and it is accepted that weather cannot be predicted beyond a fairly short limit: perhaps a month in theory. it is stable over longer periods of time. or (currently) about ten days in practice (see Chaos theory and Butterfly effect). The wind belts girdling of the planet are organised into three cells: the Hadley cell. the explanations of the other two cells is complex. the "cells" of Earth's atmosphere shift polewards in warmer climates (e. interglacials compared to glacials). Note that there is one discrete Hadley cell that may split. the overall latitudinal pattern of Earth's climate was not much different from the one today. the Ferrel cell.occur "randomly".for example the jet stream -.g. Contrary to the impression given in the simplified diagram. In the extremely hot climates of the Mesozoic. individual weather systems . Tectonic uplift can significantly alter major elements of it. and the Polar cell. However. The large-scale structure of the atmospheric circulation varies from year to year.midlatitude depressions. Nonetheless. but remain largely constant even due to continental drift. as the climate is the average of these systems and patterns . and plate tectonics shift ocean currents. But even then. the vast bulk of the vertical motion occurs in the Hadley cell. and the means (together with the smaller ocean circulation) by which thermal energy is distributed on the surface of the Earth.where and when they tend to occur again and again -. shift and merge in a . however . but the basic climatological structure remains fairly constant. it was perhaps caused by convection.AWAN NIMBOSTRATUS AWAN CUMULOUS AWAN CUMULOUSNIMBUS Atmospheric circulation is the large-scale movement of air. indications of a third desert belt at the Equator has been found. As a rule. or tropical convective cells .

closing the loop of the Hadley cell and creating the Trade Winds. Low and high pressures on earth's surface are balanced by opposite relative pressures in the upper troposphere. it has cooled considerably. the Polar cell also balances the Hadley cell in the Earth’s energy equation. These ultra-long waves play an important role in determining the path of the jet stream. The outflow from the cell creates harmonic waves in the atmosphere known as Rossby waves. Though the Hadley cell is described as lying on the equator. moist air lifted aloft in equatorial low pressure areas (the Intertropical Convergence Zone. it is more accurate to describe it as following the sun’s zenith point. it descends in a high pressure area. ITCZ) to the tropopause and carried poleward." which undergoes a semiannual north-south migration. Air circulates within the troposphere. It can be argued that the Polar cell is the primary weathermaker for regions above the middle northern latitudes. Some of the descending air travels equatorially along the surface. which begins at the equator with warm. Warm air rises at lower latitudes and moves poleward through the upper troposphere at both the north and south poles.complicated process over time [citation needed]. which travels within the transitional zone between the tropopause and the Ferrel cell. limited vertically by the tropopause at about 8 km. [edit] Polar cell Main article: Polar vortex The Polar cell is likewise a simple system. Though cool and dry relative to equatorial air. By acting as a heat sink. or what is termed the "thermal equator. When the air reaches the polar areas. moving away from the pole along the surface but twisting westward as a result of the Coriolis effect to produce the Polar easterlies. [edit] Hadley cell Main article: Hadley cell The ITCZ's band of clouds over the Eastern Pacific and the Americas as seen from space The Hadley cell mechanism is well understood. dry high pressure area. The atmospheric circulation pattern that George Hadley described to provide an explanation for the trade winds matches observations very well. air masses at the 60th parallel are still sufficiently warm and moist to undergo convection and drive a thermal loop. It is a closed circulation loop. there is nothing like a winter visit from a Siberian high to give one a true . While Canadians and Europeans may have to deal with occasional heavy summer storms. and descends as a cold. At about 30°N/S latitude.

appreciation of real cold. For this reason it is sometimes known as the "zone of mixing. unstable weather extends to at least 70° north. [edit] Ferrel cell The Ferrel cell. There are some notable exceptions to this rule. the Westerlies can be found beneath the Ferrel cell. such as a Siberian high (which could be considered an extension of the Arctic high)." While the Trade Winds and the Polar Easterlies have nothing over which to prevail. These atmospheric features are also stable. so even though they may strengthen or weaken regionally or over time. the upper flow of the Ferrel cell is not well defined. they exist as a direct consequence of surface temperatures. The base of the Ferrel cell is characterized by the movement of air masses. but — except under unusual circumstances — are not even permitted to form. and the telling point is in the Westerlies. and frequently does. which are more formally known as "the Prevailing Westerlies. However. While upper-level winds are essentially westerly. In fact. Just as the Trade Winds can be found below the Hadley cell. in other words. and comes about as a result of the eddy circulations (the high and low pressure areas) of the mid-latitudes. could be said to override the Ferrel cell. A strong high moving polewards may bring easterly winds for days. is a secondary circulation feature. While the Hadley and Polar cells are truly closed loops. it overrides the Polar cell. and at its northern extent. their parent circulation cells having taken care of any competition they might have to face. [edit] Longitudinal circulation features . they do not vanish entirely. it is the polar high which is responsible for generating the coldest temperature recorded on Earth: -89. ensures that the effects of transient weather phenomena are not only not felt by the system as a whole. A low moving polewards or a high moving equator wards maintains or even accelerates a westerly flow. In Europe. because of the effects on the upper atmosphere of surface eddies. which act as destabilizing influences. it overrides the Hadley cell. The overall movement of surface air is from the 30th latitude to the 60th.2°C at Vostok Station in 1983 in Antarctica." At its southern extent (in the Northern hemisphere). strong high pressure areas which divert the prevailing westerlies. in part. the Westerlies are at the mercy of passing weather systems. The Hadley cell and the Polar cell are similar in that they are thermally direct. making it discontinuous. Thus. 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. the Ferrel cell is not. and the depth of the heat sink that is the Polar cell. 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. and the location of these air masses is influenced in part by the location of the jet stream. The sheer volume of energy the Hadley cell transports. 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). theorized by William Ferrel (1817-1891). the local passage of a cold front may change that in a matter of minutes. dependent for its existence upon the Hadley cell and the Polar cell. surface winds can vary sharply and abruptly in direction. their thermal characteristics override the effects of weather in their domain. It behaves much as an atmospheric ball bearing between the Hadley cell and the Polar cell.

The Pacific Ocean cell plays a particularly important role in Earth's weather. (Water levels in the western Pacific are about 60 cm higher than in the eastern Pacific. and decreases as the latitude increases. a difference due entirely to the force of moving air. Longitudinal circulation. First. Under "normal" circumstances. air cooled by contact with the ground. the western Pacific waters are warm and the eastern waters are cool. an early-20th-century director of British observatories in India. and in the eastern Pacific. which he termed the "Southern Oscillation". flows eastward or westward. it is what brings the sea breeze. ashore in the day. and instead is seasonal or even decadal in its effects. Even at mesoscales (a horizontal range of 5 to several hundred kilometres). and the overall atmospheric motion is known as the zonal overturning circulation. But every few years. reaching its minimum at the poles. they do not act alone. the climate dominoes next to it begin to topple. . and western Pacific Ocean regions. out to sea during the night. and leads to an understanding of the El Niño (more accurately. depending on its location. the upper-level westerly winds fail. and the pattern sets in for an indeterminate period. Ferrel. and subsides in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Latitudinal circulation is the consequence of the fact that incident solar radiation per unit area is highest at the heat equator. On a larger scale. continental. and carries the land breeze. Under ordinary circumstances. and therefore the surface Easterlies cease. While he was never successful in doing so. The behavior of the Walker cell is the key to the riddle. the winters become unusually warm or unusually cold.While the Hadley. who sought a means of predicting when the monsoon winds would fail.Southern Oscillation) phenomenon. on the other hand. 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. Warm air rises over the equatorial. air cooled by the water.)[1][2][3] [edit] Walker circulation Main article: Walker circulation The Pacific cell is of such importance that it has been named the Walker circulation after Sir Gilbert Walker. The movement of air in the Walker circulation affects the loops on either side. his work led him to the discovery of an indisputable link between periodic pressure variations in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. the weather behaves as expected. this effect is noticeable. This cuts off the source of cool subsiding air. and Polar cells are major players in global heat transport. this effect ceases to be diurnal (daily). Disparities in temperature also drive a set of longitudinal circulation cells. when it reaches the tropopause. This entirely ocean-based cell comes about as the result of a marked difference in the surface temperatures of the western and eastern Pacific. but the temperature changes less than land. If convective activity slows in the Western Pacific for some reason (this reason is not currently known). comes about because water has a higher specific heat capacity than land and thereby absorbs and releases more heat. ENSO or El Niño . or the frequency of hurricanes increases or decreases.

Southern Oscillation Main article: El Niño-Southern Oscillation El Niño and La Niña are two opposite surface temperature anomalies in the Southern Pacific. and Southeast Africa. warm water surges in from the west since there is no longer a surface wind to constrain it. The neutral part of the cycle . which means "the nothing" in Spanish. Australia. high-level.the "normal" component . Meanwhile in the Atlantic.The consequence of this is twofold. There is increased upwelling of deep cold ocean waters and more intense uprise of surface air near South America. This has serious impacts on the fish populations. This and the corresponding effects of the Southern Oscillation result in long-term unseasonable temperatures and precipitation patterns in North and South America. resulting in increasing numbers of drought occurrence. resulting in colder than normal winters in North America. fast-blowing Westerlies which would ordinarily be blocked by the Walker circulation and unable to reach such intensities. In the La Niña case. and disruption of ocean currents. These winds tear apart the tops of nascent hurricanes and greatly diminish the number which are able to reach full strength. In the case of El Niño warm water approaches the coasts of South America which results in blocking the upwelling of nutrientrich deep water. . form. [edit] El Niño . although it is often argued that fishermen reap benefits from the more nutrient-filled eastern Pacific waters. In the eastern Pacific. and a more robust cyclone season in South-East Asia and Eastern Australia. the convective cell over the western Pacific strengthens inordinately.has been referred to humorously by some as "La Nada". which heavily influence the weather on a large scale.

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