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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest Forums > General Discussion (sailing related)
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Old 04-27-2010
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Why do we refer to wind and water movement differently?

"Northerly wind, Southerly current" means both are both moving South.

Anyone know why we refer to wind as "out of the....(direction)", while current is "setting towards.. (direction)"?

I have accepted this long ago a being just the way it is, but wondered why it's so.
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Because the ancient Greeks saw the winds as being "sent by" (and therefore "from") a certain God who would necessarily be upwind of you, and the wind was named after the God who sent it. We've largely done away with the Gods, so the winds are named by the direction from which they come.

I don't think the Greeks ever got around to naming currents.
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Last edited by lshick; 04-27-2010 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 04-27-2010
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Half of the equation

Wind indicators are designed to achieve a minimum of air resistance toward the wind. The larger end "down wind" and the smaller end "up wind." This gives the appearance of "pointing" toward the wind and giving the direction.

Next...
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Old 04-28-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peptobysmol View Post
Wind indicators are designed to achieve a minimum of air resistance toward the wind. The larger end "down wind" and the smaller end "up wind." This gives the appearance of "pointing" toward the wind and giving the direction.

Next...
...
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Old 04-28-2010
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Forces & flows, wind = force = from, current = flow = to
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Old 04-28-2010
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I've never been confused by this...but my students have been a time or two.
But explaining Buys Ballot law helps in explaining the difference.
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Old 04-28-2010
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Somewhat confusingly, not all winds are described by the direction they come from.

Local winds are often descried by the direction they are flowing, e.g. "offshore" and "onshore" breezes, "upslope" and "downslope" winds, "up" and "down" drafts. So in that respect, at least, there's no difference between how we describe these local winds and current set.

The cardinal directions used for prevailing winds are helpful because the direction from which they come gives clues to the wind's characteristics. E.g., cold dry air from the northwest, warm moist air from the southeast, etc. So in the case of prevailing winds, knowing where the flow is coming from is generally more important information than where the wind is going.

The other thing is that -- for sailors at least -- the direction from which the wind blows is a vital piece of information for route planning, because it essentially defines the "no-go" zone point of sail. Also, it tells us how much fetch the wind traverses before it reaches us, giving us a better idea of sea state.
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Old 04-28-2010
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I've always figured wind was referred to from the direction that it's coming from because in the old days before pedestal mounted wind instruments it was a lot easier to just face into it to determine direction than to figure out where it was going. Currents are sort of the same thing, if you were drifting downstream it was easier to look toward where you are going and therefore the direction that the current is flowing towards rather than where it was coming from.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peptobysmol View Post
Wind indicators are designed to achieve a minimum of air resistance toward the wind. The larger end "down wind" and the smaller end "up wind." This gives the appearance of "pointing" toward the wind and giving the direction.

Next...
Not a wind sock. You "fly out the big end".

If you took off towards the small end youd be going downwind.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by midlifesailor View Post
Not a wind sock. You "fly out the big end".

If you took off towards the small end youd be going downwind.
Thanks for pointing out the difference between a wind sock and a weather vane/weather **** (not rocket weather cocking ) I was posting with the impression that most of the readers probably knew the functional difference between the two.

edit. **** = male appendage

Last edited by peptobysmol; 04-28-2010 at 08:31 PM. Reason: can't be offensive :)
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