Wind Direction Indicator

For many hobbies and career fields, the speed and direction of the wind are vital information. Whether you are sailing a boat, windsurfing, piloting an aircraft, or participating in any number of outdoor activities, the reading of a map with the wind’s direction and speed on it can be critical. An anemometer is a tool that allows users to measure the speed and direction of the wind, though there are many different kinds! Read on to learn more about how wind speed and direction are measured, displayed in weather maps, and get answers to frequently asked questions.

Practical Uses of Wind Direction Indicators

Changes to wind speed and direction can be hard to predict and occur without much warning, so it is important for us to be aware of these fluctuations for a number of reasons. Meteorologists report wind speed and direction to help people better plan their days and prepare for hazardous weather. Utility companies measure wind speed and direction to anticipate fire risk, enabling them to turn off power to areas with wind speeds that could down powerlines. Surfers check wind conditions before they head into the water to identify the best surf spots, or avoid dangerous conditions.

There are many different tools and sensors that measure and record wind conditions, and not every kind is appropriate for your specific application. For example, a wind direction indicator sailboat’s responsibility varies from one used to measure this information for an aircraft. And while most people wouldn’t have much use for a large windsock in their backyard, they would likely benefit from a home weather station with a sonic anemometer in it so that they know the wind conditions at their location.

Measuring Wind Speed & Direction

Sonic and mechanical sensors measure the wind in different ways. Mechanical sensors use moving parts and are connected to a data logger or other data recording device. The “cups” for speed and “vane” for direction change measurement physically move with changes in the wind and give accurate readings of speed and direction.

Wind Direction Indicators on Maps

On weather maps, wind speed and direction are often displayed with wind barbs (4). Wind barbs have three components: a dot, a staff and feathers or flags. The staff part of a wind barb shows wind direction, while the dot end of the staff indicates where the wind is blowing to, and the top of the staff shows the direction from which the wind is coming. Wind speed is indicated by feathers (short lines) added to the top of the staff. These feathers show wind speed rounded to the nearest 5 mph increment. When winds are 2 mph or less, a small open circle is used. A short feather represents a 5 mph average wind speed, while a long feather equals 10 mph. A pennant or flag is used to show a 50-mph wind speed.

Wind direction indicators may also be displayed more simply on weather maps, with arrows pointing in the direction from which the wind is coming from, alongside the wind speed measured that that location. For example, the iWindsurf app displays wind on maps like this:

DIY Wind Vanes

Do-it-yourself (DIY) wind vanes can be a fun option for for a weather-related project, and makes a great learning activity for kids, families, or anyone with an interest in measuring the wind and weather. DIY wind vanes can be purchased as a sophisticated pre-made kit or by using simple materials you might already have in your home. While it won’t be as accurate as a commercial or consumer wind vane, making one yourself is a great way to begin taking wind direction measurements. Learn how you can make your own wind vane with paper plates, poster board, modeling clay, and a few other materials (4).

Wind Measurement: FAQs






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