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Earth famously possesses three distinct circulation cells per hemisphere.

Now out of curiosity one could use a weather app, like windy, to display the wind structures at ground level globally, and the supposed return winds at around 250 hPa height.

When I do that, the picture is very messy and I cannot see any clear circulation cells.

I suppose, that all the other messy physics of the Earths atmosphere will overlap with the cells, but is there a time in the year or variable I can use to see the circulation cells in wind maps?
Or are they in the end just an idealised time-average, that we use to model the winds / (trade winds, famously..) and don't exist at any given time?

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  • $\begingroup$ you need vertical cross section to see circulation cells. $\endgroup$ – gansub Oct 7 at 7:04
  • $\begingroup$ specifically latitude height cross section. esrl.noaa.gov/psd/data/composites/day/details.day.html $\endgroup$ – gansub Oct 7 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ @gansub: But specifically I need the zonally averaged latitude height cross section, right? If I take only a cross-section, then I'm plotting the messy, daily variations that I see in a weather map as well. $\endgroup$ – AtmosphericPrisonEscape Oct 7 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ Yes you need the zonally averaged latitude height cross section. Typically you need to combine CDO(call it in Python) and a plotting package from ECMWF such as magics. They provide latitude height cross section displays. $\endgroup$ – gansub Oct 9 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Deditos: A perturbation analysis like in my answer here earthscience.stackexchange.com/questions/992/… , which I've also applied to the planets of the solar system in my M.Sc. thesis (the more correct Rhines scale thoough) and it works well to predict the correct order of cell numbers. I've looked at various height levels at ventusky.com, but there were no clear patterns. It might also require the right projection, or time of the year, which I've included in the question. $\endgroup$ – AtmosphericPrisonEscape Oct 9 at 16:18

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