PopSci reader Dave wants to know: "Hello, if the earth spins east to west why does our wind blow west to east? The wind has to be blowing faster than the earth spinning. Yes?"
Feel free to tackle this one in the comments section.
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Yes, technically the wind is blowing faster than the ground, but this shouldn't be an issue. After all, we do not experience more difficulty walking east than we do walking west. As far as why the wind blows west to east, I would imagine it has to do with temperature differentials between air on the dayside and nightside, but I'm sure there's a more technical reason.
The rotation of the Earth doesn't effect the weather patters or wind directions in our atmosphere because the atmosphere is spinning in the same direction and speed as the Earth. The Earth, atmosphere, and everything in between (including us) are all spinning in the same frame of reference so as the Earth moves so does everything else on it. Weather systems and wind speeds are based on other factors in the atmosphere, including pressure systems, temperatures, and land formations. Earths rotation, in no way, directly influences wind direction, at least to my knowledge.
if the speed and direction of the earth spinning directly controlled wind speed then on a nice breezy day the average wind speed would be 1038 mph at the equator. haha so much for that picnic! :p
You might want to look up the Coriolis effect. As ajbarber9 points out, many factors influence the weather, of which this is one.
All motion is relative. The wind is moving faster than the Earth is spinning from an observer above the Earth and sees movement of rotational speed + wind speed. Someone on Earth is already moving at the rotational speed so only sees the additional wind speed.
It is all about relativity.
If you face in the opposite direction of the Earths Rotation and throw a ball, is it harder to do so? For that matter if you throw a ball in the direction of the Earths Rotation, are you throwing it at 1000 MPH?
In fact if you consider the motion of the Earth around the Sun, and the motion of the Sun through space (not to mention galactic motion etc.), our actual resting velocity is extremely high. But none of that matters because what matters is the speed of one object relative to another.
Because you are affected by the velocities just as much as the ball you throw, you can pretty much ignore them.
I think Eggman002 hits on it exactly. Sure, technically the wind is moving faster, but not that it would affect anything on earth, since we're all moving with it. Imagine standing at the back of a bus that is moving at 80km/h, then walk from the back of the bus to the front at 5km/h. In relation to the floor of the bus, you are only moving at 5km/h, in relation to the ground under the bus, you are moving at 85km/h, and in relation to space outside of Earths atmosphere, you are moving very, very fast. If the bus is driving west-east, then technically you are walking 85km/h faster than the earth is rotating.
So to simply answer your question: Yes, a west-east wind is moving faster than the earth is rotating.
Old question thats been around for years. Most everyone is right, it's all relative! Since everyone gave great examples, here's mine: The fly trapped in my car is hovering in front of me, since im driving on the freeway does the fly have trouble keeping up with my car? Of course not! ;-) It's all relative.
HEY! Why has no one caught onto this yet: the earth spins WEST to EAST - think about where the sun rises!
You are right, though, to wonder about the connection between the spin of the earth and the direction the wind is blowing. Yes, the wind is a product of differing areas of pressure and temperature, but again, THINK: the earth is spinning west to east...
1) A section of earth is heated by the sun.
2) That air becomes warm and moves to the east (you will see why soon).
3) The space where the warm air used to be is now an area of low pressure.
4) The earth is spinning. A new section to the west of the first one is heated.
5) Hot air from second section moves east into the low pressure of first section.
6) The earth is spinning. A new section to the west of the second section is heated.
7) Hot air from third section moves east into the low pressure of second section.
And so on.