Why is it so windy?

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Sustained wind speed and direction at 1:30pm on Wednesday, March 9, 2016.

Sustained wind speed and direction at 1:30pm on Wednesday, March 9, 2016.

Check out the sustained wind speeds throughout the Tennessee Valley today! Sustained wind speed, as defined by the National Weather Service, is “the rate at which air is moving horizontally past a given point. It may be a 2-minute average speed (reported as wind speed) or an instantaneous speed (reported as a peak wind speed, wind gust, or squall).”

So that wind is practically blowing at that speed and direction at all times this afternoon. But check out the actual gusts, or the highest instantaneous wind speed measured at a given time (in this case, 1:30pm Wednesday):

Tennessee Valley wind gusts measured at 1:30pm on Wednesday, March 9, 2016.

Tennessee Valley wind gusts measured at 1:30pm on Wednesday, March 9, 2016.

You may be wondering, “Why is it so windy?” The answer is in the synoptic (or big picture) set up.

We’ve seen sustained winds as high as 20 mph at times this afternoon, and wind gusts have reached 30 mph in the Tennessee Valley. It’s so windy today because we are in a “squeeze play” between high pressure located off the Carolina coast and a low pressure system located in eastern Texas. Air flows from high to low, but because the Earth is spinning, that air rotates as it moves from the high pressure system to the low pressure system (this is known as the Coriolis force). The result is a tight pressure gradient setting up over the Southeast, and that pressure gradient is felt on our faces (and in our hair!) as the wind.

 

It is warm now, but unfortunately the dry weather will not last. Check out our forecast page for this weekend’s soggy details.

– Christina Edwards

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