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An anemometer is a device for measuring wind speed, and is a common weather station instrument. The term is derived from the Greek word anemos, meaning wind. The first known description of an anemometer was given by Leon Battista Alberti around 1450[1].

Anemometers can be divided into two classes: those that measure the wind's speed, and those that measure the wind's pressure; but as there is a close connection between the pressure and the speed, an anemometer designed for one will give information about both.


Velocity anemometers

Cup anemometers

A simple type of anemometer is the cup anemometer, invented (1846) by Dr. John Thomas Romney Robinson, of Armagh Observatory. It consisted of four hemispherical cups each mounted on one end of four horizontal arms, which in turn were mounted at equal angles to each other on a vertical shaft. The air flow past the cups in any horizontal direction turned the cups in a manner that was proportional to the wind speed. Therefore, counting the turns of the cups over a set time period produced the average wind speed for a wide range of speeds. On an anemometer with four cups it is easy to see that since the cups are arranged symmetrically on the end of the arms, the wind always has the hollow of one cup presented to it and is blowing on the back of the cup on the opposite end of the cross.

When Robinson first designed his anemometer, he asserted that the cups moved one-third of the speed of the wind, unaffected by the cup size or arm length. This was apparently confirmed by some early independent experiments, but it was incorrect. Instead, the ratio of the speed of the wind and that of the cups, the anemometer factor, depends on the dimensions of the cups and arms, and may have a value between two and a little over three. Every experiment involving an anemometer had to be repeated.

The three cup anemometer developed by the Canadian John Patterson in 1926 and subsequent cup improvements by Brevoort & Joiner of the USA in 1935 led to a cupwheel design which was linear and had an error of less than 3% up to 60 mph (97 km/h). Patterson found that each cup produced maximum torque when it was at 45 degrees to the wind flow. The three cup anemometer also had a more constant torque and responded more quickly to gusts than the four cup anemometer.

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