Science 101: What Causes Major Wind Patterns, Such as Trade Winds?by: Bill Robertson

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This column provides background science information for elementary teachers. This month’s issue discusses general wind patterns on Earth.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (3)
  • on Sun Feb 09, 2014 2:32 AM

Dr. Robertson is trying to help teachers understand what they teach so that they do not teach assumptions that may not be correct. One such broadly held misconception that teachers pass on to their students is summed up in this simple statement: “Warm air rises.” You may have used this statement to explain why it is hotter in the second floor of a two-story home. The truth is, warm air is less dense than cooler air. All air will be impacted by gravitational pull and will tend to sink unless forced up and out of the way by something denser. I loved Dr. Robertson’s demonstration of water and oil to help explain this point. If you are going to teach weather patterns, this is a must-read article

Carolyn M  (Buffalo Grove, IL)
Carolyn M (Buffalo Grove, IL)

  • on Thu Jan 09, 2014 9:25 AM

This humorous article does a clear job of explaining how wind currents are created by the earth and what patterns they follow. Several excellent diagrams help the reader visualize the written explanations.

Betty Paulsell  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty Paulsell (Kansas City, MO)

  • on Tue Oct 21, 2014 11:10 AM

This article was a great summary of trade winds and how they occur. The water/vegetable oil demonstration is a great way to introduce the concept of convection cells and air density to children. This was a clear, concise synopsis. Because the water is denser than the oil, gravity pushes the oil up when submerged. This is the same for trade winds. Cold air is denser than warm air, resulting in rising warm air. Eventually it loses energy and cools down, sinking and pushing up more hot air. The visuals in the article are great and really show the process of convection cells. Thanks for the refresher!

Christina H  (Upperco, MD)
Christina H (Upperco, MD)

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