Fred Jaicks  Written and compiled by Fred Jaicks


The word wind can refer to a gentle breeze or it can conjure up an image of an unruly gust overturning umbrellas or a disastrous tornadodemolishing everything in its path. But what you don’t see the wind do is provide an economical and environmentally sound energy for everyday life.

  • Wind Energy – How these machines work and why they are good for our environment.

The wind is caused by the shifting of atmospheric gases within the earth’s upper air systems. It is simply air molecules moving about, although the types of winds vary, usually based on speed. For example, a gale, hurricane, or a typhoon varies depending on the different patterns of motion and on their strength. Each area of the world has different wind speeds and durations. Global wind patterns result from the solar energy of the earth being absorbed as well as the circulation and temperature difference between the poles. This results in the global wind patterns.

The jet stream also affects weather and wind. The jet stream is a large air current that can reach anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 miles long, and is frequently several miles thick. The jet stream can literally carry hot or cold air across an entire continent, which is why it has such an impact on weather. The jet stream was first discovered near Mount Fuji in 1920, and has since been a helpful indicator of weather patterns worldwide. The trade winds are another important system of wind, and these determine the direction and flow of tropical storms and other large storm cells. They are found in the tropics, near the Equator.

The two poles of the earth each create their own major wind patterns: the easterlies and westerlies. The easterlies typically come from the Antarctic region, while the westerlies originate in the upper western hemisphere. Sometimes, these two patterns can collide. The collision causes storms to form. The wind is an important part of our lives, as we need it to operate hot air balloons and blimps, run sail boats, and most importantly, it can provide us with boundless energy to power our world. There are many different ways to measure wind. One is called the Beaufort Scale, and this method categorizes the winds on the water. A wind measuring instrument called an anemometer is also commonly used, as well as wind vanes. For teachers and students, here is more information on how wind can be applied, and how it affects our lives:

Wind Activities and Lesson Plans

  • What is Wind? – Classroom activities
  • For Educators – Lesson plans from PBS on wind power and the wind
  • Wind Machines – Activity to make machines that run solely on wind power
  • Climate change – Lesson plan for studying climate change, including wind related information
  • Celebrate the Wind – A wide variety of resources and plans for kids, from GE