How to Measure the Wind

       


      If you can't see the wind, how can you tell how fast it is moving?

      Actually, it's very easy. You can't see the wind, but you can see what it does to other things around you. You know it is windy because you can feel the breeze on your face. You can see the leaves in the trees outside shaking. You hear the flag at the post office down the street waving very proudly.

      On days when the flag waves, the wind is moving faster than you can ride your bicycle, even when you pedaled very hard.

      Let's talk about wind speed. We will describe it in miles-per-hour. That's the same way we describe how fast a car moves. But instead of looking at the car's speedometer, we will use the natural wind speedometer that is all around us in nature.

      Natural Wind Speedometer

          
      1-3
      mph
           
      Smoke drifts lazily, branches are still, flags hang limp
          
      4-7
      mph
           
      Tree leaves rustle, flags move slowly
          
      8-12
      mph
           
      Flags fly, bushes shake, leaves move
          
      13-18
      mph
           
      Small branches shake, grass moves
          
      19-24
      mph
           
      Large branches sway, flags flap noisily
          
      25-31
      mph
           
      Trees shake, dust and sand flies

      The best time to fly a kite is when the wind is between 4 and 12 miles-per-hour. If the wind is less, then most kites have problems flying. If the wind is more, then most kites will lose control. So watch the trees, bushes, flags and grass to know when the wind is just right.

      The other thing to watch for is wind turbulence. Turbulence is what happens when the wind gets bumpy. And it is very difficuklt to fly a kite well in bumby wind.

      Turbulence Turbulence

      Think of wind flowing over the land just like water flows down a river. If the river is wide and smooth, the water will bne smooth too. But if the river is going over rocks, around curves, or downhill, it will run fast and rough.

      The same thing happens to wind when it flows over trees, past buildings, or over hills.

      Turbulence

      Kite fliers have a rule. We know that wind will be bumpy after going over or around an obstacle. We have measured how long it takes to smooth out. That distance is seven times the hight of the obstacle. So if a tree is 100 feet tall, you need to be 700 feet away from the tree to avoid the bumpy wind. Otherwise, the wind may reach out and pull your kite into the tree or crash it to the ground.

      Wind Speed
      Performance and Comparison

      mph kph knots bft wind type visible signs kite flying

      0

      0

      0

      0

      still

      no movement,
      smoke rises
      vertically in a column

      tell stories
      drink beer

      1-3

      1-7

      1-3

      1

      light air

      smoke drifts
      branches & grass
      move slightly

      minimal performance
      ultralight kites

      4-7

      8-11

      4-6

      2

      slight breeze

      leaves move slightly
      flags flap solwly

      moderate flying
      some lifters & laundry

      8-12

      12-20

      7-11

      3

      gentle breeze

      flags flap slowly
      wind felt on face

      ideal flying
      fully laundry
      on all kites

      13-18

      21-28

      12-16

      4

      moderate breeze

      small branches
      move, dust blows

      check anchors
      heavier flying line

      19-24

      29-38

      17-21

      5

      fresh breeze

      small trees sway
      wavelets on water

      stops being fun
      exercise caution

      25-30

      39-50

      22-28

      6

      wind

      large branches
      move, sand blows
      trees in motion

      extreme conditions
      get help and land kites

      31-40

      51-65

      29-35

      7

      strong wind

      whole trees in motion

      tell stories
      drink beer

      *

      Material courtesey of David Gomberg. All Rights Reserved.

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