Learning with Lauren: The Westerlies

Have you ever wondered why it takes longer to get to Los Angeles than it does to get home? on.

Ready to learn about different types of weather? Have you always wondered why things are the way they are? Well, worry no more! On this section of our CBS12 Weather Blog I’m going to teach you about different weather phenomena.

Have you ever wondered why it takes longer to get to Los Angeles than it does to get home? Some people may know that its because of our Jet Stream. But, why does the wind move from west to east? Here is the explanation.

When it comes to incoming solar radiation, the equator and low latitudes receive the most sunlight. As the heat from the sun warms the air there, that air starts to rise. Once it hits the top of the atmosphere it has nowhere to go but north in the northern hemisphere and south in the southern hemisphere. Since we are talking about our jet stream, I will only be referencing the northern hemisphere for the rest of the explanation.

As that air begins to move north it starts to cool and then it eventually sinks, near 30 degrees N latitude. Once that air sinks it then moves either south back toward to the equator, or north. As that air moves toward 60 degrees N latitude, it collides with equator ward moving air and then begins to rise again. So we have rising air around 60 degrees, and sinking air around 30 degrees. That creates low pressure and high pressure respectively.

Air flows from high to low pressure. So imagine that wind is flowing from 30 degrees latitude to 60 degrees latitude. Now hold on to that thought.

Down on earth we have something called the Coriolis effect. This means that winds in the northern hemisphere curve right, and winds in the southern hemisphere curve left, as it moves from one point to the next.

Now remember, how winds flow from 30 degrees to 60? In the northern hemisphere, those winds now turn right. So we have winds coming from the west to east in that area. That is our jet stream.