From gentle gusts to fierce gales, the wind can drive us crazy or keep us entertained.

Text: Mårten Niléhn     Photo: Ellioth & Winther Film    

Few things make us feel as alive as the wind. Imagine walking around a corner, when you are unexpectedly pushed back by a sudden gust. Or think about pedalling a bike with a strong tailwind, and how you can hear the tyres singing on the asphalt beneath you. The joy!

But while the wind gives us energy, it can also do harm. In the most extreme cases, strong winds can cause devastation and misery. Even in more sedate examples. The mistral, for instance, sweeps down the Alps in a sustained howl that is said to drive people mad.

Perhaps that’s unfair, however. The wind’s main task is to distribute the sun’s heat more evenly across the globe, but in doing this, it can be a somewhat mischievous playmate. Think of a child repeatedly trying to get their kite to fly, or an adult trying to stop a golf ball from blowing off a tee.

Or for that matter, think of the Norwegian skydiver and base jumper Jokke Sommer, who is more intimately acquainted with the wind than most. Every time he plunges off a precipice in his wingsuit, it rushes up to greet him.

Are you ever afraid?

“Yeah, I’m scared every time. But it’s a pleasant fear. You feel like you’re in control of the situation. It’s not like driving a car where someone else can cause problems for you. There is a fear that makes you focused. As soon as I’ve jumped out and reached the point of no return, then the only thing that’s comfortable is to just spread your wings and fly.”

Wind facts

1. The first attempt to fly with a wingsuit was by Frenchman Franz Reichelt, 33, who jumped off the Eiffel Tower in 1912 to an instantaneous death.

2. Sometimes you can see a jet stream with the naked eye, silhouetted in the sky like a condensation line.

3. In order to be called a jet stream, the air must be travelling at a speed of at least 100km per hour.

4. When we talk about the wind “strength”, we mean its power. This ­increases by the wind speed squared. So, a storm wind travelling at 28m per second is therefore four times stronger than a gale wind that travels at 14m per second.

THIN AIR

Air pressure is less at higher altitudes. On the top of Mount Everest, water will boil at 70⁰C.

Tagged: Air