Local Winds: Definition & Examples Video

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  • 0:00 What Is a Local Wind?
  • 1:18 Sea and Land Breezes
  • 2:32 Valley and Mountain Breezes
  • 2:54 Area-Specific Local Winds
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After completing this lesson, you will be able to explain what a local wind is, give some examples of types of local winds, and know where they might be found. A short quiz will follow.

What Is a Local Wind?

Wind is everywhere. It flows through a quiet valley, across every sea, and along coasts and beaches. Wind causes clouds to move over and rain on the city next door or makes your hat blow off and fly down the street. This of course isn't to be confused with the kind of wind that causes people to have to hold their noses in crowded classrooms. No, this kind of wind is a flow of the air across parts of the earth.

Winds can be global or local. Global winds travel large distances and fall into general patterns. Trade winds tend to flow diagonally toward the equator, easterlies go west, and westerlies go east. But in today's lesson, we're talking about local winds.

Local winds are on a much smaller, nearby scale. Your particular home city might have winds that tend to come from the east during one season and the west during another. Or, it might be totally different. The pattern of typical winds you get in a local area is what we call a local wind. Usually they're on the scale of tens of miles to hundreds of miles. These winds can be cold or hot, dry or wet. They can be mild and safe or violent and dangerous. Local winds have a big affect on the weather conditions. They move clouds and moisture around and can make an area wetter or dryer.

Sea and Land Breezes

Let's go through a few examples. One kind of local wind is a sea breeze. A sea breeze happens because the land and sea are heated differently. During the day, the land heats faster than the sea because it takes the sun longer to warm the entire ocean than just a few inches of land. The land then heats the air above it, whereas the air above the ocean stays cooler.

Warm air is less dense—the particles are spread apart. Because of this, the cold sea air is attracted towards the warm, land air. The particles of the more tightly packed sea air want to spread out into the available space. This causes the air to rush towards the coast. This difference in warming is part of why coastal areas tend not to vary as much in temperature between winter and summer. You can see this effect in the mild weather of San Francisco.

The opposite of a sea breeze is a land breeze. Sea breezes happen during the day, and land breezes happen during the night. The reason is similar; the sea doesn't cool down at night as quickly as the land. This causes the land to become cooler than the sea, and the cold land air is attracted to the warmer, sea air. The air rushes out towards the sea, forming a land breeze. Sea and land breezes happen in a consistent day-night cycle.

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