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Springtime in Louisville can be blustery How is wind created?

Person holding white dandelion
Oliver Hihn
Person holding white dandelion

Every week WAVE 3 meteorologist Tawana Andrew breaks down what we know and what we don't about the climate and weather here in Louisville.

Bill Burton: It's time for us to take a look at the Science Behind the Forecast with WAVE 3 meteorologist Tawana Andrew. Good morning, Tawana.

Tawana Andrew: Good morning. Today's topic is something that we can't see. But we can definitely feel.

BB: Yeah, it's a pretty important part of weather. We do feel it virtually every single day. We're talking about wind today. And it's one of those topics where, you know, we could strap in and talk for about five hours about this, but we'll keep it a little bit more compact. What do we need to know about wind?

TA: Usually when you have a meteorologist talking about wind we're talking about the wind speed and the direction of the wind, and those are absolutely vital parts of the forecast. And as we're measuring the wind, we use what's called an anemometer. Tuck that underneath your hat and save it for when you're at the watercooler.

BB: I'm going to play that in Scrabble.

TA: There you go, that's a good one. Can get you lots of points. So the wind is the movement of air caused by uneven surface heating. So you have the sun beaming down on the planet surface, and then the warm air will start to rise, this will leave behind an area of low pressure. As the air rushes in to fill in that now area of low pressure, it causes an area of high pressure where it's just left. So then you end up with this consistent circulation of air trying to fill in, in all these spots, and you end up with high and low pressure. Now, since the air above land will heat faster than the air above water during the daytime hours, air will typically flow from water to land during the day. So if you're ever on vacation in Florida, you get the onshore flow. That is why. Now at night, the wind will actually switch directions moving from land to water. That's because the air is cooling more quickly over the land than it will over a body of water. And that is why the wind will switch directions at night. So where the wind is moving will be fully dictated also by where you know you are in relation to the heating of the day. Wind speed is going to be proportional to atmospheric pressure. So let's say we have a very strong area of high pressure and low pressure in in a region, then in between those two systems, the wind will be incredibly strong. That is why if we have a strong area of low pressure moving towards us with a cold front, we typically end up with extremely strong winds coming along with it The distance between these systems will also dictate how quickly the wind will blow. So if they're a little bit closer, then the wind will move moving a lot faster, because it's just like, Oh, I got to fill all this in real quick. So that is why we have those types of systems and the wind along with it. Now, as I mentioned, we usually talk about horizontal motion in the atmosphere in wind forecasting, but vertical motion is also important. Overall, it's pretty miniscule, we don't see a lot of it going on, with the exception of strong to severe thunderstorms. And that is where you could have these really vigorous and strong updrafts that helped to propel the thunderstorm further up into the atmosphere and help it to become a little bit stronger. So that's when you really only get the vertical motion becoming an issue.

BB: That's a lot to take in. But now we have a much better understanding of exactly why we have wind, how it's been created. And we know all of this, thanks to the latest edition of Science Behind the Forecast with WAVE 3 meteorologist Tawana Andrew. Thanks for the knowledge, Tawana.

TA: Of course.

This transcript was lightly edited for clarity

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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