What Are Global Winds?

Global winds are a system of wind patterns distributing warm air unevenly across Earth. If Earth did not rotate, winds would move from the equator to their respective poles. Because Earth rotates, winds appear to be moving east in the Coriolis effect.

Global winds are composed of three different wind patterns: trade winds, polar easterlies and westerlies.

The trade winds are located from 30 degrees latitude, north and south, to the equator. When cooling air sinks, the air flows steadily back down the equator. These winds are favored by sailors because of their warmth and steady stream. Columbus was famous for favoring the trade winds.

The polar easterlies are located at a latitude of about 60 to 90 degrees in both hemispheres. Since these winds originate in the east, they are called easterlies. However, the wind direction is quite irregular, occasionally blowing to the west or north. Rising air flows toward the poles, and extremely cold sinking air flows back toward the equator.

The westerlies wind pattern is responsible for most of the weather flow in the United States. Located between 30 to 60 degree latitude in both hemispheres, the westerlies winds originate in the west and flow to the east. Sinking air continues to move toward the poles.