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Creating an
Earth System I

Creating an Earth System:

Atmosphere Interactions

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere is in constant motion on scales ranging from local gusts to wind belts that encircle the globe.

Hot air rises.

As air rises, air pressure at the surface is lowered. Rising air expands and cools (adiabatic cooling: that is, it cools due to change in volume as opposed to adding or taking away of heat). The result is condensation/precipitation.

Cold air sinks.

Sinking air compresses and heats. As air sinks, air pressure at the surface is raised. Cold air holds less moisture than warm.

Air travels from high to low pressure, creating wind.

If the Earth did not rotate, what would wind patterns look like?

Just like convection currents with air rising at the equator and sinking at the poles. However, the real wind patterns are broken into several convection cells due to the Coriolis effects. So on a rotating Earth, wind is controlled by:


The ocean and atmosphere are linked or coupled into two ways:

  1. Physical - the exchange of heat, water, and momentum.

  2. Chemical - much of the heat that escapes the oceans is in the form of evaporated water.

How do water and land respond to heating?

Try the Activity: Differential Heating and Cooling

Learn more about El Niņo.

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