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What Causes Wind

What Causes Wind

Going by its simplest definition, wind refers to the flow of gases from one place to another. Now that's just a basic definition and there is a lot more to know about this natural phenomenon; its formation being one of them.
Abhijit Naik
Basically, there are different types of winds grouped on the basis of numerous underlying factors. While the definition of wind on the Earth would be the bulk movement of air, the same in outer space would either be movement of gases and charged particles ejected from the Sun into the space (solar wind), or atmospheric escape of gases from the planets into the outer space (planetary winds).

Exploring this natural phenomenon to trace simple facts like how it is caused or its patterns in different regions, can be fun in itself. More importantly, you don't need to be a stalwart of the field for that; the basics of geography will suffice.

What Causes Wind on the Earth?

Basically, wind is formed as a result of the movement of air from a high-pressure area to a low-pressure area. The most important factor responsible for the formation of wind is atmospheric pressure. Difference in atmospheric pressure results in the formation of high pressure and low pressure areas on the planet, which are studied with great interest, owing to their importance in weather forecasting. Once these pressure areas are formed, air starts moving from the area with high pressure to the area with low pressure. On the basis of its strength, wind is classified into several types―ranging from a simple breeze to devastating thunderstorms.

Wind Patterns

The two factors that have a crucial role to play in determining the global wind pattern are: rotation and differential heating of the planet. Due to the Earth's rotation, the wind is deflected when it moves from a high-pressure area to a low-pressure area. This deflection is attributed to the Coriolis Force, which deflects the wind towards right in the northern hemisphere and left in the southern hemisphere. Secondly, incoming solar radiations are not uniform. While the equatorial region gets more of direct sunlight, the condition towards the poles is exactly opposite. This results in differences in the atmospheric circulation of air and influences the global wind pattern.

Other Factors Which Influence the Wind

There exist other factors which contribute to the wind velocity, which happens to be one of the prime determinant of the different types of wind. Atmospheric pressure gradient is determined by the distance between a high-pressure and a low-pressure area. Lesser the pressure gradient, stronger is the wind formed. Similarly, the speed of wind blowing at high altitude is always faster than that of wind blowing closer to the surface of the planet, as the wind moving near the surface is subjected to friction with various man-made and geological structures. It's because of the same reason that the speed of wind is faster over the ocean than it is over the land surface.

Wind has always been resourceful for humans, with numerous uses which can be traced back to the ancient times. While the early civilizations used this force of nature to facilitate transportation, today it is being used to generate power. In fact, wind energy, i.e., the energy created by harnessing wind, is considered one of the most environment friendly sources of energy and pitched as one of the best alternatives for fossil fuels.
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