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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

which way the wind blows

We normally tell others that you must know which way the wind blows, the hidden meaning is that you can get an idea of how the jigsaw puzzle pieces will fall into place. The phrase ‘which way the wind blows’ originates probably from the times of sailing ships – the captains of the ships used to go by the indications of Nature, they would navigate with respect to the Pole Star, they would predict storms by looking at the moon. Remember the famous lines of the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by the poet S. T. Coleridge – ‘Last night the moon had a golden ring/ Tonight no moon we see// The skipper he blew a whiff from his pipe/ And a scornful laugh laughed he…’ Well, those were indications that a storm was brewing.

The westerlies are the prevailing winds in the latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees, blowing from the high pressure area in the horse latitudes towards the poles. The winds are predominantly from the southwest in the northern hemisphere and from the northwest in the southern hiem\isphere. Together with the trade winds, the westerlies enabled a round-trip trade route for early European sailing ships. The westerlies can be particularly strong winds, especially in the southern jemisphere, where there is less land in the middle latitudes to cause friction and slow the winds down. The strongest westerly winds in the middle latitudes can come in the Roaring forties, between 40 and 50 degrees latitude.

When winds are particularly strong, they are known by different names. These super winds are called: hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, typhoons in the Pacific, and cyclones in the Indian Ocean. These names depend on where the storms originate – although all three of these start over the sea. Tornadoes, on the other hand, form over land and are usually more violent.

Well, with Hurricane Dennis on its way to notoriety, I wondered what information the net holds on names we have long forgotten – like the westerlies, the roaring forties.

The word Denis brings to mind the favorite cartoon character Denis the Menace, created by Cartoonist Hank Ketcham. Dennis the Menace first began to plague his next-door neighbor, Mr. Wilson, in 1950 on the pages of America's newspapers. Today the comic panel appears in more than 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and in 19 languages.

These are replaced by names like Hurricane Dennis. In fact the following names exist in 1999 for Atlantic hurricanes (all the alphabets are covered except Q, U, X, Y and Z!!!) – so, here goes : Hurricane Arlene, Hurricane Bret, Hurricane Cindy, Hurricane Dennis, Hurricane Emily, Hurricane Floyd, Hurricane Gert, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Jose, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Lenny, Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Nate, Hurricane Ophelia, Hurricane Philippe, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Stan, Hurricane Tammy, Hurricane Vince, and Hurricane Wilma. For details you can visit -


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