At some point in our lives, we have all sat in a car and seen an orange and white tube on a stick flapping about in the air. These are windsocks and they provide invaluable data to a number of different professions.
Commercial windsocks are brightly coloured and highly visible. They are made of a highly durable nylon or polyester depending on their uses. They need to be incredibly wind- and weather-resistant to last in the harsh conditions they may face. You may also see ones with white stripes. This allows the viewer to calculate how fast the wind is blowing. If the windsock is barely moving, the wind is somewhere below 3 knots. If it is fully inflated and blowing horizontal to the ground, you are facing winds of 15 knots or more.
As you can probably guess, there are many different times when it is handy to know just how fast the wind is blowing. Here are 3 places you are likely to find a windsock.
The first place you will have most likely encountered a windsock is at an airport beside the runway. Windsocks are extremely important to pilots when landing and taking off as they show the airspeed velocity and direction of the wind. These are both key pieces of information a pilot needs to keep themselves and any passengers or cargo safe.
They can be found on the smallest runways which barely have any usage all the way up to big international airports which see hundreds of flights every day. They can also be found at helipads and anywhere else there is likely to be some form of air traffic.
Another place you may find a windsock is on a golf course. The bright, eye-catching colours are just as useful here to golfers as they are to pilots. Golfers use the information they can glean from a windsock to calculate the direction and speed of the wind and can use it to alter their shots. In particular, any pro golfer should know how to read a windsock if they hope to win big.
A slightly more unusual place to find a windsock would be at any chemical refinery plant. Windsocks are used here to tell the plant workers if there is a gas leak. They can instantly signify where the leak is, allowing the workers to fix the problem and prevent any further leakage.
If the plant also legally releases some pollutants or by-products into the air, a windsock can help them do so in a safe manner. Since the windsock indicates the direction of the wind, this allows the plant operators to only release the by-products when they will blow in a safe direction such as out to sea and not towards anything like a town.
These are not the only places you are likely to find a windsock. Keep your eyes peeled at seaports, on mountain highways, and in many other places!