||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (June 2014)|
A crosswind is any wind that has a perpendicular component to the line or direction of travel. In aviation, a crosswind is the component of wind that is blowing across the runway, making landings and take-offs more difficult than if the wind were blowing straight down the runway. If a crosswind is strong enough it may exceed an aircraft's crosswind limit, and an attempt to land under such conditions could cause structural damage to the aircraft's undercarriage. Crosswind is sometimes abbreviated as X/WIND. For aviation, the standard is to report a crosswind in knots, abbreviated kt, and often use the plural form giving expressions such as "with 40kt crosswinds".
Crosswinds can also cause difficulty with ground vehicles traveling on wet or slippery roads (snow, ice, standing water, etc.), especially when gusting conditions affect vehicles that have a large side area such as vans, SUVs, and tractor-trailers. This can be dangerous for motorists because of the possible lift force created, causing the vehicle to lose traction or change direction of travel. The safest way for motorists to deal with crosswinds is by reducing their speed to reduce the effect of the lift force and to steer into the direction of the crosswind.[further explanation needed]
When winds are not parallel to or directly with/against the line of travel, the wind is said to have a crosswind component; that is, the force can be separated into two vector components, a crosswind component and a headwind or tailwind component. A vehicle behaves as though it is directly experiencing a crosswind in the magnitude of the crosswind component only.
The crosswind component is computed by multiplying the wind speed by the sine of the angle between the wind and the direction of travel. For example, a 10-knot wind coming at 45 degrees from either side will have a crosswind component of 10 knots × sin(45°) or approximately 7.07 knots. The headwind component is computed in the same manner, using cosine instead of sine. To determine the crosswind component in real world flight, aviators frequently refer to a nomograph chart on which the wind speed and angle are plotted, and the crosswind component is read from a reference line. Direction of travel relative to the wind may be left or right, up or down, or oblique; moving non-parallel to the wind's direction creates a crosswind component on the object and thus increasing the apparent wind on the object; such use of cross wind travel is used to advantage by sailing craft, kiteboarding craft, power kiting, etc.
Smaller aircraft are often not limited by their ability to land in a crosswind, but their ability to taxi safely prior and post-flight.