Word Traveler: Windy terms

This feature is for all word lovers as well as those studying for the SAT and seeking to learn new vocabulary.

When we think of mid-to-late January, we often think of winds. The word wind "the movement of air relative to the surface of the Earth," goes back to an Indo-European base meaning 'blow.' In 1805, a scale for classifying wind force at sea was revised by Commodore Francis Beaufort of the British Navy.

Winds are also described by the direction from which they blow. A wind blowing from west to east is a westerly or west wind. In most places, the wind usually blows from one direction most of the time and this is known as the prevailing wind.

Have you ever heard of the pineapple express? It is a strong southwesterly wind off the Pacific Ocean which can bring heavy rain and flooding to the Pacific Northwest during winter. A snow-and-wind storm in Alaska is aburga. There are many other interesting names of winds, often particular to an area, called local winds. For example, a foehn is a warm, dry wind produced by compression, accompanied by temperature rise as air descends the lee of mountainous areas in the Alps; a similar wind, called a chinook, occurs in the Rockies. A sirocco is a hot, humid Mediterranean wind. And in Southern California, many know of the Santa Ana winds, which usually occur in fall and winter when a large high pressure area parks itself over the Great Basin Desert in Nevada. Air flows clockwise around a high, which pumps air over the desert, through the mountains and down into the Los Angeles Basin. When the air drops into the basin, it's compressed which heats and dries the air. A good site with more of these is: http://ggweather.com/winds.html.

Did you know that the original sense of breeze was "northeastern wind" from Old Spanish/Portuguese briza? And that the meaning of 'trade' in trade wind is "path, track?" Trade winds are the steady winds of the tropics. Gale, a very strong wind, is probably related to Old Norse galinn "frantic, mad."

You should remember that downwind means the wind is at your back; upwind is when the wind is against your face - and wind blowing from in front is a headwind and blowing from behind is a tailwind. Windward is facing the wind or on the side facing the wind, contrasted by leeward, on or towards the side sheltered from the wind or towards which the wind is blowing.

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