Weather Watching – Wind Observation

Weather Watching Header 2This post is the second in a four-part series about weather observation and prediction. The topic of the first post explored the first set of weather skills having to do with cloud observation and identification. This week’s post will discuss the next set of skills. These skills are collectively known as wind observation.

In observing and predicting the weather, one must be able to discern the wind. This is because it is by the wind that the weather is carried, so the speed and the direction of the wind are paramount in determining what kind of weather you could soon be experiencing. For example, are storm clouds you may be watching approaching you? Or are they heading in the opposite direction? Also, what kinds of weather are associated with the clouds you see above? Those answers will often depend on the direction that the wind is coming from. As discussed in last week’s post, certain cloud formations may mean different predictions of weather depending on the wind’s conditions.

So, in observing the weather, one of the first things is to determine the direction from where the wind is blowing. This can often be done by being aware of what is happening around you. For example, watch the plants close by to see which way the leaves or branches may be swaying. If the plants are being blown in one direction, then obviously the wind is originating from the opposite bearing. Another method is to take note of what direction smoke or debris may be drifting in. If none of these things are visible around you, another possibility is as simple as sticking a damp finger into the air to feel what side is feeling a draft. These methods are rudimentary ways to identify the direction of the wind at ground level. For accurate weather prediction, you will also need to be aware of the behavior of the winds in the atmosphere. Examine the movement of the clouds to observe the wind at higher levels to determine their direction. Whether you are observing the wind on the ground or high in the sky, it should go without saying that the use of a compass will aid you in the task of determining direction. In addition, if weather observation is something you desire to follow more seriously, you may want to consider erecting a wind sock or a weather vane to help you gauge the course of the wind.

After determining which direction the wind is coming from, the next thing to do is to estimate its speed. A common method to estimate the wind speed is the use of what is known as the Beaufort Wind Force Scale. Below is a chart illustrating this scale that can be used over land to guess the wind speed at any given time.

Beaufort Wind Scale Chart

anemometer pic
A handheld anemometer is an easy way to monitor wind speed.

Of course, what would be more accurate in measuring wind speed would be the use of an anemometer. An anemometer is an instrument which measures wind speed by the means of small rotating cups spinning in the air current. They are usually seen mounted stationary along with other weather instruments. However, there are also handheld versions available. Most are electronic, but there are also non-electronic options that would be helpful in a grid-down scenario.

Once you know the wind’s direction and speed, you can apply this information along with cloud observations to generally predict what weather will be on its way in the next day or two. To do this, it is required to learn and study what types of weather are associated with certain conditions. Although I will not detail that information here (…too much material for one blog post,…) I do recommend reading about a good layman’s method from the book The Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book: A Unique Way to Predict the Weather Accurately and Easily by Reading the Clouds. As I stated last week, it is a small, easy-to-understand book that helps one in weather observation and prediction.

One can get a lot of information about the weather by observing the clouds and the wind. As you can see, one does not need a lot of fancy expensive equipment to get a good general idea of what the weather will be. However, in order for one to better their abilities in weather observation and prediction, one should also include the third set of skills that I will discuss in this series. Next week: the use of weather instruments.



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