Breakdown: What makes wind & why is it important

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 3:32 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - We experience wind on almost a daily basis, but why does wind actually happen? One day, the air is still, and the next we can experience powerful wind gusts.

The main cause of wind may surprise you... It’s temperature.

More specifically, the wind is caused by differences in atmospheric pressure which is mainly caused by temperature differences.

As the sun warms up the Earth, it does so unevenly. Because the sun hits different parts of the Earth at different angles, and because Earth has mountains, oceans, and other features, some places get warmer than others, which is why we have pockets and warm and cold air all over the Earth.

The gases that make up our atmosphere do intriguing things as the temperatures change. When these gases warm up, the molecules and atoms move faster, spread out, and rise. Picture a pot of boiling water and the steam from it moving upward. This creates a decrease in pressure, otherwise known as an area of low pressure.

However, when air is colder, the gases move slower and get closer together and sink downward. This creates an area of high pressure.

Now is where the wind comes into play... The gases from high pressure moves towards the areas of low pressure. The bigger the difference between the pressures, the faster the air will move from the high to the low pressure. That rush of air is the wind we experience.

Why does this happen in the first place? The Earth doesn’t like to be imbalanced, and this is its way of trying to “even things out.” It’s called diffusion. Winds distribute heat energy over our planet, therefore making it habitable. If we did not have any winds in the atmosphere, it would be extremely hot in the tropical regions and extremely cold in the northern regions.

Why is wind important? Wind is an crucial element when it comes to our current weather conditions and also when predicting the future forecast. Wind transports moisture and temperature from one area to another, therefore weather conditions change with the shift of wind direction. Feeling a gust of wind could signify a heavy thunderstorm approaching, for example.

Not only it is monitoring winds important for planning our daily lives, but its necessary for many commercial activities such as farming, fishing, transport, and for taking appropriate measures when it comes to forecasting extreme weather events.

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