What Is the Difference Between Local Winds and Global Winds?

Jodie Griggs/Stone/Getty Images

The term global winds refers to the six major wind belts that encircle the globe. Local winds, however, are the winds, or breezes, that are stirred up by the temperatures and topographical features of a small region or area. This is especially true of coastal areas.

Each hemisphere has three global winds: the polar easterlies, the prevailing westerlies and the trade winds. They are named for the direction in which they blow. According to the University of Illinois, the polar easterlies range from 60 to 90 degrees latitude. The prevailing westerlies, which is known simply as the westerlies, range from 30 to 60 degrees latitude, and the trade winds range from 0 to 30 degrees latitude.

The trade winds blow mostly from the southeast to the Equator and is the route that sailors prefer because of its steady and warm tropical winds. Christopher Columbus is thought to have sailed on the trade winds to the Caribbean. The prevailing westerlies move eastward toward the poles. These winds are responsible for much of the weather changes across the United States and Canada. The polar easterlies is where the winds from 60 degrees latitude meet with the prevailing westerlies. The combination of the two wind directions produces an upward motion.

Local winds, on the other hand, are winds such as sea and land breezes. These breezes are produced from the cooling and heating of the air above the coastal shores and the sea. During the day, the warm air near the land rises and draws cooler air inward from the sea. At night, the opposite occurs and the air from the land flows out to the sea.