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What causes the wind?

The main forces behind why it gets windy
Published: Sep. 19, 2021 at 3:07 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — From powering our cities to doing severe damage to property, the wind is a part of our everyday lives.

Like many instances in dealing with physics, the wind is a result of the atmosphere wanting to stay in balance.

When the atmosphere is thrown out of balance, forces are put upon the air to throw it back into balance. This force is called the pressure gradient force. Then excess air over an area (high pressure) is driven to a region with a deficit of air (low pressure).

One way you can better visualize this is through the water instead of air. If a container is divided in half, and water is poured into one half of it, there will be an excess amount of water on one side, with a deficit on the other side.

If you remove the divider from the container, the excess water will quickly move over the dry side. This is how the pressure gradient force works.

However, the pressure gradient force isn’t always the main factor behind the wind. Another way it can happen is through thunderstorms.

Thunderstorm wind occurs when rain falling out of the storm is evaporated, causing cooling in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The cooler air is much denser than the warm air below it., and because of this, it falls quickly to the ground, spreading out in all directions when it hits the ground. This can cause damage to trees and property.

How much wind is required to move an object though? Moving down to a light maple leaf, only 3 mph winds are needed. Going up to a trashcan, 28 mph winds are required to move that. For the average person, only 67 mph winds are required, and 90 mph winds are required to move a car.

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