The prognosis wasn’t too good for the end of March – windy and cold with a touch of ground frost. An obvious question, if you have children, would be: where do winds come from? That depends on who would be giving the answer. The ancient Greeks would say that there were four winds who were brothers and that they were the children of the goddess of dawn named Eos. Poseidon, the god of the sea, was in charge of the winds. Only quite a bit later, the Greek Anaxagoras came up with the theory that heat causes air to rise and it forms clouds when it cools. The winds are created by one main source – the sun. It may seem odd since when the sun is out, there isn’t any real wind about. Going back to the beginning, there are places on Earth where the sun shines strongly and for long time periods. As a result, the ground is well-warmed and the hot air rises, but because there isn’t a vacuum in nature, in its place cool air flows in to fill the gap. This exchange of air creates movement which is in fact the wind. This cycle is perpetual as the sun rises higher with each spring day, creating more hot air which, in turn, is replaced by cool air from the colder zones of the globe. In an ideal world, this cycle would be constant and all the winds would blow only from the north or south, the direction of the poles. As nothing is that simple – the air heats up much faster over land than water, and also over different types of land such as asphalt-lined cities and deserts. Add to that another important factor – the rotation of the Earth itself. Here matters get complicated even further because when the Earth spins on its axis, different points of land travel at quite a different speed. At the equator it travels at about one thousand miles per hour, but towards the poles at a much slower pace. This is called the Coriolis effect after the French physicist who was the first to describe it. There is more to this, and I could still write about the different curves of the global winds, westerly and easterly winds, which cause frictions and gusts, and why they behave differently over water and land, what monsoons are , and why there are so many differently named winds, and much more…. But as space is limited, I will add one more interesting bit of winds’ “psychology”.
Most people and animals don’t feel too comfortable when the wind is howling. The very fact that bad weather does have an effect on humans has been mentioned throughout the centuries by poets, writers, historians and medicine men. Often called “ill wind” or “poison wind”, depending upon which part of the world they occur, they are feared by people as a source of great discomfort and danger, understandable in the case of sand storms and hot winds of African and Arabic countries. These ferocious winds can cause breathing problems, headaches, nausea and irritability. We all, of course, remember our own encounter with the hurricane storm of 1987, which killed people and devastated many parts of the country.
Even ordinary strong winds can cause psychological and physical changes in people and animals, making everyone restless. This is because strong air flow, the wind, creates an imbalance in the ionic content of the atmosphere. It is known that an excess of positive ions causes our bodies to produce a large amount of one of the brain’s substances responsible for our feeling of being nervous, depressed and irritable. It could be overcome if we could have a waterfall in our gardens. Falling water creates an excess of negative ions which creates our feeling of wellbeing and tranquillity. All the above begs one question – is there anything good about winds at all?
There is always some balance in nature, and in the case of winds they have positive aspects too. The wind cleans the atmosphere, distributes seeds, levels the temperature across the globe and distributes rains that otherwise would fall only over the oceans. It also shapes the landscapes into most wonderful creations – the elegant patterns of sand dunes, waves across the water, twisted branches of hilltop trees and golden wheat and silvery barley fields swaying in rippling circles, rocked gently by the wind, as if they were the disturbed surface of a waterpool, among hundreds of other examples. Nothing in nature is only good or bad, that is a fact.