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The Physics of Wind and How It Is Important for Sailing

by Mar 30, 2018Physics

Wind is the lifeblood of our biosphere that transports water around in such a way that determines climate and hence it plays an important role in the ecology.
Uncontrolled wind movements can even cause storms and other natural disasters. Hence the first thing we need to know is the origin of this wind and what factors are important for its flow.
So where does wind come from?
Explaining in a simple way, wind is a result of earth’s uneven heating, that is when one area is extremely hot and another is drastically cold. Comparing to their shared surrounding, visiting from cold to hot region the wind will always flow.
What is the reason for such behavior?
Because of the difference in the temperature, it experiences difference in the air pressure. Hence diffusion of the air particles or wind. The hot area will have low pressure as a result of the heated air parcel that expands and becomes lighter or less dense.
On the other hand, the cold area becomes high in pressure as a result of the contraction of the air parcel. As a result of which it becomes heavier or denser.
In the next step, the low pressure hot area then rises like a balloon. As the dense area below it pushes it in the upward direction. Contractually, the cold air sinks like a rock due to the incapability of lighter cold area to hold it up.
Hence, one thing is clear from it that wind always travels from high pressure to lower as a result of diffusion particles. In either area are hitting ricocheting off each other constantly.
The lower pressure particles have much more space between them that attracts high pressure particles as they can easily be pushed into open spaces. Hence, the transfer of air from high to low pressure creates the effective way for wind to pass.
Now, comes the concept of wind velocity and to understand it let us take an example of a problem sum. Why is the velocity of the wind relative to the water is crucial to sailboats?
It is interesting to note that the sailboats sail faster that the wind, but how is this possible? Let us take a look.
One reason can be due to the shape of sails is like that of wings. Yes, sails can create an area of low pressure on one side of the sail that sinks the boat along but the real answer is somewhat different.
Another intuitive way to explain these phenomena is that a sailboat can sail at an angle upwind. It can be accomplished by creating a wing shape out of the sail. Hence, the wing shaped sail creates a low pressure zone of the sail which pulls the boat along upwind.
Understanding the strength of wind is especially important for sailors. This is why wind velocity plays a crucial role in the science if sailing how the velocity of the wind relative to the water is crucial to sailboats.