Shortcut Navigation:

The Arthur Ross Terrace will be closed this morning, Tuesday, October 21, for a private cultural observance. You many observe smoke and/or fire coming from the Terrace at that time. The FDNY has been notified in advance, and all safety precautions are in place. The Terrace will reopen at 1 pm.

Wind

atmos-wind_chart_280

A chart from about 1715 shows the trade winds and other known wind patterns throughout the world. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

Denis Finnin/AMNH


A chart from about 1715 shows the trade winds and other known wind patterns throughout the world. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

Why does the wind blow? The answer, surprisingly, has to do with the Sun. The equator receives much more sunlight than the poles and so is much warmer. Warm air at the equator rises and blows toward the poles while cooler air from the poles moves in below. But Earth's spin twists and deforms these air currents, producing small, consistent bands of wind that circle the planet.

Global Wind Patterns

Bands of regularly circulating winds wrap around the planet, moving warm air toward the poles and sailors across the oceans.

Hadley circulation: Warm air rises at the equator, moves partway to the poles, sinks, and returns to the equator, completing the loop.

Hadley circulation produces belts of westward blowing wind on the surface—the Trade Winds.

Ferrel circulation: In the mid-latitudes, air moves along the surface toward the poles, rises, and curls back upon itself.

Ferrel circulation creates belts of wind on the surface, blowing from west to east—the Westerlies.

Polar circulation: Cold air high in the atmosphere sinks and spreads out away from the poles.

Where's The Wind?

Sailors have long relied on regular wind patterns to carry them around the world and back again. A British chart in the exhibition from about 1715 shows the trade winds and other known wind patterns throughout the world.

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Phone: 212-769-5100

Open daily from 10 am - 5:45 pm
except on Thanksgiving and Christmas
Maps and Directions

Enlighten Your Inbox

Stay informed about Museum news and research, events, and more!