Boating Weather: The Name of the Wind

The earth’s prevailing winds are caused by uneven heating at the equator and the poles. This, along with the rotation of the planet and the influence of the oceans and continents, set up the general pattern.

The Chinook is an example of a local mountain breeze found in the Rockies. It blows down from ridges, west to east, and is dry on the eastern side.

The Chinook is an example of a local mountain breeze found in the Rockies. It blows down from ridges, west to east, and is dry on the eastern side. Illustration courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

However, local and seasonal wind conditions exist in many places, like the Thermal Land and Sea Breezes of New England, which I’ve talked about here.

Some  local winds are so reliable and predictable that they even have names: Chinook, Santa Ana, Tehuano, Mistral, Bora, and the Fremantle Doctor to name a few (and here are more).

Local winds fall into three basic types, land and sea breezes, mountain and valley breezes, and cold-season gravity or drainage winds. From the Gregale of Greece to the Monsoons of India and the dry warm westerly Chinook coming off the Rocky Mountains, all of them not only have reliable directions from which they blow, but also indicate dry or moist conditions. Most are seasonal in nature.

To be able to say the true name of the wind was a magical ability in Patrick Rothfus’ sci-fi book The Name of the Wind (one of my favorites). Reading the wind might also be considered a knack.

A pilot boat charges ino the teeth of the Fremantle Doctor in western Australia. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

A pilot boat charges ino the teeth of the Fremantle Doctor in western Australia. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

Whether you run your boat on a lake, a river, or along the coast,  local winds are part of your world. The more time you spend on boats, the better you get to know these winds — as long as you pay attention.

Being able to identify and even anticipate local wind conditions can only improve your boating enjoyment.

What’s the name of the wind where you boat? We encourage you to share a quick comment on local wind conditions that affect boating in your area.

For more about wind and weather, read these articles:

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