The horizontal movement of air along the surface of the earth is called the “wind” while the vertical movement of air is a called an “Air Current“. The winds always blow from a high pressure area to a low pressure area. Wind is mostly named after the direction from which it blows. For example, the wind blowing from the east is known as the easterly wind or easterlies.

An ‘anemometer‘ records wind speed while a ‘wind vane‘ measures the direction of the wind. The unit of measurement is kilometre per hour or knots.

Types of Winds

Winds are generally classified into the following four major types
✓Planetary winds
✓Periodic winds
✓Variable wind
✓Local wind

Planetary winds

The winds which constantly blow in the same direction throughout the year are called the Planetary winds. They are also called as permanent winds or the prevailing winds. These winds include Trade winds, Westerlies and Polar Easterlies.

Trade Winds

Trade winds blow from the subtropical high pressure belt to the Equatorial low pressure belt in both the hemispheres. They blow with great regularity, force and in a constant direction throughout the year. These winds were very helpful to traders who depended on the winds while sailing in the seas. And so, they are named as Trade winds.


Westerlies are the permanent winds that blow from the tropical high pressure belt to the sub polar low pressure belt in both the hemispheres. They blow from South West to North East in the northern hemisphere and North West to South East in the southern hemisphere. The velocity of westerlies become so vigorous and fast to be called Roaring Forties at 40°, Furious Fifties at 50° and Screaming Sixties at 60° latitudes.

Polar Easterlies

Polar easterlies are cold and dry polar winds that blow from the polar high pressure belt to the sub polar low pressure belt. These are weak winds blowing from North East direction in the Northern Hemisphere and South East direction in the Southern Hemisphere.

Periodic winds

The periodic winds are the seasonal winds that change their direction periodically. These winds are caused by the differential heating of land and ocean.

Winds which reverse their direction with the change of seasons are called monsoons. Tropical Monsoon winds of Indian subcontinent is a best example.

Variable wind


The term cyclone is a Greek word meaning “coil of a snake”. Cyclones are centres of low pressure where, winds from the surrounding high pressure area converge towards the centre in a spiral form. Due to the rotation of the earth, the cyclonic winds in the northern hemisphere move in anti clock wise direction, where as they move in clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere.

Cyclones can be classified into
✓Tropical cyclones
✓Temperate cyclones
✓Extra tropical cyclones

Tropical cyclones

Tropical cyclones are known as ‘cyclones’ in Indian Ocean, ‘typhoons’ in the western pacific ocean, ‘hurricanes’ in the Atlantic and eastern pacific ocean , ‘ baguios’ in Phillipines and ‘willy willy’ in Australia, Taifu in Japan. Tropical cyclones often cause heavy loss of life and property on the coasts and become weak after reaching the landmasses.

Temperate cyclones

Temperate cyclones are formed along a front where hot and cold air masses meet in mid-latitudes between 35° and 65°N and S. Temperate cyclones do not become weak like the tropical cyclones on reaching the land. Temperate cyclone commonly occurs over the North Atlantic Ocean, North West Europe, Mediterranean basin. Mediterranean basin’s temperate cyclones extend up to Russia and India in winter. In India it is as called western disturbances.

Extra tropical cyclones

Extra tropical cyclones occur in the latitudes between 30° and 60° in both the hemispheres. They are also called as mid-latitude cyclones. They collect energy from temperature differences which are found in higher latitudes. Extra tropical cyclones produce mild showers to heavy gales, thunderstorms, Blizzards and tornadoes.


Anticyclones are the opposite of cyclones. Here an area of high pressure region is found in the centre surrounded by low pressure on all sides. The wind from the high pressure region move outwards to the low pressure regions in a spiral form. Anticyclones are often accompanied by cold and heat waves.

Local Winds

Local winds are the winds that blow only in a particular locality for a short period of time, The effect of these local winds are experienced only in that particular area.

Such as land and sea breeze, mountain and valley breeze. They are mostly seasonal and have local names like

✓Foehn (Alps-Europe)
✓Sirocco (North coast of Africa)
✓Chinook (Rockies-North America)
✓Loo (Thar Desert- India)
✓Mistral (Mediterranean sea in France)
✓Bora (Mediterranean sea in Italy)

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