Where Does Wind Come From?

If you have stepped outside for a few seconds, chances are you have felt the force of the wind. You cannot see or hold the wind; however, you can feel it blow against your skin and see its force blow trees and leaves. So, what is this force and where does the wind come from?

What is Wind?

            Simply stated the wind is created from the quick movement of air molecules in the atmosphere. The air around us is comprised of several molecules including Nitrogen (78%), Oxygen (21%), Water Vapour (1%), and other minor trace elements. When the sun unevenly heats the air, it creates a difference in atmospheric pressure, thus forcing the air to move around creating the wind. The land closest to the equator is warmed up a lot more by the sun than the land further from the equator. This can be seen in North America, where Mexico and countries closer to the Caribbean are warmed up by the sun a lot more than northern countries such as Canada. The warmer land creates a low-pressure system, while the cooler land is a higher-pressure system. Air always moves from higher pressure to lower pressure and this movement of the air creates wind systems. The movement of the air can be strong enough to blow ships across the oceans or gentle enough to carry a tree sapling to an open area of land.

How Does Wind Affect our Planet?

Wind traveling at different speeds and overland or water can affect the planet’s storms, climate, and ecology. Two of the most common storms caused by the changing of atmospheric pressure are hurricanes and tornados. Hurricanes have a spiral shape which is caused by the twisting of air in a high-pressure area around an area with low pressure. Tornados on the other hand are formed when the air of a higher pressure quickly rotates and moves upwards while lower pressure air quickly spins downwards. Tornadoes can range in size and can last over an hour depending on the temperature and moisture of the air.

While wind can change the strength, frequency, and longevity of storms on earth, it can also affect the climate. Many daily weather patterns depend on the wind. The wind carries heat moisture and pollutants all over the atmosphere creating cool breezes or other weather systems. Since land heats up a lot quicker than the water, coastal regions are usually a lot cooler than places inland. This is because the hot atmospheric pressure moves up and over the water, while cooler pressure from the water replaces the hot air over the land. Pollutants can also be moved around by air trapping the heat over cities with a lot of pollution. An example of this can be seen in India where farmers in the north burn crops releasing pollutants into the air. Since India in the north is bordered by cooler mountainous regions, the cold air rushes down pushing the smoke from the fires toward east India. In cities such as New Delhi, India’s capital, the cool air pushes the smoke causing it to form clouds of smog overhead. This can trap the heat causing extreme weather conditions.

Wind can also affect the ecology of our planet. Wind has the power to move dust or sand across the earth changing the landscape of certain areas. For example, deserts are constantly changing due to the wind moving and eroding the sand causing bigger or smaller dunes to form.  Wind can wear away landscapes and pick up debris on the ground shifting rock formations or melting glaciers of ice. One of the most important ways the wind affects our earth is the movement of seeds from plants to open areas of land. Seeds can blow to distant places increasing the spread of the plants and could change their genetics. Without the wind, seeds from trees would not grow into new saplings or move to different areas of the land. The wind’s job is very important in the repopulation of the earth’s greenery.

Wind For Energy

Thousands of years ago, the wind was found to be a great source of energy for ships and windmills. These windmills could then be used to push water pumps, grain grinders, and log cutters. Today wind energy is still used for electricity powering homes, schools, and businesses around the globe. Wind energy is harnessed through powerful turbines, which harness renewable energy and convert it to electricity. Many of these wind turbines are placed near coastal regions to take advantage of the windy regions near the sea, however, some turbines are also placed on farms, open areas, and windy places inland. Canada is blessed with very good wind so wind turbines can be placed in most open areas and can be used to generate a lot of electricity. Wind turbines can also range in sizes from the larger industrial use turbines to smaller microgeneration home wind turbines, used to power homes, cottages, and tiny homes.