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Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.

Video courtesy of the Little Shop of Physics.

Wind Speed and Direction at Different Heights

We know that all areas of the globe have prevailing winds, but the wind direction is affected by local topography, as we can see in this segment. On a tabletop, obstructions can change - or even reverse - the direction of the wind, and the same principle is at work at larger scales. In the world around us, this may mean that the wind is blowing in different directions at different heights. If the change in direction takes place over a short distance, this is known as wind shear. If you look at the motion of clouds on most days, you'll see that clouds at different elevations move in different directions. In this segment, you can see exactly this effect - speeded up for better viewing - as well as some more prosaic tests of wind speed variation with height using balloons and model rocket plumes.

Right-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac) here to download a copy of this video in QuickTime format.

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Last modified March 26, 2010 by Randy Russell.

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The Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earth’s ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA