The Importance Of Wind Quality

It helps enormously if the wind power you are harnessing is consistent. A lumpy or gusty wind can pull you all over the place or lift you high in the air without any notice, only to dump you down again just as quickly. There is little you can do to control the wind, but there are ways of judging its quality and making sure you choose a day and location where you are most likely to get the wind you are looking for.

Lumpy wind can often be avoided by making sure you have no obstacles upwind of you. An obstacle (such as a tree or building) can create turbulence downwind for seven times its length.

An easy way of making sure that an obstacle is far enough away is to hold your thumb out in front of you, with a straight arm. If the offending article seems smaller than your thumbnail, it is far enough away not to affect you.

Gusty wind is created by a variety of weather conditions. Often a weather forecast will predict gusty winds, in which case you are seriously advised not to go flying. Local knowledge is priceless. There may be known areas with beautifully clean wind. Although low pressure can occur anywhere and will bring with it its own winds, local winds will often govern particular areas and can override or at least modify these. Local winds, such as sea or land breezes, anabatic or kabatic winds which blow up hills and down hills respectively, or lake breezes, for example, are mercifully predictable.

If all else fails, look at the clouds for some guidance. Fair days with low cumulus mediocris (piled up, cotton-wool clouds) generally indicate a good, if gusty, breeze as a cumulus cloud will bring a gust at its leading edge and a lull at its trailing.

High cirrus uncinus (wispy, ‘mares’ tails’ clouds) in parallel lines indicate strong winds at altitude and more likely than not, an increase in wind speed and change of wind direction is on its way, with or without a front and some nasty weather.

Extensive nimbostratus (thick, blanket-like layer clouds) pften come with a pleasantly constant wind from a fixed direction, even if they don’t create a picture-postcard sunny day for you to play in.