Every Wind has its Weather

17th century English philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “Every wind has its weather,” but singer Bob Dylan averred, “You don’t need a weatherman to know where the wind blows.” Fair enough.

Contiguous USA and the southern portion of Canada sit in latitudes where the winds prevail from the west. That’s at the surface and aloft. But this huge spread of latitude is conducive to the birth of low pressure systems. There is the Gulf Low forming in the Gulf of Mexico, the Colorado low, Alberta Clipper, Great Lakes Low and the Hatteras Low a.k.a the East Coast deepener or Northeaster (Nor’easter) now coined, the Cyclone Bomb from the drama prone media. At the onset of learning weather, a pilot knows winds blow counterclockwise and inward towards low pressure. A northeast, east or southeast wind means weather is approaching. A north wind means the low is moving on with a south wind or southwest wind meaning a low pressure or trough is north of you. Generally, the winds a VFR pilot want to see is a westerly or northwesterly wind signifying a high pressure system is taking over the weather scenario. But hold on if you think this summarization always holds true. It doesn’t, because there are localized effects and mother nature throws curve balls. As a pilot, get used to her moodiness. She will promise fair weather from a west wind, but cause gales before it happens. She will have people thinking weather is upon them in a southwest wind only to bestow hot sunny days. She claims an east wind usually guarantees inclement weather, but an outflow on the West coast or from NE-SW tilted ridges of high pressure on the surface map causing an east wind yet VFR conditions prevail.

A fisherman knows what the weather will be by knowing local wind direction. If your flying is within a localized area, then you too will know what each wind direction signifies. However, take that fisherman and move him from the northeast coast of Maine and put him south of San Diego, California and have him forecast things. So, for a pilot leaving the local area or flying long distances you will want to know what a weatherman says.

Where the wind blows

My wind swept diagram depicting direction and expected weather. (Warning: do not navigate your multi-million dollar airplane based on this chart)

As one weather adage goes:

 “When the wind is in (from) the east,
It’s good for neither man nor beast.
When the wind is in the north,
The old folk should not venture forth.
When the wind is in the south,
It blows the bait in the fishes’ mouth.
When the wind is in the west,
It is of all the winds the best.

Now my take:

Windy ways

When winds blow from the east

Weather will be the least

When winds are from the north

It’s unsettled and coolness has come forth

When winds are from the south

It could be warm, wet, foggy, cloudy or all the above

When winds are from the west

It’s a pilot’s preference at best

Captain D

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