What the wind? Why it’s been so windy lately

What the wind? Why it’s been so windy lately
Surface Winds (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - If you have been out and about across the Mid-South the past few days, you may have noticed quite the breeze.

Winds have been sustained around 10 to 20 mph each day this past week, but have you wondered why this has been the case?

When talking about winds we need to talk about pressure gradient, which is how fast the atmospheric pressure changes over distance.

That means when pressure chances rapidly over a small distance, the pressure gradient force is large, which in turn means strong winds will result from a strong pressure gradient.

Our weather pattern in the Mid-South has included enough of a pressure gradient to cause the south winds.

The Coriolis force pulls the winds to the right so that in the Northern Hemisphere winds blow counterclockwise around a low-pressure system and clockwise around high-pressure ones. With your back to the wind, a lower pressure is to the left.

This past week, we had a strong high pressure over the Atlantic Ocean. That clockwise flow is pulling winds from the Gulf of Mexico towards the Mid-South at the surface.

Surface Winds
Surface Winds (Source: WMC Action News 5)

A stronger Low Pressure over the Midwest is taking place at the surface; that usually means we have a high pressure in the upper levels and the clockwise flow of winds around that high pulled southerly winds from the west in the upper levels.

We also have a surface low pressure over the Chicago area, so the winds are pulling around that low pressure and behind that warm front, while also pulling the winds over the Mid-South as the whole system moves north and east of the region.

Upper Level Winds 750 mb
Upper Level Winds 750 mb

We also have a slight dip in the jet stream over the Mid-South, that jet streak will turn a bit north over the region, that also will aid in the strong winds in the region.

Those three factors worked together in the atmosphere to cause our stronger winds in the region, which were over 20 miles per hour.

The type of terrain also can affect how quick the winds are moving. Over open lakes, the wind will be faster than through a forest of trees, where it will be slower due to friction.

Open lands like the Mississippi River Delta area could see stronger gusts than other parts of the region.

Buildings can also influence the winds, air can be funneled between the buildings, for instance in Downtown Memphis, causing those winds to blow much quicker than out in the open.

Weather can influence all types of weather in the Mid-South, from the surface to the upper levels. Keep it with the WMC Action News 5 First Alert Weather Team for the latest on Mid-South weather.

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