Atmospheric general circulation
Newton, Chester W. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado.
Last reviewed:November 2019
- Principal circulations
- Mean temperature and wind
- Angular momentum balance
- Heat energy balance
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The statistical description of atmospheric motions over the Earth, their role in transporting energy, and the transformations among different forms of energy. Through their influence on the pressure distributions that drive the winds, spatial variations of heating and cooling generate air circulations, but these are continually dissipated by friction. While large day-to-day and seasonal changes occur, the mean circulation during a given season tends to be much the same from year to year. Thus, in the long run and for the global atmosphere as a whole, the generation of motions nearly balances the dissipation. The same is true of the long-term balance between solar radiation absorbed and infrared radiation emitted by the Earth–atmosphere system, as evidenced by its relatively constant temperature. Both air and ocean currents, which are mainly driven by the winds, transport heat. Hence the atmospheric and oceanic general circulations form cooperative systems. See also: Maritime meteorology; Ocean circulation
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