MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: Why is the meteorological equator shifted north of the geographic equator?

Date: Wed May 30 11:04:19 2001
Posted By: Nezette Rydell, forecaster,National Weather Service
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 989865607.Es

The meteorological equator is shifted north of the equator much of the time 
over much of the globe.  Marked by the Intertropical Convergence Zone 
(ITCZ), it is north of the equator during the northern hemisphere summer 
months and moves south of the equator only in some areas during the 
southern hemisphere summer.  

This asymmetry arises from the fact that there is greater land mass in the 
northern hemisphere.  The heat capacity of water is greater than that of 
land so on average the oceans are warmer.  The greater land mass leads to a 
colder mean temperature in the northern hemisphere.  This in turn means 
there is more atmosphere in the northern hemisphere...more mass.  As this 
mean mass shifts southward with the moving ITCZ, it causes the Earth to 
wobble, an effect called the Chandler oscillation. 

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