In high mountains, the ridges and passes are seldom calm; however, strong winds in protected valleys are rare. Normally, wind speed increases with altitude since the earth's frictional drag is strongest near the ground. This effect is intensified by mountainous terrain. Winds are accelerated when they converge through mountain passes and canyons. Because of these funneling effects, the wind may blast with great force on an exposed mountainside or summit. Usually, the local wind direction is controlled by topography.
a. The force exerted by wind quadruples each time the wind speed doubles; that is, wind blowing at 40 knots pushes four times harder than a wind blowing at 20 knots. With increasing wind strength, gusts become more important and may be 50 percent higher than the average wind speed. When wind strength increases to a hurricane force of 64 knots or more, soldiers should lay on the ground during gusts and continue moving during lulls. If a hurricane- force wind blows where there is sand or snow, dense clouds fill the air. The rocky debris or chunks of snow crust are hurled near the surface. During the winter season, or at high altitudes, commanders must be constantly aware of the wind-chill factor and associated cold-weather injuries (see Chapter 2).
b. Winds are formed due to the uneven heating of the air by the sun and rotation of the earth. Much of the world's weather depends on a system of winds that blow in a set direction.
c. Above hot surfaces, air expands and moves to colder areas where it cools and becomes denser, and sinks to the earth's surface. The results are a circulation of air from the poles along the surface of the earth to the equator, where it rises and moves to the poles again.
d. Heating and cooling together with the rotation of the earth causes surface winds. In the Northern Hemisphere, there are three prevailing winds:
(1) Polar Easterlies. These are winds from the polar region moving from the east. This is air that has cooled and settled at the poles.
(2) Prevailing Westerlies. These winds originate from approximately 30 degrees north latitude from the west. This is an area where prematurely cooled air, due to the earth's rotation, has settled to the surface.
(3) Northeast Tradewinds. These are winds that originate from approximately 30o north from the northeast.
e. The jet stream is a long meandering current of high-speed winds often exceeding 250 miles per hour near the transition zone between the troposphere and the stratosphere known as the tropopause. These winds blow from a generally westerly direction dipping down and picking up air masses from the tropical regions and going north and bringing down air masses from the polar regions.
f. The patterns of wind mentioned above move air. This air comes in parcels called "air masses." These air masses can vary from the size of a small town to as large as a country. These air masses are named from where they originate:
• Continental—over land
• Polar—north of 60o north latitude.
• Tropical—south of 60o north latitude.
Combining these parcels of air provides the names and description of the four types of air masses:
• Continental Tropical—warm, dry air mass.
g. Two types of winds are peculiar to mountain environments, but do not necessarily affect the weather.
(1) Anabatic Wind (Valley Winds). These winds blow up mountain valleys to replace warm rising air and are usually light winds.
(2) Katabatic Wind (Mountain Wind). These winds blow down mountain valley slopes caused by the cooling of air and are occasionally strong winds.
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