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What Causes High Winds?

By January 31, 2008

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With the recent high winds causing widespread power outages and even deaths across parts of the US, several readers wrote in wanting to know how high winds can develop so quickly. Winds are simply air that moves as a result of a pressure gradient. Think of winds as a squeezed balloon. If you take a balloon and squeeze it at one end, the air rushes from the end where you apply pressure and flows to the lower pressure zone. Winds work in the same way. The unequal heating of the Earth by the sun creates differences in air pressure all over the surface of Earth. Since winds move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure (pressure gradient) the greater the difference in pressure, the higher the wind speed. Meteorologists use various barometers to measure air pressure. Weather maps are then created showing isobars which are lines of equal pressure. This week, the isobar map showed several areas with isobar lines very close together. The closeness of the lines indicates high wind speed potential.

More Winds Resources

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Comments

December 29, 2008 at 8:07 pm
(1) Odessa says:

Thank you! I have been so curious as to what has caused the high winds my hometown is getting in Southern Ontario right now. It seems we are going to get more as right now at 8pm its pretty scary out there. Thank you again!

December 30, 2008 at 9:01 am
(2) Rachelle Oblack says:

You are welcome. Also check out the isobars tutorial in the message. It really tells you a lot about how air pressure is measured and gives rise to winds.

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