1. I. Exploring a Map of Global Winds



    1. To learn about the Earth's winds by explorating of a real-time map of local, regional, and global winds.

    2. To develop skills in understanding real-time data.

    Research question

    What can a real time animated wind map teach us about the winds circling our planet?



    Why use data from multiple participants?

    In this initial "Global Winds" activity students can exchange initial discoveries made using  a professional animated map of planetary winds.

    Investigation Protocol

    Before you start, you might find it easier to print out or make notes about your Report Form questions, so the answers will be available when it is time to answer them.

    A. Become Familiar with the Global Winds Map:

    1. Go to the Global Winds web site.


    Wait for the winds to appear.

    2. Open and Close the Control Panel.

    Click on the word "Earth." This opens your Control Panel. It has more choices than you will use immediately; we will introduce just a few right now.

    Under the word Earth, today's date will be displayed.

    Data will tell you what information you are seeing and from how high up in the atmosphere. In our example the data line says "winds@Surface."

    Scale matches color to wind speed. The coloring goes from low speed on the left to high on the right. Hovering your cursor over the scale will reveal  the value for that color in the units you selected. (For winds,  we want you to use m/sec, the international unit).

    The Control line positions your map in space and time. Position the map over you. Go to icon that looks like a bracketed circle, [(O)] and click.Your location will now be positioned in the center of the map. We will address time in another activity.

    Mode tells you whether you have Air values or Ocean Currents. Make sure Air is selected. This is a winds study, after all!

    Height should be set to Sfc (Surface) when you start, but you can select other heights to explore. Note that height is measured in air pressure (hPa), with pressure decreasing as you go higher.

    Overlay – Make sure Wind is selected. In other activities, other features will be selected.

    3. Rotate the world by dragging it; double-click to get closer.

    Look at the map from different positions, including the poles and the Equator.

    Here are a few short cuts:





    Are you lost? Click on “O” in the Control Panel: Projection line. 

    (Remember, click Earth to open and to close the Control Panel.)

    Clicking "O"  will return the map to its starting position. 

    4. Get surface Wind Speed and Direction readings anywhere in the world.

    Click on the globe to get open a small information box. A circle will be left on the map where you clicked.

    This info box will open above the control panel and tell you:

    - the location of your selection (in latitude and longitude)

    - the direction the wind is heading. (Reported in degrees, where 0 degrees = North, so 180 degrees would be South, 90 degrees would be East and 270 would be West.) 

    - the wind speed. Keep clicking on the units until you get m/s (meters per second), the international units for speed.  Make sure you choose m/s!

    Close the information window by clicking on the X in the upper right corner of the window.

    B. Make Some Discoveries

    5. CONSIDER: How are wind speeds different over land than over water?

    6. Visit different layers of the atmosphere.

    Meteorologists, as mentioned, identify the different layers of the atmosphere by their pressure. Picture people in a stack on top of each other. The person at the bottom feels the most pressure! At any point in the atmosphere the pressure represents the total weight of the atoms above. So, the higher the pressure, the lower the height of the layer.

    In the Control Panel, click on "About" in the lower left hand corner. Scroll down to find descriptions of the atmospheric layers.

    Explore different heights of the atmosphere by clicking on different pressures in the in the Height line of the control panel.

    QUESTION: In which atmospheric layer are winds the fastest? Why might this be true?

    7. Explore the jet stream(s)

    In the Control Panel, set the Height at 250 hPa, the atmospheric height at which the jet streams circulate.

    Locate the jet streams, the strong winds that flow from west to east (the jet stream) at mid-latitudes (between the poles and the equator.) 

    QUESTION:  What does the northern jet stream look like? For example, does it go all the way around the earth? Is it straight or kinked? Does it always go in the same direction?

    8.  Is there a southern jet stream? If there is, how does it differ from the northern Jet Stream?

    9. Make other discoveries.

     What other wind features would you like to point out to your Globallab classmates?

    Safety tips


    • Project was published on:June 3, 2014
    Report Form Before filling in the Report Form, please read the Investigation Protocol