All about wind: where it comes from, Alabama’s windiest months and more

The winter and spring are Alabama’s windiest times
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 11:32 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Have you ever wondered why we have wind? Or why it seems like some months are windier than others? Well, read on and you’ll know all you need to know about wind!

Wind is simply moving air that is caused by differences in air pressure within our atmosphere. The stronger the difference in pressure, the stronger the wind will be.

But what about the direction of the wind? Well, put simply, air under high pressure will move towards areas of low pressure. To visualize how wind forms without using weather maps, let’s use soda cans (I wanted to say pop cans so badly).

Larger pressure changes lead to stronger winds.
Larger pressure changes lead to stronger winds.(WSFA 12 News)

If you have a can of soda with a lot of pressure built up inside and you open it, the can will lose pressure to the air around it. That’s because air pressure is always trying to reach a state of balance. In other words, the low pressure outside the can wants to be equal to the pressure inside of it. Therefore, when you open the can you get a quick shot of “wind” as the pressure attempts to equalize between the can and the air around it.

If this is a bit confusing, we can also look at a simple weather map that you’d see on TV to describe wind.

Strong pressure changes lead to stronger winds.
Strong pressure changes lead to stronger winds.(WSFA 12 News)

On the map above you’ve got a strong area of high pressure in Utah and a strong area of low pressure centered over the Lower Great Lakes. Since both of them are strong, the difference in pressure between them is larger. When the difference in pressure is larger, the wind is stronger in an attempt to “even out” the pressure differences.

So in this example you’d have strong winds blowing between the high and low pressure systems.

Typically we see stronger areas of high and low pressure during the late fall, winter and early spring. That’s because that’s the time when cold and warm air masses battle it out. When warm air tries to overtake cold air -- and vice versa -- you end up with stronger highs and lows.

This is especially true for our part of the country. That’s why Alabama’s windiest months are January through April.

The average wind speed by month in MGM.
The average wind speed by month in MGM.(WSFA 12 News)

That’s not to say you can’t have breezy to windy days in other months. It’s just that, on average, you have a greater number of days with higher wind speeds during the first four months of the year.

Occasionally you’ll have a meteorological set-up where breezy conditions develop during the late spring, summer and early fall.

The wind speed averages are mainly driven by changes in pressure, but you can have isolated instances of strong wind speeds once or twice a month that don’t really impact the month’s overall wind speed average. That would include situations like severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and tropical systems. Those phenomena all bring strong to damaging wind, but it usually lasts for a very short duration and doesn’t happen very often.

Average annual wind speeds for Alabama's four largest cities.
Average annual wind speeds for Alabama's four largest cities.(WSFA 12 News)

Alabama is actually at the bottom of the rankings for wind speeds in the United States. So while you may have an urge to complain about the wind, just know it could be worse. Alabama comes in at No. 5, which is behind fellow southern states Georgia (4), Kentucky (3), Florida (2), and Mississippi (1).

The windiest states in the country can be found in the Midwest, Plains and Great Lakes. That’s likely due to those location’s proximity to stronger areas of high and low pressure during the fall, winter and spring.

Copyright 2022 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.