It’s an abnormal day if there is an absence of at least a moderate or fresh breeze in Norfolk. Great Plains states like Nebraska are simply a bit breezy most of the time.
Meteorologists say this is due to variations in the often wavy conditions of the jet stream in the atmosphere. Troughs, or sharp jet stream dips cause low-pressure systems to develop frequently. Various air masses from the north and south are hemmed in by the Rocky Mountains. This directed air triggers extreme weather events.
Add to this, the lay of the land is mostly flat. The prairie offers very few impediments to air flow. Hence, we get a lot of wind. This movement around low-pressure systems also frequently leads to blizzards in the winter and severe thunderstorms in the spring and summer. That’s Nebraska weather in a nutshell and why weather is the most popular form of small-talk in the Midwest.
“A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache.”–Catherine the Great
As a media worker who provided weather forecasts and current conditions twice or more often per hour, I became quite familiar with mariners’ wind speed definitions. Telling the audience the type of air-movement instead of just saying “the wind”, adds variety to the forecast and current conditions. For instance, if we were going to have a very windy day, I’d mention that we could expect a fresh gale with winds averaging 40-miles-an-hour. Mention of the wind type added spice to the normally bland style of weather reporting.
I don’t know if I’m noticing an increase in wind speeds these days because I’m paying closer attention to the wind, or if stronger winds are due to global climate change. Perhaps two or three times each month, we get moderate or fresh gale-force winds. We’ve experienced whole gale winds much more frequently than usual.
Just as there is the Richter scale for earthquake severity and the Saffir-Simpson scale for hurricane severity, there is a scale for wind–the Beaufort Scale. It categorizes winds on a scale from zero to twelve. I don’t hear it mentioned in casual, everyday weather chat. But professional meteorologists do refer to it as a helpful shorthand description.
As I check the air-speed indicator read-out on my desk, I see we’re presently getting Beaufort number 2 winds this early morning. We are forecast to receive Beaufort number 5 winds later in the day. While these numbers are meaningless to most laypersons, they are useful to professional weather forecasters and observers.
It would be a convenience for the general public if we learned the Beaufort Scale. It would be especially useful on stormy days. If we hear that category 11 winds can be expected, we’d instantly understand that widespread property damage can happen with the passage of the weather system.
I mention category 11, because we’ve had a few instances of such winds during the past twelve months. Such winds are frightful for long-haul truckers and people who live around a lot of trees. I happen to live around a lot of trees.
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”–art critic John Ruskin
In so far as our anticipated Beaufort Scale number 5 winds goes, they will be accompanied by changeable sky and temperature conditions. There will be interesting weather to discuss with my friends, today.