Brush Up On: WIND

Anyone who knows me well will think I am writing a post about farts (I never tire of the humour in them, just the word sends me into fits). But I’m not. I mean wind wind, weather wind. Not funny wind. And lately not funny at all.


On November 7, the eye of super- storm Typhoon Haiyan hit land at Guiuan in the Philippines, thrusting its estimated 315 km/hr winds across the country and wreaking havoc to the tune of 4,000 dead, 1,598 still missing, 18,175 injured and a damage bill of an estimated $AU254,004,668. The worst hit city of Tacloban has been pretty much swiped from the world map.

Chaos, sickness, shortage, suffering, lawlessness, inaccessibility and grief will exacerbate the already desperate conditions in parts of the country and hamper recovery.

Haiyan (or Yolanda as it is known in the Philippines) is possibly the most intense storm ever to hit land (or make land fall as is the correct term) but is not the worst recorded storm in terms of lives lost. In November 1970, the Bhola Cyclone hit East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), flooded the low lying islands of the Ganges Delta and took up to half a million lives, around half of which were children under 10.

Oh. And here I’ve been whingeing that our recent winds have been sending bits of washing into the garden so that I have to wash them again. Oh poor me. Mere zephyrs.

But aside from another healthy dose of gratitude and perspective the reason I am posting about storms is because I never know the difference between cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons etc. I know that a tornado is a great bit whirly-whirly because I’ve read the Wizard of Oz, but I’m unclear about the rest. Turns out it’s pretty simple. Hurricanes, Typhoons and Cyclones are all the same windy weather phenomenon; it’s just that we use different names for them depending on where they occur.

They all look like this.

They all look like this.

Hurricanes occur in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, Typhoons occur in the Northwest Pacific and Tropical Cyclones occur in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. The term Cyclone is used my meteorologists in a broad sense to refer to any closed pressure circulation.

In brainy meteorological terms, they are all:

“…a non-frontal synoptic scale low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters with organized convection (i.e. thunderstorm activity) and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation.” (Holland, 1993)

Which means, in my terms, these storms need certain ingredients to form, namely, pre-existing weather disturbances, warm tropical oceans, moisture, light winds and the persistence of these ingredients to combine long enough to form violent winds, huge swell, torrential rain and flood.

Makes me pretty happy to be living on a temperate island really.

Weaker forms of cyclones are known as ‘tropical storms’ and weaker still they are ‘depressions’.

Tornadoes are violently rotating currents of air that are in contact with both the earth and cumulonimbus (fluffy black) cloud. They form from a class of thunderstorm known as a supercells.

A Monsoon is a seasonal prevailing wind in South and South East Asian regions which blows from the south-west, between May and September. Wet monsoons bring rain and dry monsoons don’t. Clearly.

Other windy terms include:

Willy-Willy or Dust Devil

Willy-Willy or Dust Devil

Dust Devil – a small whirlwind of dust common in hot dry parts of the US and on cowboy movies. They go well with tumbleweeds. I think in Australia we call them Willy-Willys, a name derived from an Aboriginal language. According to Aboriginal lore the Willy-Willy is a scary spirit often referenced by parents of naughty children (i.e. shut up or the willy-willy will spit out a grubby spirit and tell you off). Bring on the disciplinary willy-willy I say.

Gale – strong wind.

Gust – sudden strong wind.

Jet Stream – a powerful wind current in the air above Earth.

Mistral – a cold, dry wind from the North common in the South of France.

Sirocco – a hot, dusty wind that comes from the Sahara and blows across the Mediterranean.

Trade Wind – a wind that blows continuously toward the equator.

Zephyr – A gentle wind. A breeze.

Blooper* – A large fart.

Threap* – A small fart.

*intellectual property of my Dad. Sorry couldn’t resist.

Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan Children’s Emergency Fund here.

Categories: Brainwork, Nerdy Bits

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2 replies

  1. In your Glossary, you forgot to include the definition for “Big (K)nell”

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