Lesson Plan: Heat Transport in the Atmosphere, Hadley Circulation and Climate (Global Precipitation Patterns and Distribution of Deserts)


As a high school or undergraduate Geography, Earth Sciences, or Physics teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to help you in teaching about heat transport in the atmosphere, atmospheric circulation, and the Hadley Cell and Hadley Circulation.

Geography/Earth Sciences: The lesson plan also helps students to understand the effects of Hadley Circulation on global precipitation patterns, the geographical distribution of deserts, and trade winds.

Physics: The lesson plan also helps students to apply the law of conservation of angular momentum and understand the concept of a thermally direct cell.

Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Geography, Earth Sciences, or Physics.


Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:

  1. How does the Hadley Cell transport heat in the atmosphere?
  2. Describe the geographical distribution of deserts. How does Hadley Circulation influence this distribution?
  3. What are the possible effects of climate change on Hadley Circulation?
  4. What might be the potential impacts of Hadley Cell expansion on Earth’s climate, global precipitation patterns, and the geographical distribution of deserts?

The global circulation


About Lesson Plan

Grade Level High School, Undergraduate
Discipline Geography, Earth Sciences, Physics
Topic(s) in Discipline Geography and Earth Sciences: Hadley Cell, Hadley Circulation, Heat Transport in the Atmosphere, Atmospheric Circulation, Global Precipitation Patterns, Geographical Distribution of Deserts, Coriolis Effect, Trade Winds, Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)

Physics: Hadley Cell, Hadley Circulation, Heat Transport in the Atmosphere, Thermally Direct Cell, Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum

Climate Topic Climate and the Atmosphere
Location Global
Languages English
Access Online
Approximate Time Required 80 – 130 min


Micro-lecture (video)

(~7 min)

A micro-lecture (video) that introduces heat transport in the atmosphere and the Hadley Cell, and explains the reasons for the current geographical distribution of deserts on Earth.



(~20 – 30 min)

A reading that discusses the Hadley Cell in more detail and explains a simple model for the Hadley circulation, using the law of conservation of angular momentum.


Classroom/  Laboratory activity

(40 – 80 min)

A classroom/laboratory activity that uses the NASA MERRA reanalysis model for a more detailed illustration of the Hadley Circulation and its importance in Earth’s climate system.


Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.

1.Introduce the topic through a micro-lecture (video)
  • • Introduce the topic of heat transport in the atmosphere and Hadley Cell by playing the micro-lecture “Hadley Circulation Cell” by Prof. Raghu Murtugudde, University of Maryland (content developed for the TROP ICSU project at Science Media Center, IISER Pune).
  • • The micro-lecture (video) “Hadley Circulation Cell” is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIfiCL5_9qE&list=PLZbgNdSTyWDYUZxJ3U0wQ-yvnSwtLtQqp
2. Discuss the topic in more detail by using a reading
  • • Discuss the Hadley Cell and a simple atmospheric circulation model in more detail by using the reading “Hadley Cells” from Harvard University.
  • • The reading applies the law of conservation of angular momentum to explain a simple model for the Hadley cell and also introduces a possible explanation for equable climates in the past (Cretaceous period).
  • • https://www.seas.harvard.edu/climate/eli/research/equable/hadley.html
3. Conduct a classroom/ laboratory exercise


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