing winds in the middle latitudes (i.e., between 35 and 65 degreeslatitude), which
blow in areas poleward of the high pressure area known as the subtropical ridge in the horse latitudes.[8][9]These prevailing winds blow from
the west to the east,[10] and steer extra-tropical cyclones in this general manner. The winds are predominantly from the southwest in the
Northern Hemisphere and from the northwest in the Southern Hemisphere.[5] They are strongest in the winter when the pressure is lower over
the poles, such as when the polar cyclone is strongest, and weakest during the summer when the polar cyclone is weakest and when
pressures are higher over the poles.[11]

Together with the trade winds, the westerlies enabled a round-trip trade route for sailing ships crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as
the westerlies lead to the development of strong ocean currents in both hemispheres. The westerlies can be particularly strong, especially in
the southern hemisphere, where there is less land in the middle latitudes to cause the flow pattern to amplify, which slows the winds down.
The strongest westerly winds in the middle latitudes are called the Roaring Forties, between 40 and 50 degrees south latitude, within the
Southern Hemisphere.[12] The westerlies play an important role in carrying the warm, equatorial waters and winds to the western coasts of
continents,[13][14] especially in the southern hemisphere because of its vast oceanic expanse.

The westerlies explain why coastal North America tends to be wet, especially from Northern California to Alaska, during the winter.
Differential heating from the sun between the land which is quite cool and the ocean which is relatively warm causes areas of low pressure to
develop over land. This results in moisture rich air from the Pacific Ocean to flow from the west, resulting in frequent rainstorms and wind on
the coast. This moisture continues to flow eastward until orographic lift caused by the Coast, Cascade, Columbia and Rocky Mountains
cause a rain shadow effect which limits further penetration of these systems and associated rainfall eastward. This trend reverses in the
summer when strong heating of the land causes high pressure and tends to block moisture-rich air from the Pacific from reaching land. This
explains why most of coastal North America in the middle latitudes experiences dry summers, despite abundant rainfall in the winter. [8][9]

Polar easterlies[edit]
Main article: Polar easterlies
The polar easterlies (also known as Polar Hadley cells) are the dry, cold prevailing winds that blow from the high-pressure areas of the polar
highs at the north andSouth poles towards the low-pressure areas within the westerlies at high latitudes. Like trade winds and unlike the
westerlies, these prevailing winds blow from theeast to the west, and are often weak and irregular.[15] Due to the low sun angle, cold air builds
up and subsides at the pole creating surface high-pressure areas, forcing an equatorward outflow of air;[16] that outflow is deflected westward
by the Coriolis effect.

Local considerations[edit]
Sea and land breezes[edit]
Main article: Sea breeze

A: Sea breeze, B: Land breeze

In areas where the wind flow is light, sea breezes and land breezes are important factors in a location's prevailing winds. The sea is warmed
by the sun to a greater depth than the land due to its greater specific heat.[17] The sea therefore has a greater capacity for absorbing heat
than the land, so the surface of the sea warms up more slowly than the land's surface. As the temperature of the surface of the land rises,
the land heats the air above it. The warm air is less dense and so it rises. This rising air over the land lowers the sea level pressure by about
0.2%. The cooler air above the sea, now with higher sea level pressure, flows towards the land into the lower pressure, creating a cooler
breeze near the coast.

The strength of the sea breeze is directly proportional to the temperature difference between the land mass and the sea. If an offshore wind
of 8 knots (15 km/h) exists, the sea breeze is not likely to develop. At night, the land cools off more quickly than the ocean due to differences
in their specific heat values, which forces the daytime sea breeze to dissipate. If the temperature onshore cools below the temperature
offshore, the pressure over the water will be lower than that of the land, establishing a land breeze, as long as an onshore wind is not strong
enough to oppose it.[18]

Circulation in elevated regions[edit]


Mountain wave schematic. The wind flows towards a mountain and produces a first oscillation (A). A second wave occurs further away and higher. The

lenticular clouds form at the peak of the waves (B).

Over elevated surfaces, heating of the ground exceeds the heating of the surrounding air at the same altitude above sea level, creating an
associated thermal low over the terrain and enhancing any lows which would have otherwise existed, [19][20] and changing the wind circulation
of the region. In areas where there is rugged topography that significantly interrupts the environmental wind flow, the wind can change
direction and accelerate parallel to the wind obstruction. This barrier jet can increase the low level wind by 45 percent.[21] In mountainous
areas, local distortion of the airflow is more severe. Jagged terrain combines to produce unpredictable flow patterns and turbulence, such
as rotors. Strong updrafts, downdrafts and eddies develop as the air flows over hills and down valleys. Wind direction changes due to the
contour of the land. If there is a pass in the mountain range, winds will rush through the pass with considerable speed due to the Bernoulli
principle that describes an inverse relationship between speed and pressure. The airflow can remain turbulent and erratic for some distance
downwind into the flatter countryside. These conditions are dangerous to ascending and descending airplanes. [22]

Daytime heating and nighttime cooling of the hilly slopes lead to day to night variations in the airflow, similar to the relationship between sea
breeze and land breeze. At night, the sides of the hills cool through radiation of the heat. The air along the hills becomes cooler and denser,
blowing down into the valley, drawn by gravity. This is known a katabatic wind or mountain breeze. If the slopes are covered with ice and
snow, the katabatic wind will blow during the day, carrying the cold dense air into the warmer, barren valleys. The slopes of hills not covered
by snow will be warmed during the day. The air that comes in contact with the warmed slopes becomes warmer and less dense and flows
uphill. This is known as an anabatic wind or valley breeze.[23]

Effect on precipitation[edit]

Orographic precipitation

Main articles: Orographic lift, Precipitation types (meteorology) and United States rainfall climatology

Orographic precipitation occurs on the windward side of mountains and is caused by the rising air motion of a large-scale flow of moist air
across the mountain ridge, resulting in adiabatic cooling and condensation. In mountainous parts of the world subjected to consistent winds
(for example, the trade winds), a more moist climate usually prevails on the windward side of a mountain than on the leeward or downwind
side. Moisture is removed by orographic lift, leaving drier air (seekatabatic wind) on the descending and generally warming, leeward side
where a rain shadow is observed.[24]
In South America, the Andes mountain range blocks Pacific moisture that arrives in that continent, resulting in a desertlike climate just
downwind across western Argentina.[25] The Sierra Nevada range creates the same effect in North America forming the Great
Basin and Mojave Deserts.[26][27]

Effect on nature[edit]

Sand blowing off a crest in theKelso Dunes of the Mojave Desert, California.

See also: Dunes, Erosion and Insects

Insects are swept along by the prevailing winds, while birds follow their own course.[28] As such, fine line patterns within weather
radar imagery, associated with converging winds, are dominated by insect returns.[29] In the Great Plains, wind erosion of agricultural land is a
significant problem, and is mainly driven by the prevailing wind. Because of this, wind barrier strips have been developed to minimize this
type of erosion. The strips can be in the form of soil ridges, crop strips, crops rows, or trees which act as wind breaks. They are oriented at a
right angle to the wind in order to be most effective.[30] In regions with minimal vegetation, such as coastal and desert areas, transverse sand
dunes orient themselves perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction, while longitudinal dunes orient themselves parallel to the prevailing
winds.[31]

Large global wind systems are created by the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface. These global wind systems, in turn,
drive the oceans’ surface currents. To understand how global winds form and drive the major ocean currents, you need to
know that wind is the basically the movement of air from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. Pressure is
force per unit area, and air pressure is simply the weight (force) of the column of air above a particular location, per unit
area. Air pressure therefore depends on elevation or altitude (higher up means less air above), the average temperature of
the air above the particular location (hot air is lighter than cold air), and what the air's composition is. For example, air
with a large amount of water vapor is less dense than dry air because the water molecule has less mass than either an
individual nitrogen or oxygen molecule. Also as elevation or altitude increases, air becomes less dense.

Unequal heating of the Earth’s surface also forms large global wind patterns. In area near the equator, the sun is almost
directly overhead for most of the year. Warm air rises at the equator and moves toward the poles. At the poles, the cooler
air sinks and moves back toward the equator. However, it is not this simple. Global winds do not move directly from north
to south or south to north because the Earth rotates. All winds in the Northern Hemisphere appear to curve to right as they
move. In the southern hemisphere, winds appear to curve to the left. This is known as the Coriolis effect, which is the
apparent shift in the path of any fluid or object moving about the surface of the Earth due to the rotation of the Earth.

Near the equator, the trade winds converge into a broad east to west area of light winds. The area is known as the
doldrums because there are light winds. This belt of air around the equator receives much of the sun’s radiant energy. This
area is known as the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), and is the area with the most active weather. The latitude
where Earth’s mean annual surface temperature is highest is located at 10°N. As you learned the Northern Hemisphere has
more landmass and is relatively warmer than the Southern Hemisphere. Also at the equator, warmer, moist air rises and
produces a low-pressure area extending many kilometers north and south of the equator.
Trade Winds – About 30° north and south of the equator, the warm, moist air that rose vertically cools and begins to
sink. Here the sky is clear. There are few clouds and little rainfall. Winds are calm. These are called the horse latitudes,
because when food ran out, sailors had to throw horses overboard. Deserts, such as the Sahara in Africa, are also common
at 30°N and 30°S. At the horse latitudes some of the sinking air travels back toward the equator. The air moving back
toward the equator forms warm, steady winds, known as the trade winds.

The rising air at the equatorial regions and the sinking air at about 30°N and 30°S form huge convection current, known as
a Hadley cell for the English meteorologist who first proposed their existence to explain the trade winds.

Prevailing Westerlies – Some of the cool, sinking air continues to move toward the North and South. These winds are
called the westerlies and are located between 40°to 60° latitude in both hemispheres.

Polar Easterlies – In both hemispheres, the westerlies start rising and cooling between 50° and 60° latitude as they
approach the poles. They meet extremely cold air flowing toward the equator from the poles and form the polar easterlies.

Atmospheric circulation is the large-scale movement of air, and the means (together with the smaller ocean circulation) by which thermal
energy is distributed on the surface of the Earth.

The large-scale structure of the atmospheric circulation varies from year to year, but the basic climatological structure remains fairly constant.
Individual weather systems – mid-latitude depressions, or tropical convective cells – occur "randomly", and it is accepted that weather cannot
be predicted beyond a fairly short limit: perhaps a month in theory, or (currently) about ten days in practice (see Chaos theory and Butterfly
effect). Nonetheless, as the climate is the average of these systems and patterns – where and when they tend to occur again and again – it
is stable over longer periods of time.

As a rule, the "cells" of Earth's atmosphere shift polewards in warmer climates (e.g. interglacials compared toglacials), but remain largely
constant even due to continental drift; they are, fundamentally, a property of the Earth's size, rotation rate, heating and atmospheric depth, all
of which change little. However, a tectonic upliftcan significantly alter their major elements, for example, the jet stream, and plate
tectonics may shift ocean currents. In the extremely hot climates of the Mesozoic, indications of a third desert belt at the Equator has been
found; it was perhaps caused by convection. But even then, the overall latitudinal pattern of Earth's climate was not much different from the
one today.

Contents
[hide]

 1Latitudinal circulation features


o 1.1Hadley cell
o 1.2Polar cell
o 1.3Ferrel cell
 2Longitudinal circulation features
o 2.1Walker circulation
 2.1.1El Niño – Southern Oscillation
 3See also
 4References
 5External links

Latitudinal circulation features[edit]


An idealised view of three large circulation cells.

Vertical velocity at 500 hPa, July average. Ascent (negative values) is concentrated close to the solar equator; descent (positive values) is more diffuse

but also occurs mainly in the Hadley cell.

The wind belts girdling the planet are organised into three cells: the Hadley cell, theFerrel cell, and the Polar cell. Contrary to the impression
given in the simplified diagram, the vast bulk of the vertical motion occurs in the Hadley cell; the explanations of the other two cells are
complex. Note that there is one discrete Hadley cell that may split, shift and merge in a complicated process over time [citation needed]. Low and
high pressures on earth's surface are balanced by opposite relative pressures in the upper troposphere.

Hadley cell[edit]
Main article: Hadley cell

The ITCZ's band of clouds over theEastern Pacific and the Americas as seen from space

The Hadley cell mechanism is well understood. The atmospheric circulation pattern that George Hadley described to provide an explanation
for the trade winds matches observations very well. It is a closed circulation loop, which begins at the equator with warm, moist air lifted aloft
in equatoriallow-pressure areas (the Intertropical Convergence Zone, ITCZ) to the tropopause and carried poleward. At about 30°N/S
latitude, it descends in a high-pressure area. Some of the descending air travels equatorially along the surface, closing the loop of the Hadley
cell and creating the Trade Winds.

Though the Hadley cell is described as lying on the equator, it is more accurate to describe it as following the sun’s zenithpoint, or what is
termed the "thermal equator," which undergoes a semiannual north-south migration.
The Hadley system provides an example of a thermally direct circulation. The thermodynamic efficiency and power of the Hadley system,
considered as a heat engine, is estimated as 2.6% and 200 TW.[1]

Polar cell[edit]
Main articles: Polar vortex and Polar easterlies

The Polar cell is likewise a simple system. Though cool and dry relative to equatorial air, air masses at the 60th parallel are still sufficiently
warm and moist to undergo convection and drive a thermal loop. Air circulates within the troposphere, limited vertically by the tropopause at
about 8 km. Warm air rises at lower latitudes and moves poleward through the upper troposphere at both the north and south poles. When
the air reaches the polar areas, it has cooled considerably, and descends as a cold, dry high-pressure area, moving away from the pole
along the surface but veering westward as a result of the Coriolis effect to produce thePolar easterlies.

The outflow from the cell creates harmonic waves in the atmosphere known as Rossby waves. These ultra-long waves play an important role
in determining the path of the jet stream, which travels within the transitional zone between the tropopause and the Ferrel cell. By acting as
a heat sink, the Polar cell also balances the Hadley cell in the Earth’s energy equation.

The Hadley cell and the Polar cell are similar in that they are thermally direct; in other words, they exist as a direct consequence of surface
temperatures; their thermal characteristics override the effects of weather in their domain. The sheer volume of energy that the Hadley cell
transports, and the depth of the heat sinkthat is the Polar cell, ensures that the effects of transient weather phenomena are not only not felt
by the system as a whole, but — except under unusual circumstances — are not even permitted to form. The endless chain of passing highs
and lows which is part of everyday life for mid-latitude dwellers is unknown above the 60th and below the 30th parallels. There are some
notable exceptions to this rule. In Europe, unstable weather extends to at least 70° north.

These atmospheric features are also stable, so even though they may strengthen or weaken regionally or over time, they do not vanish
entirely.

The Polar cell, orography and Katabatic winds in Antarctica, can create very cold conditions at the surface, for instance the coldest
temperature recorded on Earth: -89.2 °C at Vostok Station in Antarctica, measured 1983.[2][3][4]

Ferrel cell[edit]
Some air rising at the polar fronts diverge at high altitude towards the poles to create the polar cell, while the rest moves in the opposite
direction to the high level zones of convergence and subsidence at the subtropical ridges on each side of the equator. These mid-latitude
counter-circulations create the Ferrel cells that encircle the globe in the northern and southern hemispheres. [5] The Ferrel cell, theorized
by William Ferrel (1817–1891), is therefore a secondary circulation feature, dependent for its existence upon the Hadley cell and the Polar
cell. It behaves much as an atmospheric ball bearing between the Hadley cell and the Polar cell, and comes about as a result of
the eddy circulations (the high- and low-pressure areas) of the mid-latitudes. For this reason it is sometimes known as the"zone of
mixing." At its southern extent (in the Northern hemisphere), it overrides the Hadley cell, and at its northern extent, it overrides the Polar cell.
Just as the Trade Winds can be found below the Hadley cell, the Westerlies can be found beneath the Ferrel cell. Thus, strong high-pressure
areas which divert the prevailing westerlies, such as a Siberian high (which could be considered an extension of the Arctic high), could be
said to override the Ferrel cell, making it discontinuous.

While the Hadley and Polar cells are truly closed loops, the Ferrel cell is not, and the telling point is in the Westerlies, which are more
formally known as "the Prevailing Westerlies." While the Trade Winds and the Polar Easterlies have nothing over which to prevail, their
parent circulation cells having taken care of any competition they might have to face, the Westerlies are at the mercy of passing weather
systems. While upper-level winds are essentially westerly, surface winds can vary sharply and abruptly in direction. A low moving polewards
or a high moving equator wards maintains or even accelerates a westerly flow; the local passage of a cold front may change that in a matter
of minutes, and frequently does. A strong high moving polewards may bring easterly winds for days.

The base of the Ferrel cell is characterized by the movement of air masses, and the location of these air masses is influenced in part by the
location of the jet stream, which acts as a collector for the air carried aloft by surface lows (a look at a weather map will show that surface
lows follow the jet stream). The overall movement of surface air is from the 30th latitude to the 60th. However, the upper flow of the Ferrel
cell is not well defined. This is in part because it is intermediary between the Hadley and Polar cells, with neither a strong heat source nor a
strong cold sink to drive convection and, in part, because of the effects on the upper atmosphere of surface eddies, which act as destabilizing
influences.
In contrast to the Hadley and Polar systems, the Ferrel system provides an example of a thermally indirect circulation. The Ferrel system
acts as a heat pump with a coefficient of performance of 12.1, consuming kinetic energy at an approximate rate of 275 TW.[1]

Longitudinal circulation features[edit]


While the Hadley, Ferrel, and Polar cells are major factors in global heat transport, they do not act alone. Disparities in temperature also
drive a set of longitudinal circulation cells, and the overall atmospheric motion is known as the zonal overturning circulation.

Latitudinal circulation is the consequence of the fact that incident solar radiation per unit area is highest at the heat equator, and decreases
as the latitude increases, reaching its minimum at the poles. Longitudinal circulation, on the other hand, comes about because water has a
higher specific heat capacity than land and thereby absorbs and releases more heat, but the temperature changes less than land. Even
at mesoscales (a horizontal range of 5 to several hundred kilometres), this effect is noticeable; it is what brings the sea breeze, air cooled by
the water, ashore in the day, and carries the land breeze, air cooled by contact with the ground, out to sea during the night.

Diurnal wind change in coastal area.

On a larger scale, this effect ceases to be diurnal (daily), and instead is seasonal or even decadal in its effects. Warm air rises over
the equatorial,continental, and western Pacific Ocean regions, flows eastward or westward, depending on its location, when it reaches the
tropopause, and subsides in theAtlantic and Indian Oceans, and in the eastern Pacific.

The Pacific Ocean cell plays a particularly important role in Earth's weather. This entirely ocean-based cell comes about as the result of a
marked difference in the surface temperatures of the western and eastern Pacific. Under ordinary circumstances, the western Pacific waters
are warm and the eastern waters are cool. The process begins when strong convective activity over equatorial East Asia and subsiding cool
air off South America's west coast creates a wind pattern which pushes Pacific water westward and piles it up in the western Pacific. (Water
levels in the western Pacific are about 60 cm higher than in the eastern Pacific, a difference due entirely to the force of moving air.)[6][7][8][9]

Walker circulation[edit]
Main article: Walker circulation

The Pacific cell is of such importance that it has been named the Walker circulation after Sir Gilbert Walker, an early-20th-century director
of British observatories in India, who sought a means of predicting when the monsoon winds would fail. While he was never successful in
doing so, his work led him to the discovery of a link between periodic pressure variations in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, which he
termed the "Southern Oscillation".

The movement of air in the Walker circulation affects the loops on either side. Under "normal" circumstances, the weather behaves as
expected. But every few years, the winters become unusually warm or unusually cold, or the frequency of hurricanes increases or decreases,
and the pattern sets in for an indeterminate period. The Walker Cell plays a key role in this and in the El Niño (more accurately, ENSO or El
Niño – Southern Oscillation) phenomenon. If convective activity slows in the Western Pacific for some reason (this reason is not currently
known), the climate dominoes next to it begin to topple. First, the upper-level westerly winds fail. This cuts off the source of cool subsiding
air, and therefore the surface Easterlies cease.
The consequence of this is twofold. In the eastern Pacific, warm water surges in from the west since there is no longer a surface wind to
constrain it. This and the corresponding effects of the Southern Oscillation result in long-term unseasonable temperatures and precipitation
patterns in North and South America, Australia, and Southeast Africa, and disruption of ocean currents.

Meanwhile, in the Atlantic, high-level, fast-blowing Westerlies which would ordinarily be blocked by the Walker circulation and unable to
reach such intensities, form. These winds tear apart the tops of nascent hurricanes and greatly diminish the number which are able to reach
full strength.

El Niño – Southern Oscillation[edit]


Main article: El Niño-Southern Oscillation

El Niño and La Niña are opposite surface temperature anomalies in the Southern Pacific, which heavily influence the weather on a large
scale. In the case of El Niño warm water approaches the coasts of South America which results in blocking the upwelling of nutrient-rich
deep water. This has serious impacts on the fish populations.

In the La Niña case, the convective cell over the western Pacific strengthens inordinately, resulting in colder than normal winters in North
America, and a more robust cyclone season in South-East Asia and Eastern Australia. There is increased upwelling of deep cold ocean
waters and more intense uprising of surface air near South America, resulting in increasing numbers of drought occurrences, although it is
often argued that fishermen reap benefits from the more nutrient-filled eastern Pacific waters.

The neutral part of the cycle – the "normal" component – has been referred to humorously by some as "La Nada", which means "the nothing"
in Spanish.