Wind speed

An anemometer is commonly used to measure wind speed.

Wind speed, or wind flow velocity, is a fundamental atmospheric quantity.

Wind speed is caused by air moving from high pressure to low pressure, usually due to changes in temperature. Note that wind direction is usually almost parallel to isobars (and not perpendicular as one might expect), due to the rotation of the earth.

Wind speed affects weather forecasting, aircraft and maritime operations, construction projects, growth and metabolism rate of many plant species, and countless other implications.[1]

Wind speed is now commonly measured with an anemometer but can also be classified using the older Beaufort scale which is based on people's observation of specifically defined wind effects.

Factors affecting wind speed

Wind speed is affected by a number of factors and situations, operating on varying scales (from micro to macro scales). These include the pressure gradient, Rossby waves and jet streams, and local weather conditions. There are also links to be found between wind speed and wind direction, notably with the pressure gradient and terrain conditions.

Pressure gradient is a term to describe the difference in air pressure between two points in the atmosphere or on the surface of the Earth. It is vital to wind speed, because the greater the difference in pressure, the faster the wind flows (from the high to low pressure) to balance out the variation. The pressure gradient, when combined with the Coriolis effect and friction, also influences wind direction.

Rossby waves are strong winds in the upper troposphere. These operate on a global scale and move from West to East (hence being known as Westerlies). The Rossby waves are themselves a different wind speed from what we experience in the lower troposphere.

Local weather conditions play a key role in influencing wind speed, as the formation of hurricanes, monsoons and cyclones as freak weather conditions can drastically affect the flow velocity of the wind.

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