Winds of Change

Winds of ChangeAs worshipers of the elements, one thing we cannot get enough of is wind. Whether you sail, windsurf, or kiteboard, wind is the primary element that makes you go. Every geographic region has its’ typical wind season. In South Florida that season is likely to be anywhere between October through May. It seemed some time ago that the winds were far more consistent. You could practically set your clock to it. These days it is a bit more hit and miss, but still, it happens far more often than one might think that we have good winds to ride.

Now please bear with me for a short layman meteorological lesson. With the advent of El Niño and La Niña (the seasonal warming or cooling of ocean surface waters) the past several years we have witnessed a great change in weather patterns. El Niño is a warming trend that tends to pull cold fronts further south, thusly giving us more wind. We saw quite a bit of El Niño in the mid to late 90’s. La Niña is a cooling trend that keeps frontal conditions further north. These changes seem to force shifts in the jet stream, which typically carries cold fronts from the Pacific North West across the Continental US and sweeping past the Eastern Seaboard. Usually the trailing end of those fronts will nip the nose of the South East, namely the Florida Keys northward. The changes in atmospheric or surface pressure leading the front, and those pressure changes trailing the front, are what bring the wind to the anxious boarder. So if the fronts do not reach, or they reach in less frequency, we generally have less wind.

Of course there are exceptions to that trend. Varying high and low pressure systems can bring winds year-round. Tropical low-pressure systems south of us with high-pressure systems north of us create tight pressure gradients that typically produce wind. We see that trend happen largely in the late spring and summer months. Even after living through Hurricane Andrew, I am guilty of watching tropical storms and other tropical disturbances on the local radar skirting the Bahamas and Southern Caribbean and thinking, “OK, just get close enough to Florida that we get a good 25-35 knots of wind for a few days, but don’t plow over us!” The fact is it takes quite a bit of monitoring weather reports to ensure you get the wind when it’s here but that all ads to the excitement of the sport.

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