Do you know your trade winds from your Westerlies? Take the prevailing winds quiz!


Prevailing wind patterns impact everything from the climate to ocean currents, and are responsible for both big storms and routine weather conditions. Think you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows?

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Question 1 of 20

What type of prevailing winds can be found within 30 degrees latitude north and south of the equator?

polar easterlies

... Easterlies, or trade winds, dominate the tropical area around the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, they are known as the northeasterlies because they blow from the northeast towards the west. Within the Southern Hemisphere, these winds are referred to as the southeasterlies because they blow from the southeast towards the west.


Question 2 of 20

What type of prevailing winds are found between 30 and 60 degrees of latitude?

trade winds

... Westerlies prevail at 30 to 60 degrees of latitude. Remember that scientists name winds based on the direction they blow from, not to, so westerlies blow west to east on both sides of the equator.


Question 3 of 20

What type of winds dominate the region between 60 degrees latitude and the North and South Poles?

polar easterlies
polar westerlies
circular trade winds

... Polar easterlies dominate the area around the poles. These winds blow from east to west, and tend to be less predictable than the easterlies found near the equator.


Question 4 of 20

What process, which is largely controlled by the path of prevailing winds around the globe, helps distribute heat from the equator regions to the poles?

solar current mapping
thermohaline circulation
solar undercurrents

... Influenced by prevailing wind patterns, thermohaline circulation helps to redistribute heat energy from the equator to the poles. It is based on changes in density, salinity and heat within the oceans.


Question 5 of 20

What scientific phenomenon helps to explain why easterlies blow towards the west in both hemispheres?

wind shear
butterfly effect
Coriolis effect

... The Coriolis effect helps to explain why trade winds blow to the west in both the northern and Southern Hemispheres. This phenomenon occurs thanks to the combined effects of gravity, centrifugal force and the rotation of the Earth.


Question 6 of 20

What tool is used to illustrate wind speed and direction?

wind rose
wind ellipse
wind spore

... Similar to a compass rose found on a map, a wind rose features a circular shape with spokes to indicate wind direction. The longest spokes represent the prevailing winds.


Question 7 of 20

Which of the following events occurs when prevailing winds temporarily shift direction in an area?

hail storm
solar eclipse

... Following the hot, dry season in tropical parts of the year, extreme heat over land can temporarily reverse the direction of prevailing winds. This leads to a monsoon, characterized by long periods of sustained rainfall.


Question 8 of 20

What name is given to the relatively calm area where trade winds from both hemispheres meet at the equator?

wake zone
Ferrel cell

... The doldrums, or Intertropical Convergence Zone, is the relatively calm area near the equator where trade winds from both hemispheres meet. The opposing forces of these winds cause them to blow upward into the atmosphere, resulting in relatively calm weather on the ground.


Question 9 of 20

What term describes the phenomenon in which prevailing winds help to draw nutrients from deep within the ocean up into the photic zone?


... Upwelling occurs when wind-driven currents draw nutrients from deep within the ocean up into the photic zone, where many plants live. These plants then help to nourish fish and other sea life, which helps maintain health and balance within the oceans.


Question 10 of 20

Which of the three major types of prevailing winds tends to travel the fastest?

polar easterlies

... While easterlies have long been used to power ships, these winds only travel an average of 11 to 13 miles per hour (about 18 to 21 kilometers per hour). Westerlies tend to move more rapidly, with average speeds of 17 to 27 miles per hour (about 27 to 43 kilometers per hour).


Question 11 of 20

Fact or fiction: Thanks to prevailing winds, one edge of a hurricane is more powerful than the other edge.


... Fact: A hurricane is always more powerful on the edge where the wind circulation and the storm itself (driven by prevailing winds) are traveling in the same direction. In the Northern Hemisphere, this occurs on the right, or eastern edge of a storm.


Question 12 of 20

Fact or fiction: Prevailing wind patterns have remained largely the same throughout history.


... Fiction: A 2007 study published by the Geological Society of America found that westerly winds found throughout mid-latitude areas of North America actually blew from the east as recently as 14,000 years ago.


Question 13 of 20

What name is given to the large circular currents found in the Earth's oceans?

jet streams

... Gyres are influenced by prevailing winds as well as the shape and location of land masses. Thanks to the Coriolis effect, they rotate clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counter-clockwise below the equator.


Question 14 of 20

What are the two major factors that influence prevailing wind patterns?

water density and air pollution
solar heat and the rotation of the Earth
jet streams and water salinity

... Prevailing winds are largely influenced by solar heat and the Earth's rotation. These wind patterns impact everything from weather to ocean currents.


Question 15 of 20

What forms along the region where polar easterlies meet westerlies, or westerlies meet easterlies?

jet streams

... Jet streams form where hot and cold air meet at roughly 30 and 60 degrees of latitude. These jet streams serve as a powerful influence on the local climate, and their patterns change frequently.


Question 16 of 20

Which of the following best describes the wind found at 30 and 60 degrees of latitude?


... Meridional winds blow in a zigzag patterns, and bring strong storms and extreme weather. They are often found where two types of prevailing winds meet. Zonal wins blow more predictably from east to west, bringing calm weather.


Question 17 of 20

The random meeting of westerlies with polar easterlies can help explain the unpredictable weather in this region.

American Southwest
Saharan Africa
New England

... In areas where two types of prevailing winds meet, such as New England, weather conditions can change from year to year based on the interaction between the two types of winds. This helps to explain why some winters are relatively calm while others bring record snowfall to the region.


Question 18 of 20

Fact or fiction: Prevailing winds can carry particles of dust all the way across the oceans.


... Fact: A 1999 study conducted at the University of Miami found that half of the breathable air particles in Miami are made up of dust from Africa. This suggests that thanks to prevailing winds, air quality within a region can be significantly affected by conditions halfway around the globe.


Question 19 of 20

What weather phenomenon is caused by an unusual slackening or shift in trade winds?

tropical cyclone
El Nino

... Every three to five years, El Nino causes a slight shift in trade winds. This relatively minor shift can have a major impact on weather, resulting in droughts, floods and changes in upwelling and downwelling.


Question 20 of 20

Fact or fiction: Planets other than Earth have their own sets of prevailing winds.


... Fact: Earth isn't the only planet with prevailing winds. East-to-west winds on Jupiter run parallel to the planet's equator and give Jupiter its distinctly striped appearance.


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