Strong Winds Return But Winds Don't Blow Equally

Strong Winds Return But Winds Don't Blow Equally
Monday, May 9, 2011 - 6:44pm

EL PASO - The first of this week will have strong afternoon winds both Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon. Blowing dust and some gusts to around 50 miles an hour are likely. However, winds are not blowing as strongly on the west side as east side.

The reason is because of the mountains. The Franklin Mountains act as a barrier for the wind. When winds are blowing out of the west, the air is forced to move up and over the mountains on westside El Paso. Once at the top, the air mixes in with faster moving winds that are present at higher elevations. As the air goes over the mountain, the faster moving air is mixed in, and the wind blows faster down the other side.

The enhanced wind on the lee side is also often influenced by the presence of a temperature inversion above the mountain. A temperature inversion is an area where warmer air is above cooler air. The inversion acts like a physical barrier to the rising air from the west side of the mountain. This means a narrow channel for the winds to blow through exists between the temperature inversion and the mountainside. Much like a narrowing stream, or a pinched water hose, the smaller channel for the fluid (in this case, air) to move through makes the winds move much faster.

According to NWS meteorologists, there can be as much as a 20 mile an hour difference in wind speeds on each side of the mountains. Most of the time, winds are blowing out of the west, and the stronger winds will be on the east side and in particular, the northeast. However, when east winds are blowing, the west side of El Paso deals with the strongest gusts.

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