Taxonomy term

wind

Titan's oddly oriented dunes may be electrostatically sculpted

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, which has a dense, nitrogen-rich atmosphere with evidence of large amounts of frozen water at the surface, is a world apart from Earth’s moon. Among other strange phenomena, Titan has vast fields of frozen hydrocarbon particles that form 100-meter-tall dunes whose crests point east, opposite the prevailing west-blowing winds predicted by atmospheric models of Titan. In a new study in Nature Geoscience, researchers have found that these mysterious dunes may be sculpted in part by electrostatic charging of the frozen hydrocarbon grains.

01 Aug 2017

Whirling "gravel devils" show wind can carry more than just sand

Sand grains, by definition, are between 0.06 and 2 millimeters in diameter, and they are often thought of by scientists as the largest sediments that wind can transport, with larger sediments simply being too hefty for winds to keep aloft. But strong winds, particularly in tropical storms and tornadoes, are known to move objects far larger than sand over short distances. Now, in the high Andes of Chile on the Salar Gorbea salt flat, evidence has been found of tornadic “gravel devils” whipping across the landscape and transporting gypsum crystals as long as 27 centimeters.

16 Jun 2017

1883 sea rescue informs new model of wind-wave interactions

Despite improvements in oceanographic observation, knowledge gaps remain about the interactions between ocean waves and wind blowing over the water’s surface. This is in part due to the difficulty of observing the ocean in high seas and windy conditions. In a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, however, researchers have used a historical record of a treacherous 1883 at-sea rescue — aided by the wave-calming effects of a fish-oil slick — to develop a model of how wind and water interact to form different sizes and types of waves.

29 May 2017

Earth's largest jet stream unexpectedly disrupted

In early 2016, scientists first noticed an unexpected change in wind direction in the stratosphere some 25 kilometers above the equator. This shift signaled the beginning of a multimonth disruption of one of the most regular atmospheric phenomena known — the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). The disruption is the first such event observed in this system since record keeping began in the 1950s.

06 Jan 2017

Mysterious Antarctic algae blown in by high winds

When fossils of microscopic marine algae called diatoms were discovered high in the Transantarctic Mountains 30 years ago, the mysterious find set off a heated debate about whether Antarctica had thawed enough at some point within the last few million years for the emergence of algae-rich seas in the middle of the continent, or whether the diatoms were blown far inland by wind. Now, a new study links the two hypotheses: Researchers led by Reed Scherer of Northern Illinois University found that the algae were likely deposited by strong winds after substantial ice-sheet melt led to sea-level rise along eastern Antarctica.

23 Dec 2016

Electric fields lift dust into the air at massive scales

During the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, black blizzards of dust enveloped the Great Plains, destroying crops. When farmers heard a crackling sound over the radio, they often knew a dust storm was coming, as such storms carry an electric field that can disrupt electronic equipment. Scientists have known since the 1800s that these fields exist, but how they might affect the swirling dust around them has not been understood. In airborne dust over the Sahara Desert, scientists have now directly measured these electric fields for the first time and found that, if strong enough, the fields can lift vast amounts of dust into the air.

25 Oct 2016

Wind whips canyons into shape

As a force of nature, wind is usually afforded less respect than water. Sure, it can topple trees and, in extreme cases, peel roofs off houses. But it can’t carve mighty canyons like water can — or can it? A new study suggests that geologists may have underestimated wind’s role in shaping valleys in arid environments, both on Earth and on Mars.
 
13 Jul 2015

Benchmarks: April 12, 1934: Record winds buffet Mount Washington

When Jeff Masters was 5 years old, a brutish gust of wind knocked him flat. The incident transpired on top of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, a place that has long fascinated Masters — now a meteorologist and the founder of the popular forecasting site Weather Underground.

12 Apr 2015

Fire-driven clouds and swirling winds whipped up record-setting New Mexico blaze

At about 1 p.m. on June 26, 2011, a wind-downed power line sparked a blaze in the Las Conchas area of Santa Fe National Forest. It would become the largest fire in New Mexico’s history at the time. Within hours, the flames spread to cover more than 160 square kilometers, threatening the town of Los Alamos, home of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which develops nuclear fuels and safeguards nuclear weapons, among other activities. Now, a new study identifies why the fire spread so far so fast, and the results may have implications for fire management practices in other mountainous regions.

12 Apr 2015

Watch out Houston, Ike is coming

As residents of Galveston, Texas, scramble to evacuate before Hurricane Ike makes landfall tonight, most Houston residents have been told to stay put. But even Houston — about 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the northeast — is in for some extreme weather tomorrow.

12 Sep 2008