How To Read The Wind Direction
When it comes to wind direction, the thing to remember is that we're considering where the wind is blowing from, not where it is blowing to. So knowing how to read wind direction can help us determine whether or not there will be waves in your area and also where you will find the largest waves.
Let's look at how to read wind direction with ease.
What Is Wind Direction
Before we dive into how you can read wind direction, let's first discuss what it is.
Wind direction is described by where the wind is blowing from. When it comes to coastal regions, these winds are called onshore and offshore winds. These directions have been around for thousands of years, dating back to Ancient Greece.
Nowadays, we refer to this geographical system of winds as cardinal points or cardinal directions.
So, for example, let's say we have an east wind. This eastern wind direction would cause a weather balloon to follow a west-bearing direction.
If you read or hear E 5-10mph, it would indicate the wind blowing between 5-10mph from the east.
How To Read Wind Direction
While it might sound overwhelming, there are over 32 wind directions to explain where winds are coming from, though we only use a few of these wind directions words in our everyday vocabulary for wind speak.
The Four Main Wind Directions
There are four main wind directions in their most simple form, including North, South, East, and West. You can find these directions on your standard compass, designated with the letters N-S-E-W.
People often refer to these basic directions as principal winds or cardinal directions.
The Secondary Wind Directions
Once we get past the primary four, we move into half-winds, ordinal, or intermediate directions. Beyond North, South, East, and West, these include:
The Tertiary Wind Directions
To more accurately discuss where the wind is blowing from, scientists will divide the secondary wind direction points even further into what we call quarter-winds or secondary intercardinal winds:
To get as accurate as possible, people will often divide the original cardinal directions into 32 points, including North by East (NbE) or Northeast by North (NEbN). This directionality makes its way around the compass.
Tools To Read Wind Direction
If you look at meteorological maps, you'll often find wind barbs. A wind barb gives you the speed AND direction of the wind.
On a wind barb, the wind moves from the feathered portion of the barb to the dot at the other end of the line. If you want more information on wind speed, this is the best tool for the job.
The primary line on a barb will have other lines attached, which give you information on the wind's speed. If you have a short line, it means the wind is blowing at 1.5 mph or five knots top-speed.
If you have a long line, it means the wind is blowing at a top speed of ten knots.
You can typically add five knots for each short line and ten knots for each long line. If there is a triangular pennant at the end of your barb beyond the lines, you can add 20 knots.
If the wind barb seems a bit too complex for you, we recommend taking a look at wind arrows instead. Wind arrows can be found on your typical weather map. They use arrowhead points to give you information on the direction of the wind.
New digital maps present wind direction with arrows and wind speed with color attached to those arrows.
Beyond the wind barb and wind arrow tools, you'll sometimes find a wind rose, which provides wind direction and surf swell direction, perfect for those seeking out the best surf.
The wind rose also includes information on wind speed.
This unique graph was made to show prevailing winds and wind direction from a particular location.
Meteorologists will often use the wind rose as a precise wind direction tool.
If you look at a standard weather map, you'll often be given a visual of the precipitation forecast in that area. That forecast will provide you with a general understanding of wind direction in your region. Beyond wind direction, these weather maps are often colored to give you an idea of wind speed as well.