Home » Teaching Resources » 4. Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation

4. Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation


Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Basic Weather, Climate 

Weather in our LivesWeather MeasurementsWeather and Climate – Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation

Lesson overviewIn this lesson we look at the pattern of circulation of the atmosphere and oceans, driven by the Sun.


What makes the whole atmosphere rotate and move? What gives us defined areas where it is generally dry or rainy, warm or cold, high pressure or low pressure? The answer to all these questions ultimately lies in the fact that we live on a spherical rotating planet, at some distance from the Sun. The incident energy from the Sun is unequally distributed between the Tropics and the Poles, with the precise patterns changing through the year. The Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are in constant motion to redistribute heat. Although temperature differences ultimately drive this, the patterns of circulation are influenced by the planet’s rotation and topography.

Learning objectives:

  • To understand why different parts of the world receive different amounts of energy from the Sun.
  • To understand how that difference in energy received by the Earth causes air and ocean water to move from equatorial regions to the poles. 
  • To be able to describe key features of how the air and water move around the globe.

Key Teaching Resources

Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation PowerPoint
Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation PowerPoint (easier)
Atmospheric Circulation Worksheet
Atmospheric Circulation Worksheet (easier)
Atmospheric Circulation Homework
Board Game

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Global Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation – More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

Rubber Ducks – An Unexpected Journey – Explore what the dispersion of a cargo of rubber ducks tells us about the ocean circulation.


Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Start exploring

Latest from blog

Related resources …
Secondary Geography
Worksheet to link words an images to features on a weather (synoptic) chart
Secondary Geography
By the end of the lesson, pupils will know and understand: Characteristics of depressions and fronts and the sequence of associated weather: Characteristics of anticyclones
Secondary Geography
Tropical continentalPolar continentalTropical maritimePolar maritimeReturning polar maritimeArcticAir masses characteristics Introduction The idea that northerly winds (i.e. winds from the north) are cold, and southerly
Secondary Geography
In this lesson we look at this historical relationship between carbon dioxide and global temperature and the Greenhouse Effect