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Unraveling the winter wind mystery in Indiana

Windy winter conditions

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As winter approaches, residents of Indiana and others in the Midwest brace themselves for colder temperatures and blustery conditions.

Many Hoosiers have noticed that the winds seem to pick up during this time of year, leaving people wondering about the reasons behind the seasonal phenomenon.

Let’s delve into the science behind why it gets windier in the winter for Indiana.

One key factor contributing to increased winter winds is the difference in temperature between polar and equatorial regions. During winter, the inclination of Earth’s axis causes the Northern Hemisphere to tilt away from the sun. This tilt results in reduced sunlight and cooler temperatures. Meanwhile, the polar regions experience even greater cooling. This temperature gradient sets the stage for strong atmospheric circulation.


The primary driver of winter winds is the polar jet stream, a high-altitude, fast-moving river of air that encircles the Earth near the middle latitudes. It acts as a boundary between colder, polar air to the north and warmer air masses to the south. In winter, the temperature contrast intensifies, causing the jet stream to strengthen and dip southward, bringing with it colder air masses.

As the jet stream meanders, it creates areas of high and low pressure, leading to the formation of winter storms. These storms further enhance the winds as they move across the landscape. Cold air, denser than warm air, rushes in to fill low-pressure areas, generating gusty winds that can reach significant speeds.


Another contributing factor is the presence of large bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes, near Indiana. These water bodies retain heat longer than land, resulting in a temperature contrast between the relatively warm water and the cold air during winter. This contrast fuels the development of lake-effect snow squalls, characterized by strong winds blowing across the lakes, picking up moisture, and depositing heavy snowfall downwind.

Furthermore, the absence of foliage on trees during winter allows winds to flow more freely across the landscape, reducing friction and increasing wind speeds.