Windiest Place On Earth… A Look At Locations Around The Globe Experiencing Extreme Winds
There may be some debate about the location of the windiest place on Earth. There are a few locations on the planet, though, where extreme & sustained winds simply eclipse just about everything else.
Most of us have experienced strong or even gale force winds at some point during our lives. In most cases, these were exceptions to otherwise much calmer conditions. There are a few places on the planet, though, that continually experience extreme windy conditions.
What Is The Windiest Place On Earth?
Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, is recognized as the windiest location on Earth. While the average annual wind speed is approximately 80 km/h (50 mph), gusts from katabatic winds can reach speeds of 241 km/h (150 mph).
Declaring the "windiest" place on Earth is not as straightforward as one might think. Some criteria may look at maximum wind speeds, others will look at average sustained velocity, and some at how often these atmospheric conditions occur.
The following section describes which criteria are most suited to define a location with extreme wind activity, as well as the actual areas that fall within this category.
Windiest Place On Earth Defined
Over a short period, wind can reach high velocities. These strong gusts are often found in extreme weather phenomena like hurricanes and tornadoes and don't last for very long.
For any location to be acknowledged as being windy, it must experience continuous strong winds over an extended period. It is for this reason that using the annual average wind speed is such a good indicator of sustained heavy wind activity.
By using these criteria, it is much easier to locate and define the region that qualifies as the windiest place in the world:
What Is The Windiest Place On Earth?
Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, is recognized as the windiest location on Earth. While the average annual wind speed is approximately 80 km/h (50 mph), gusts from katabatic* winds can reach speeds of 241 km/h (150 mph).
*Katabatic (drainage) winds are winds blowing from elevated to lower-lying areas.
To put this into context, a storm is classified as severe once wind speeds exceed 93 km/h (58 mph). Furthermore, The Beaufort wind force scale classifies winds as having gale force strength at speeds of 62 - 74 km/h (39 - 46 mph).
(In other words, the average annual wind speed in Commonwealth Bay exceeds the threshold for a wind to be classified as a gale force.)
The reason that winds reach such high velocities in Commonwealth Bay is a direct result of the slope of the Antarctic Continent as well as the shape of the Bay.
As mentioned, extreme weather is capable of producing much higher wind speeds. For example, in 1961, Typhoon Nancy let to sustained winds of 346 km/h (215 mph), while the highest wind speed in a tornado was recorded at 486 km/h (302 mph) in Oklahoma in 1999.
These high wind speeds, though, occurred for short periods of time in weather phenomena that do not occur very often. In the case of Commonwealth Bay, though, winds consistently reached gale force strength throughout the year.
Although a few other spots around the world may lay claim to the title of "windiest place on Earth," Commonwealth Bay is the one location that keeps popping up in conversation and is acknowledged by both The Guinness Book Of World Records and National Geographic.
It is worth, though, to take a look at a few other global locations that are notorious for their windy characteristics.
Top 11 Windiest Places On Earth
The following list describes the top 10 cities and locations throughout the world, which are continuously subjected to severe wind conditions.
- 1Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica
- 2Wellington, New Zealand
- 3Barrow Island, Australia
- 4Mount Everest, Nepal
- 5Patagonia, Argentina
- 6Dodge City, Kansas, United States
- 7Saint John's, Canada
- 8Mount Washington, New Hampshire, United States
- 9Baku, Azerbaijan
- 10Gruissan, France
- 11Ab-Paran, Afghanistan
1) Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica
As this location has already been extensively covered throughout this article, there is no need for additional information. One can re-iterate the fact that the 50 mph average annual wind speeds and 150 mph gusts cements its status as the windiest place on the planet.
2) Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington is not only the southernmost capital city in the world but also carries the title of the windiest city on the planet. It is situated in the "Roaring Forties" (latitudes of between 40 and 50 degrees south of the Equator), which are infamous for its extreme winds.
The highest recorded wind speed at this location is 248 km/h (154 mph). With winds blowing for 233 days out of the year and average wind speeds of 43 km/h (27 mph), it is clear to see why this city is widely accepted as the windiest.
3) Barrow Island, Australia
Barrow Island is situated on the northwestern coast of Australia. It is widely exposed to wind activity since it doesn't have any natural protection.
What sets it apart, though, is that it currently holds the record for the highest recorded surface wind speed in the world. An unmanned station measured a speed of 408 km/h (253 mph) on 10 April 1996.
This gust of wind occurred during tropical cyclone Olivia, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recognizes it as the highest surface speed ever recorded.
4) Mount Everest, Nepal
Including a mountain top in a list of the windiest places on Earth may seem a bit odd, but the extreme winds at the top of Mount Everest have a lot more to do with its altitude than its physical location.
At a height of 8848 meters (29 028 feet), the peak of Everest is directly exposed to jet streams, strong narrow bands of winds that flow in the upper atmosphere. Although they are not permanent, these winds usually blow for sustained periods at high velocities.
Climbers may experience brief periods of calm weather, but it's usually short-lived. Winds regularly reach speeds of 161 km/h (100 mph), while the highest wind speed ever recorded occurred in February 2004 and measured 282 km/h (175 mph).
Jet streams usually get very little attention as it occurs so high in the atmosphere, but the sheer height of the mountain takes it right into the domain of these dangerous winds.
5) Patagonia, Argentina
Patagonia is a strip of land situated on the southernmost point of Argentina. Like Wellington (New Zealand), it is also exposed to the "Roaring Forties," which are characterized by the sustained heavy winds.
The city of Punta Arenas experiences so much heavy wind activity throughout the year that authorities erected ropes between buildings for people to hold on to during heavy gusts. With winds reaching speeds of up to 129 km/h (80 mph), it is perfectly understandable.
A contributing factor to the severe wind conditions that characterize the region is the physical geography around Cape Horn that causes the wind to funnel around it and increase in speed.
6) Dodge City, Kansas, United States
Dodge City is one of the windiest towns in the United States. It is situated in the infamous "Tornado Alley" on the American Midwestern Plains, which experiences an exceptionally high number of tornadoes each year.
Winds blowing from the neighboring Rocky Mountains onto the flat plains of the Central United States are the biggest contributing factors to the consistent winds experienced in this part of the country.
The resulting winds have an average speed of approximately 23 km/h (14 mph), which blows almost continuously for the majority of the year.
7) Saint John's, Canada
Saint John's is situated on the east coast of Newfoundland, Canada. It carries the title of the "Windiest City In Canada." And for a good reason.
Winds persist for the largest part of the year and have an average speed of 21.8 km/h (13.6 mph). To top it off, winds reach and exceed speeds of 48 km/h (30 mph) for an average of 47 days out of the year.
8) Mount Washington, New Hampshire, United States
Before Barrow Island in Australia was crowned the windiest place on Earth, the title belonged to Mount Washington with a recorded speed of 372 km/h (231 mph).
It is still one of the windiest locations on the planet, with an average wind speed of 51 km/h (32 mph). It is also the windiest region in the United States.
9) Baku, Azerbaijan
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and the largest city in the country, gets its reputation as a windy city from the cold northerly winds blowing from the Caspian Sea (called the khazri), as well as the warm southern winds flowing overland (called the gilavar).
These winds cause Baku to experience strong winds throughout the year, with the khazri reaching speeds of up to 144 km/h (89 mph) per occasion. It should come as no surprise that the city carries the nickname, "City Of Winds."
10) Gruissan, France
Gruissan is a coastal commune situated in the south of France. The traditional fishing village is built around the remains of a 10th century-old castle, and circular in shape.
Winds blow for approximately 300 days out of the year with an average speed of 29 km/h (18mph). The strong northwesterly Tramontane is the dominant wind in the region.
11) Ab-Paran, Afghanistan
Ab-Paran has a history of heavy storms accompanied by strong winds. What makes it stand out, though, is the wind speed of 328 km/h (204 mph) recorded in 2008. This more than justifies its position as one of the windiest locations on Earth.
As this article clearly illustrated, there are quite a few places around the world that can lay claim to the title, "Windiest Place On Earth."
When one looks at the criteria, though, it becomes evident that Commonwealth Island in Antarctica deserves the crown.
This article not only highlighted the windiest location on the planet but also looked at regions around the world that experience extreme wind conditions throughout the year.
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