Mini Lesson/Activity

Comparing Winds & Surface Ocean Currents (Student Activity)

Mini Lesson

Review this animation showing monthly average wind speed at 10 meters above the ocean surface for our global ocean (meters per second) in 2017-2018. 

Reading the Images

  1. Orient yourself to the ocean basins, the vectors, the vector legend, and the date/time information.   
    Vector Legend: vector legend
  2. Observe primarily the data displayed for the Equator and the North Atlantic Ocean.
  3. Run the video.  (May need to replay when needed.)
  4. Answer the following questions :
    1. Observe the winds blowing across Earth’s surface.  Which direction do the winds primarily blow around the Equator?
    2. Focus your attention on the North Atlantic Ocean.  What direction are the winds primarily blowing to? 
    3. Describe the months where the intensity of the Westerlies are the strongest? (Recall, the wind speed is displayed by the length of the arrow or the vector.) 
    4. Describe the directions of winds off of the Eastern part of North America.  
  5. Winds blow from high to low pressure, and blow clockwise around areas of high pressure and counterclockwise around areas of low pressure in the Northern Hemisphere.  (These directions the wind blows around high and low pressure is opposite in the Southern Hemisphere (clockwise around lows and counterclockwise around highs).)
    1. Observe the gyre in N. Atlantic - is it a high pressure or low-pressure area? 

Connecting the Data

  1. Observe the following map of ocean surface currents.  What similarities do you notice? 

    Ocean Currents

  2. What role do winds play in the creation of surface currents? 

This animation was created using the My NASA Data Earth System Data Explorer.

Teacher Note

Teachers, these mini lessons/student activities are perfect "warm up" tasks that can be used as a hook, bellringer, exit slip, etc.

Teachers who are interested in receiving the answer key, please contact MND from your school email address at  We verify that requestors are teachers prior to sending access to the answer keys as we’ve had many students try to pass as teachers to gain access. To receive the keys please provide the following:

  1. The link to the school/institution’s teacher directory where you are employed so we can verify that you are a teacher
  2. Ensure that the school email address is provided in your response as we are unable to send to personal email accounts

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