What Causes High Winds?

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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