How Wind Helps Us Predict the Weather

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( — February 7, 2020) — Accurate weather forecasting plays a huge role in our everyday lives and can be crucial for many businesses to operate properly. Increasing instances of unseasonable conditions have had knock-on effects on many industries, especially agriculture.

Although 64% of Britons believe in relying on folklore over proper forecasting, the accuracy of the UK’s weather reporting thankfully remains high.

But how can forecasters see into the future with such precision? It turns out that one particular weather feature – the wind – is vital.

How wind can influence the weather

Many regions will see their weather greatly impacted by the direction of the wind. Typical weather conditions for a given time of year can be expected if there is a prevailing wind, but changeable conditions will come into play if the direction changes.

Take the UK for example. Winds from the north bring colder conditions from the Arctic, while south-westerly winds generally bring hot weather from the jet stream in the summer, but winds from the same direction in winter months often result in storms brought on by low pressure.

How forecasters use wind to predict weather

Weather forecasting is effectively educated guessing, with forecasters using previous weather reports to inform how upcoming patterns will combine.

Wind direction plays a huge role in putting forecasts together; as described above it is possible to draw conclusions about what is to come by ascertaining from which direction the wind will blow.

By monitoring the wind’s direction and its strength, forecasters can look back through previous instances of matching conditions to fairly accurately predict what will be brought from the skies.

How wind is measured by forecasters

The tool used to measure wind is called an anemometer. There are many different types of anemometer, which can be used to measure various characteristics of wind.

A cup anemometer, featuring cup-shaped probes on a weathervane, is used particularly in measuring wind speeds. This gives forecasters an idea of the rate at which weather will change in a certain area, while gale-force winds also need to be reported to the public in the interest of safety. 

Laser doppler anemometers and sonic anemometers also measure wind speed.

Plate anemometers help measure wind pressure, with a spring-loaded surface used to measure the force of wind. Instances of dangerous winds can be monitored with this type of anemometer, making it useful to monitor dangerous conditions on road bridges.