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Windy Wellington - story of a southerly front

This is a short story about a southerly front. Wellington is well known for its windy weather - and I recently found some graphic illustrations of how quickly and dramatically the conditions can change. From a northerly of less than 5 knots to a southerly of 50+ knots in less than 3 minutes! Years ago (20), when I was single and obsessed with windsurfing I was one of the keen windsurfers who used to park at the bottom of the harbour on the Petone foreshore and wait for the predicted 'southerly buster' to arrive. When it did there would be a black wall appear at the harbour entrance which would rapidly advance towards us over a period of a few minutes, and the only question was 'which sail should I rig, 3.5 or 3.0?'.

Recently, I happened to be checking out some weather stations positioned around Wellington Harbour when I noticed a dramatic change at Leading Head. This is located near the entrance (south) of the harbour.The first screen shot below shows the wind dials from both ends of the harbour. You can see that Leading Head has reached 40knot S (10 minute average) while Seaview, only a few km north is still registering 3knot N!

Within less than 10 minutes the Leading Head wind has settled a little to a modest 30knots, but Seaview has now reached 40knots and the wind has swung through 180 degrees from north to south. If you were out sailing in that how would you feel?

The next image shows how dramatically the change came through, it shows the maximum gust at Leading Head went from 4-5 knots to 50+knots in about 3 minutes!

Finally, the last graph shows the rapid change not only in wind speed but also direction as experienced at Leading Head.

If ever there was a salutary lesson on watching the weather while you are out sailing - this would be it!

Check out the animated wind models from Metservice - Animated wind models on Metconnect

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