Global Atmospheric Circulation and the Indian Monsoon

David W. Kobilka, Central Lakes College-Brainerd
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In this project students learn through lecture, video, and sketching about the Coriolis effect, the "Six-Cell Generalized Global Atmospheric Circulation Model", the shifting ITCZ, the Indian Monsoon, and its impact on the day-to-day lives of the people of India.

The outcomes for this assignment are aligned with course-specific outcomes articulated in the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum. They are:
  • Discuss/compare characteristics of diverse cultures and environments in the context of ocean science.
  • Explain the basic structure and function of the ocean realm, the impact of humans on it, and the impact of the ocean realm on humans.

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This activity is used in an undergraduate, introductory non-lab oceanography course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

By the time this assignment is given, students should be proficient in,
  • The conceptual underpinnings of atmospheric dynamics: the greenhouse effect, atmospheric convection, the Coriolis effect, high and low pressure systems, adiabatic processes, relative humidity, and cloud and storm formation.
  • Reading, understanding, and creating maps, sketches, graphs, etc.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone activity usually embedded in the section about atmospheric dynamics and air-sea interactions.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Coriolis effect
  • the "Six-Cell Generalized Global Atmospheric Circulation Model"
  • the shifting ITCZ
  • the Indian Monsoon
  • its impact on the day-to-day lives of the people of India

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will synthesize central concepts from assigned textbook readings, lecture, and short videos, in a written assignment.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students will communicate their knowledge through two-dimensional sketches to represent conditions that vary in three-dimensions.

Description and Teaching Materials

This is a quiz that comes at the end of a section involving lecture, discussions, and short online videos. The online sources for the videos are provided. All are "news clips" that talk about the Summer 2012 Indian monsoon and its effect on agriculture, the economy, and government. The final assessment comes in the form of the quiz and this quiz is also uploaded and is titled "Challenge-Global Circulation and Indian Monsoon."

The quiz can readily be broken into parts.

Quiz-Assessment-Global Circulation and Indian Monsoon (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 110kB May30 13)

Teaching Notes and Tips

In order to do well on this assignment students will need to have considerable practice at sketching, and have to understand what a cross sectional diagram is and how it can be used to communicate three dimensional conditions in nature.

The quiz/assessment also works well as a collaborative activity, where students work in pairs especially for working through sketching the conditions that lead to the dry and wet monsoons.


The assessment is titled Challenge-Global Circulation and Indian Monsoon and is attached.

References and Resources

Al Jazeera news report on severety of drought, early July, 2012: India monsoon floods kill dozens - a YouTube video

IBN report, 28 June 2012. Report explains how monsoons are delayed: Monsoon will revive in July: IMD - an article from CNN's IBN Live

BBC story from 15 July, 2012. This report describes both flooding and drought occurring at same time: Monsoon: Huge impact on north Indian state Haryana - a video from BBC News

IBN from 2 July, 2012: Will North India's wait for monsoon end this week? - an article from IBN Live

From 20 August, 2012: Revival in monsoon brings cheer to North India - a video from Economic Times