Shop Windows to the Universe

Dig into Montana Before History: 11K Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains by D. H. MacDonald, Ph.D. See our online store book collection.
This is a drawing depicting the motions in earth's atmosphere.
Image from: Random House Atlas, NOAA

Motions in Earth's Atmosphere

Motions in the atmosphere of a planet help carry heat from the surface back to space.

The drawing to the left illustrates a kind of global motion that is typical of motions in the atmosphere as well as interior of a planet. Material rises from where is it warmest, and moves in a roiling motion like the boiling of a pot.

In the top drawing, there are three different cells of activity in the atmosphere where the air turns over (depicted by red sheets). The bottom is an image of the Earth showing the mild striped pattern of clouds which comes about in response to the motion in the atmosphere depicted by the red sheets. There is one stripe of clouds in the middle, at the equator, and two other stripes of clouds halfway to the north and south poles.

On Jupiter, this pattern is multiplied a thousand times by the forces of Jupiter's gravity and tremendous spin. Jupiter spins once in 10 hours. For a planet the size of Jupiter, this spin creates a powerful force.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books on science education!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Jupiter's Belts and Zones

The striped cloud bands on Jupiter are certainly not as straight as they appear to be in this picture! The picture shows that the striped pattern is divided into belts and zones, which are labeled. In...more

An Overview of the Evolution of Jupiter's Atmosphere

Atmospheres of the giant planets have definetely evolved from their formation out of the primitive solar nebula. How much they have evolved remains to be seen, however. Because of their enormous gravity,...more

Jupiter's Mesosphere

The mesosphere of Jupiter is a region of balance between warming and cooling. That essentially means that nothing happens there. Except for diffusion, the atmosphere is still. Upper reaches of the atmosphere,...more

An Overview of Jupiter's Atmospheric Structure

As on Earth, the atmosphere of Jupiter consists of a troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere. The troposphere is the region where the visible clouds are to be found. The stratosphere, as...more

Jupiter's Stratosphere

The stratosphere of Jupiter is a region of warming as determined by infrared measurements of methane (CH4) in the region. Like the troposphere, the stratosphere is warmed by the sun, warmed by Jupiter's...more

Jupiter's Troposphere

The troposphere of Jupiter is where the clouds are. Clouds form in regions of strong atmospheric motion, when condensation takes place. The troposphere is the region rapidly stirred by vertical motions....more

Altitude Variations of the Belts & Zones

On Jupiter, the winds in the belts and zones blow first in one direction, then in the opposite direction. Wind blows east in a belt, and west in a zone. The clouds rise up in a belt, and drop down in a...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF