UCL News


On the right tack for coastal wind jets

9 November 2005

It wasn't cheating but a hitherto poorly understood weather phenomenon that may have contributed to the success of the British sailing team in the 2004 Olympic Games.

Scientists at University College London, have managed to uncover the physics behind coastal wind jets, rivers of fast-flowing air a few kilometres wide that form close to coasts and can gust up to 40 per cent faster than normal winds for the area.

They are well known to yachting experts, who use them to gain advantage in races.

The UCL scientists, working with colleagues from climate research units at Reading in the UK, and in France and Germany, have concluded that a force produced by the rotation of the Earth has to be taken into account in analysing coastal wind movements.

Interaction between the so-called Coriolis force and the way the winds are slowed by passing over land generates wind jets parallel to the coastline.

Andrew Orr, now at the European Medium Range Weather Forecasting Centre in Reading, says mathematical models of the system will be of benefit to wind turbine "farms" and to the prediction of coastal flooding. The research is published in the current issue of Weatherjournal.
Alan Cane, 'Financial Times', 14 October 2005