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Engineering LibreTexts

6.1: Background

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  • Atmospheric circulation is the movement of air throughout the atmosphere, while oceanic circulation is the movement of water within the ocean basins. In both cases fluids (air and water) flow in complex three-dimensional pattern distributing thermal energy from warm low latitude areas to colder, higher latitude areas. What is important to consider is that heat is not only being moved from place to place, but it is also being exchanged between the oceans and the environment – the topic of activity set 7, Atmosphere / Ocean Interactions. In this way atmosphere / ocean flows regulate climate throughout the system.

    To really understand this, we need to work our way through a number of simpler models like we did in activity set 4, Atmospheric Energy Budget, when we used the model output viewer Build Your Own Earth to understand the flow of energy through the earth’s climate system. However, before we do this it is useful to look at the actual patterns of circulation to better understand how they regulate the earth’s climate system. This is the focus of this activity set.

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