The Sun as a Source of Energy for Winds, Currents & the Water Cycle

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  • 0:25 Sun's energy
  • 0:50 Sun's energy and wind
  • 1:35 Sun's energy and ocean…
  • 2:17 Sun's energy and water cycle
  • 3:15 Lesson summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

View this lesson to learn how energy from the sun powers our winds, ocean currents and the water cycle. Learn how the winds, ocean currents and the water cycle react to the energy from the sun.

The Sun's Energy

Our sun is amazing! The sun is the star that our earth spins around. It warms our planet so we don't freeze. It warms our oceans, lakes, and pools so we can go swimming and not get hypothermia. It helps our plants grow so we can eat delicious oranges, peaches, bananas, and other great foods. But more than that, the energy from the sun also powers the winds, the ocean currents, and the water cycle. If we didn't have the sun, we wouldn't have wind. We wouldn't have the ocean currents that many sea creatures rely on to travel far distances. And, we wouldn't have the water cycle that gives us a continuous supply of fresh water. How does all of this work, you ask? Let's find out.

The Sun's Energy for Winds

Without the sun, we wouldn't have wind. Wind is the movement of air. How does the sun power the wind? The sun powers the wind by heating up our air. Different parts of the earth are closer to the sun depending upon the earth's rotation (on its axis), so different areas of the earth will have warmer air. Also, different kinds of materials absorb the sun's heat faster than others.

As you may know, heat rises. So, because these warmer parts of the earth have warmer air, the air in these parts will start to rise. This causes the cooler air from the surrounding areas to come in to replace the warmer air that is rising. This causes the wind that you feel on a breezy day.

The Sun's Energy for Ocean Currents

The same thing happens with the ocean currents. An ocean current is a continuous flow of water in a particular direction. You can liken it to wind, except this occurs underwater. The sun warms up parts of the oceans. Warm waters rise just like warm air rises. So, as the warmer ocean waters begin to rise in a particular area, the cooler ocean waters from a different area will move in to replace the warmer ocean waters, and this creates our ocean currents. Because our oceans are so large, these currents can also go for very long distances. Ocean currents, just like wind, travel from a cooler place to a warmer place.

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