What is wind?

Wind, simply put, is the movement of air in the atmosphere. Wind movement is caused by the fact that air will move from high pressure areas to low pressure areas.

When a weatherman says that the wind direction is "westerly" does that mean the wind is coming from the West or that it is blowing towards the West?

Wind directions expressed by meteorologists and the National Weather Service indicate which direction the wind is coming from rather than where it is blowing to. So, if an area is experiencing "northwest winds," for example, it means that the wind is coming from the northwest and blowing toward the southeast.

In other words, high pressure zones contain more densely packed molecules of various gases, which tend to flow to areas where the air is less dense. This concept was first explained by the Greek philosopher Anaximander (c. 610 b.c.e.-c. 546 b.c.e.), who explained that wind was a natural phenomenon and not caused by the gods or by trees waving their leaves, as some people thought.

Does wind have a lot of energy that could help reduce the need for fossil fuels?

If people could harvest all the energy in the Earth's wind through the use of windmills, for instance, it would generate about 3.6 million kilowatts of power, enough to supply the energy needs of 3.6 billion Americans. Since Americans use much more energy than most people on the planet, it is safe to say that the energy needs of the nearly seven billion people on Earth could be met by wind power alone. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to extract all of this energy. Wind turbines have become economically feasible, but we could never place them over every land and sea surface on the planet.

What does it mean when we say something is on the lee side of the wind?

If a person is standing on the lee side of something (say, a building or rocky prominence), then he or she is protected from the wind because that obstacle is between him or her and the oncoming wind.

What are lee troughs and lee depressions?

A lee trough—also known as a dynamic trough—is a low-pressure zone that forms downwind from a north-south mountain range. A lee depression is essentially the same thing, except that troughs are long and stretched out, while depressions are well-defined, localized areas of low pressure.

What is anemophobia?

A fear of the wind—and sometimes even mere drafts—is known as anemophobia.

What is Buys Ballot's Law?

Dutch meteorologist and chemist Christoph Hendrik Diederik Buys Ballot (1817-1890) was a pioneer in meteorology, especially when it came to explaining how air flows in large weather systems. The law that bears his name refers to the fact that when you stand with your back to the wind, the air pressure will be lower on your left than on your right in the Northern Hemisphere, and the opposite is true if you are standing in the Southern Hemisphere. This phenomenon—which actually only proves to be true during well-organized weather systems—was also discovered by American climatologist William Ferrel (1817-1891). Ferrel actually formulated this theory a few months before Buys Ballot. The Dutchman graciously acknowledged that the credit deserved to go to Ferrel, but the "law" had already been denoted Buys Ballot's Law, and the name stuck.

What are trade winds?

Trade winds are very consistent winds blowing through the tropics (between 30° south and 30° north latitudes) at about 11 to 14 miles (18 to 22 kilometers) per hour, sometimes for days on end. In the Northern Hemisphere they blow toward the equator from the northeast, and south of the equator they blow in from the southeast. While the term "trade winds" leads most people to think they got their names from the days when large sailing ships depended on them for shipping routes, the word "trade" actually has a German origin and means "track" or "path."

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