What is an anemometer?

If you’ve never heard of an anemometer, don’t worry – you’re certainly not alone. Indeed, unless you’re heavily into the likes of your geography, aviation or monitoring the weather, there’s a good chance many people won’t have heard of one before.

With that in mind, here’s a quick explanation on the tool.

So, what is an anemometer?

A basic definition of an anemometer is that it’s an instrument used to measure the speed or velocity of gases in a contained flow – which could be an airflow or a duct – or an uncontained flow – such as the wind.

Most commonly, anemometers are known as meteorological devices used to measure wind speed. A typical anemometer features three or four cups attached to horizontal arms which are connected to a vertical rod. As the wind blows, the cups rotate and the rod spins. The anemometer monitors these rotations over a short period of time, taking an average of the readings provided over that period to calculate wind speed.

What are the different types of anemometer?

There are four main types of anemometer model used. The one we just talked about above is a cup anemometer, then there are also vane anemometers, thermal anemometers, and thermal anemometers with velocity and temperature profiling.

These four models of anemometer can be classified into two brackets; constant-temperature anemometers – which offer high frequency response and applicability for liquid or gas flows – and constant power anemometers – which offer a simpler feedback system which makes them typically less popular.

The areas in which anemometers are used

The primary use of anemometers lies in monitoring weather conditions, with weather stations using cup anemometers to measure wind speed for a variety of purposes. They’re certainly not exclusive to use in meteorological circles however, as anemometers are utilised in a number of other key industry areas, including:

  • Agriculture: to establish suitable conditions for spraying crops or burning straw.
  • Aviation: anemometers play a key role in assessing safe conditions for all sorts of aviation pursuits including gliding, parachuting and hot air ballooning.
  • Civil engineering: anemometers help regulate safe working conditions for construction sites and crane operation.
  • Training: anemometers are used in a variety of training formats at schools and as part of environmental research.
  • Outdoor activities and sport: sports including archery, cycling, shooting, golf, sailing and athletics all rely on anemometers to get an idea of what air conditions are like.
  • Hobbies: many hobbyists in areas such as airplane modelling, ship modelling, kite flying and drone flying use anemometers to assess when it’s suitable to engage in any outdoor pursuits.

The anemometer is, then, a hugely important tool in a number of key fields, with wind speed being a key metric for a number of tasks across a number of industries. Who knows, you might even notice one doing its job in the future!