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The westerlies, anti-trades, or prevailing westerlies, are prevailing winds from the west toward the east in the middle latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees latitude. They originate from the high-pressure areas in the horse latitudes and tend towards the poles and steer extratropical cyclones in this general manner.Tropical cyclones which cross the subtropical ridge axis into the westerlies recurve due to the increased westerly flow. The winds are predominantly from the southwest in the Northern Hemisphere and from the northwest in the Southern Hemisphere.
The westerlies are strongest in the winter hemisphere and times when the pressure is lower over the poles, while they are weakest in the summer hemisphere and when pressures are higher over the poles. The westerlies are particularly strong, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, in areas where land is absent, because land amplifies the flow pattern, making the current more north-south oriented, slowing the westerlies. The strongest westerly winds in the middle latitudes can come in the roaring forties, between 40 and 50 degrees latitude. The westerlies play an important role in carrying the warm, equatorial waters and winds to the western coasts of continents, especially in the southern hemisphere because of its vast oceanic expanse.
If the Earth were a non-rotating planet, solar heating would cause winds across the mid-latitudes to blow in a poleward direction, away from the subtropical ridge. However, the Coriolis effect caused by the rotation of Earth causes winds to steer to the right of what would otherwise be expected across the Northern Hemisphere, and left of what would be expected in the Southern Hemisphere. This is why winds across the Northern Hemisphere tend to blow from the southwest, but they tend to be from the northwest in the Southern Hemisphere. When pressures are lower over the poles, the strength of the westerlies increases, which has the effect of warming the mid-latitudes. This occurs when the Arctic oscillation is positive, and during winter low pressure near the poles is stronger than it would be during the summer. When it is negative and pressures are higher over the poles, the flow is more meridional, blowing from the direction of the pole towards the equator, which brings cold air into the mid-latitudes.
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