Lesson 10A: Global Winds


Estimated Time Frame: Two forty-five minute class periods

Indicator(s) Core learning Goal 1:

1.1.2 ?The student will modify or affirm scientific ideas according to accumulated evidence.
1.2.6 ?The student will identify and/or describe appropriate methods for conducting an investigation and affirm the need for proper controls in an experiment.
1.4.2 ?The student will analyze data to make predictions, decisions, or draw conclusions.

Indicator(s): Core Learning Goal 2:

2.3.2 The student will investigate meteorological phenomena.

Student Instructional Outcome(s):

The student will be able predict reasons for global wind patterns by examining satellite data and applying knowledge of temperature gradients.

Brief Description:

The student will use a variety of satellite data as evidence to support global wind circulation.

Background knowledge / teacher notes:

This lesson focuses on large-scale tropospheric circulation. The driving force for atmospheric circulation is the global distribution of energy. Incoming solar radiation decreases with latitude. More solar radiation is received in the tropics than the poles and so there is a resulting temperature gradient. This is actually a negative feedback loop as the atmosphere responds to temperature gradients. Energy is transferred from the latitudes to reduce the pressure gradient and restore energy balance. Heating occurs in the tropics and air rises from convection. The topical air rises creating a low-pressure area. The rising air is replaced by surface air that moves towards the equator from regions of higher pressure. The merging air masses move inward at a convergence zone. The intertropical convergence zone is where converging air masses meet and rise. (See the graphic below.)

Because of the spin of the Earth, in the Northern Hemisphere, air cells revolve in a clockwise or anticyclonic direction. Deflection is always to the right of initial motion in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. The Coriolis effect causes east-west movements of surface winds.


Lesson Description:


Examine a graphic of global wind patterns. One is available from PBS online available: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elnino/now/mapping13llarge.html

Compare the enhanced satellite image to a "cartoon graphic" of Tropospheric wind circulation available: http://seis.natsci.csulb.edu/rbehl/winds.htm

Ask student to use a Venn diagram to compare the enhanced satellite image to the cartoon graphic. Draw Venn Diagram on Newsprint and share with the class.

Accommodations: Students will need to see both images side by side.

The special educator may need to guide a small group in completing the Venn Diagram by questioning.


View the animated graphic on the Coriolis Effect, available The Coriolis Force. Available:


Then complete the technical reading, Wind Energy Resources: Global Winds. Available:


Education Elements:


This site contains some background and an activity on Global Wind Patterns



SEES figure 2.22 — color graphic representing Balanced Zonal Wind at the Equator for the years, 1079-1995.



Journal Write: Compare global winds to local winds with respect to a) causes and b) circulation patterns. Provide evidence from the technical readings and graphics.

Accommodation: A TABA chart may be useful in the organization and comparison of data.


Examine a graphic of satellite data which show sea surface temperature. One maybe found at:


Relate global temperature gradients and uneven heating of the earth to global wind patterns.

GT: Relate global wind patterns to global warming.

Days just drag. Robert Mathews. GLOBAL WARMING is slowing the

Earth down. A study of changes in wind. An article from New Scientist. Available:


Education Elements:


This site contains some background and links related to the Measurement of Global Winds.




SEES figure 1.04 — color schematic diagram of the life cycle of an ozone molecule.



Journal Write: Explain how the temperature data supports what you have learned about global wind patterns. Use the Science Rubric to evaluate your response. Create a systems diagram that shows factors that cause and influence global wind patterns.

Accommodation: The Journal Write and systems diagram may need to be guided using Language Experience Approach for a small group of students.

GT Connection: Explain why this is a negative feedback loop.


Internet access


Wind Energy Resources: Global Winds. Available:


The Coriolis Force. Available:


Making Sense of the Weather. Global Wind Patterns. Available:


Technical reading suitable for students who may need assistance with grade level text.

Days just drag. Robert Mathews. GLOBAL WARMING is slowing the

Earth down. A study of changes in wind. An article from New Scientist. Available:


Sea Surface Temperature and Vegetation Index. Available:


Credit: Rendered: June 24, 1997

Source: JPL DAAC, Pathfinder AVHRR data

Data Date: May 1994