Wind Measuring Instruments


Measuring the wind is an essntial activity and ability for sailors and aviators. As wind greatly impacts the safety and navigation abilities of these methods of transportation, many seaports or airports, as well as all planes and ships will be equipped with some form of wind measurement equipment. Meteorologists may use wind to determine the course of storm systems or temperature zones. Measuring the wind is important in many other professions and activities including sports.

Weather Vane

  • Weather vanes measure wind direction. They are the oldest wind measuring devices, dating back as far as the 9th century A.D. Weather vanes are mounted to the roof of a building and are balanced so that wind rotates the vane to point in the direction that the wind is blowing from. Historically weather vanes were shaped like roosters, although designs changed over the years and now take many different forms.

Wind Socks

  • Wind socks, like weather vanes, measure wind direction. Wind socks fill up with air and point in the direction the wind is blowing in. They are often used in airports or on steep mountain motorways to help motorists and pilots compensate for high wind. Although primarily for measuring wind direction, wind socks do provide some indication of wind strength. By noting the position of the wind sock one can approximate the wind strength. A wind sock that is drooping somewhat is in low wind, whereas one standing perpendicular to its upright pole would indicate that the wind is strong.


  • The anemometer is the primary tool used to measure wind speed. Small cups mounted sideways to a rotating base catch wind coming in from any direction and cause the cups to spin. A recording device counts the number of revolutions the cups make over a given period of time. Strong winds will make the cups spin faster.

Beaufort Scale

  • A Beaufort scale measures the effects wind has on the environment to determine wind speed or direction. Originally invented by Admiral Francis Beaufort, the Beaufort scale was originally intended to inform seamen of current conditions on the water by observing the motion of waves and their effect on ships. The Beaufort scale divides wind into categories called Force ranging from 0 to 12, 0 indicating complete calm, 12 indicating hurricane conditions.

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