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Wind Lesson for Kids: Facts & Causes

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

There are many names to describe the wind, from a breeze to a gust. But all wind is created in a similar way. Learn what causes the wind and how the Sun helps the wind to blow.

The Mighty Wind Blows

In a hurricane, it can reach speeds of more than 130 miles per hour. In a tornado, it can swirl at more than 200 miles per hour. What am I talking about? The wind! Wind is the movement of air caused by differences in air pressure.

Scientists that study weather, called meteorologists, use instruments like an anemometer to measure wind speed. You might have seen an anemometer before. It looks like a pole with a few cups on top.

An early anemometer
anemometer

When the wind blows, it goes into the cups, making them spin on the pole. A meteorologist can count how many times the cups spin over a set period of time to figure out how fast the wind is blowing.

The wind can blow at a gentle speed or hard enough to knock down a building, but regardless of the wind's speed, wind wouldn't be possible without the Sun.

A tornado has strong and destructive winds
tornado

What Causes Wind?

Did you know that warm air rises? That's why hot air balloons float up into the sky. When the Sun shines, it heats up the air and rises into the sky, just like the warm air inside a hot air balloon to rise.

The wind blows because the Sun heats land faster than it heats water, which causes changes in air pressure. Air pressure is a measure of how heavy a patch of air is and how much it pushes down on the Earth. When hot air rises off the Earth, it is exerting less pressure on Earth - that's low pressure air! Cold air is heavier, so it presses down on Earth with more force and this is high pressure air. As low pressure (warm) air rises, high pressure (cooler) air will move to take over the space where the warm air was.

Let's use the beach as an example. Did you ever notice that the wind always seems to blow at the beach? During the day, the ocean breeze blows because the Sun heats the sand faster than the water. The air above the warm land rises, which allows the cooler air over the ocean to rush in and take its place. The result of the air movement is wind blowing toward shore. In the evening, the process reverses and wind blows out to sea.

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