What causes wind?
A: There are several reasons why it's windy one day and calm the next, says
Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. Wind is caused by air flowing from an
area of high pressure to an area of low pressure, he explains. "Add to that the
rotation of the Earth," he adds. "The Earth's rotation also affects air flow.
And during daylight hours, the heat from the ground causes a convective reaction
to occur, meaning heat is moving away from the Earth's surface and sunlight
causes an excess of energy buildup. At night, the convection is much less,
meaning winds die down. Nature is always trying to balance things out, and the
result of trying to balance and equalize pressure from one area to another
results in wind."
Q: Are there different kinds of wind?
A: Winds that blow uphill are called upslope winds, and winds that blow downhill
are called downslope winds, McRoberts adds. "Winds that blow from large bodies
of water inland are called sea breezes. Santa Ana winds are dry winds that can
fan forest fires, especially in California. The U.S. has some of the windiest
weather on Earth. In fact, the highest wind speed ever recorded in the U.S.
occurred April 12, 1934, on Mount Washington, N.H. For a few seconds, the wind
blew an incredible 231 miles per hour."
Weather Whys is a service of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas
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