FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — This one goes out to the ones who love to fly kites and the ones who don’t love to find their trash cans in the neighbor’s yard. Whether you enjoy a windy day, or not, the science behind it applies to more in life than just our weather. In fact, a really good example can be found in your refrigerator.
Before you go running off to the fridge, let’s talk about one of the basic atmospheric principles involved in the creation of wind.
The air pressure of our atmosphere is always trying to find equilibrium, or balance. Two pressure systems, high and low, are responsible for the weather we see here at the surface. High pressure systems bring us pleasant weather with few clouds and lots of sunshine. Low pressure systems bring us more turbulent weather, like thunderstorms and snow. In order to find balance, the air in a high pressure system likes to flow over into the low pressure system.
Now, back to your refrigerator! If you have a can or bottle of pop in there, you’ll be able to see for yourself how air pressure creates wind.
The inside of a can of pop is under very high pressure as opposed to the atmosphere on the outside of the can. When you crack open the can, you release that high pressure inside and it begins to balance with the lower pressure on the outside. We can even see and hear that little gust of air as the pressure balances. Once the pressures stabilize inside and outside of the can, the winds come to a stop.
Have you ever shaken up a bottle of pop and then tried to open it? The pressure inside the bottle really builds up. When you open that bottle up, not only does it make a huge mess, but the little gust of wind is stronger as well. Therefore, the larger the pressure differences, the stronger the winds will be.
The same can be said as we look to our atmosphere on a global scale. Let’s take a look at two different scenarios and see how it impacts our surface winds.
A weak high pressure system is positioned in the western half of the United States and a weak low pressure system is in the eastern half. There’s a small difference in the pressure value between the two systems. Due to the smaller difference, we see weaker winds here on the surface of the Earth.
A strong high pressure system is now positioned in the western portion of the United States and a strong low pressure system in the eastern half. There’s a much larger difference in the pressure values between the two system. Due to the larger difference, we see stronger winds here on the surface of the Earth.
Whether you’ll be outside enjoying the gusts, or inside sipping your freshly-opened can of pop, the science behind our windy days is nothing short of a breeze.