Saturday, August 22, 2009


The study the winds of the world is a major part of global meteorology and to a large extent the weather is determined by the wind. Here in the UK the prevailing wind is from the South West, which means that as it journeys across the North Atlantic it picks up moisture from the ocean before arriving at our shores. As this moist air is lifted into the cooler, higher atmosphere by convection or by land masses, clouds are formed. These clouds may bring rain, sleet, hailstones or snow.

In the summer and autumn months hurricanes can form at sea and vent themselves on the Caribbean Islands and the Florida Panhandle. Indeed, the first tropical storm of the year brought gale-force winds and driving rain early this week to those areas. These revolving currents of rising air, warmed by the sea, grow in intensity causing havoc when passing over land, before subsiding into larger areas that move with the general trend across the Atlantic to our shores. Here they translate into gales or unsettled weather.

The power of the wind can be awesome, but for those who experience a hurricane it must be truly terrifying. The resulting damage to property can run into millions of dollars, and often there’s personal tragedy, because of injury or death. Fortunately, hurricane-force winds are seldom experienced here in SE England and we generally have less windy conditions than the exposed Western side of the Country. We also have less rainfall. Only a few miles from where I live, the village of Great Wakering has the least rainfall in England.

Sailors rely on the wind, and when cruising or racing they study it carefully to their advantage. Apart from the tide, the wind determines success or failure. Just now, Mike Perham, a young British lad, is on his final leg after sailing around the world. In his Blog ( constantly tells of what the wind is doing, and he’s always happy when there’s enough of it to make ‘Totally Money’ surf at speeds in excess of 20 knots.

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