The Horse Latitudes, Trade Winds, Scirocco, Mistral, Sea Breeze, Doldrums, The Roaring Forties, Chinook, these are just some of the evocative names given to winds or the lack of them in various parts of the world. They exist because conditions are such that as a result of extremes of temperature and pressure in that particular locale a wind is formed or not as the case may be. Usually the names were associated with the cause or effect of the wind and then sometimes a place name would be added.
Chinook for example is Black Foot Indian for ‘snow eater’. The reason being that it is a warm wind that melts the snow in spring time. The Horse Latitudes were named because it was an area at sea where sailing ships were becalmed and sailors had to dispose of horses that had died of thirst by throwing them overboard.

Meteorologists on the other hand can classify all of these winds as falling into two main groups. The first are Katabatic winds, which are cold masses of air which fall. The other is Anabatic winds where the moving air mass is warm and rises slowly as it travels. There are a couple of other terms which can be used but I think the professionals frown upon them as they are symptoms rather than causes. When we talk of wind we are generally referring to the lateral motion of an air mass. However air as we know will move up as well as down vertically. As a result certain things happen to a sample of air at a given height and naturally its properties change as it goes up or down. The first is known as the adiabatic process. The second is orographic effect. This is simply the effect that mountain ranges and to a lesser extent hills have on the lateral movement of air by forcing the air mass up.

All of these effects can be used by the kite flyer. The most common effect is that of the sea breeze and its counterpart the land breeze although this is to a lesser degree.

On a cloudless day by the coast the land will heat up more quickly than the sea because the sea has the ability to absorb more heat. That means that the air in contact with both surfaces, the land and the sea, will also heat up respectively. The air over the land getting warmer quicker and therefore becoming lighter and ascending. Colder air from the sea moving in to replace the air going up. So it can be seen that a cycle starts. This movement of air can extend up to tens of miles inland depending on the location and the lie of the land. So that is the sea breeze or onshore wind. At night with clear skies the land will loose its heat more rapidly than the sea or water. So the reverse happens and the breeze flows from the the shore, an offshore wind.

So all of these effects can be related to conditions you may find where ever you are. Larger masses of water inland can create similar conditions as found on the coast.

In my limited experience of kite flying I have already worked out that some of the most striking pictures can be taken by positioning oneself well below the object to be taken and flying the kite/camera level with or just above the subject. This may or may not be obvious but what it does mean is that before you can get your kite airborne and stable you will have to encounter ‘dirty air’. This is especially true in hilly or mountainous areas. I’m planning some shots in the Peak District where I’ll be flying the kite up to the subject (hill) and I know that if I’m not careful the kite may well stall especially if I can not get it through the possible standing waves on the leeward side. Once clear it will be fine. So you see it is worth knowing about the weather and local conditions. It will affect how you fly your kite and it will also allow you to see why it may be not so wise to try what may ultimately be dangerous to you or others.

Lastly the urban environment. There is no one answer to urban kite flying. Buildings and structures divert and mix airflows or just plain negate them. So beware not only is the wind a contentious issue the act of flying the kite and taking photos may be too. Always try to get permission and fly safely within your known limits.



Check the wind:


UK & Europe



North America

Lutz Treczoks Cody