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What are the windiest places on earth and in the UK?

Have you ever felt as though you are working in the windiest place on Earth? Windy conditions can be experienced across many different regions of the UK. Yet, there are other parts of the planet that experience higher wind speeds and more extreme weather than anything that we ever get on British shores.
 

Area   Average Annual Wind Speed Highest Recorded Wind Speed
Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica Highest Annual Wind Speed 50mph Over 150mph
Wellington, New Zealand Windiest City 29mph 154mph - 1962
Barrow Island, Australia Highest Officially Recorded Wind Speed 12mph 253mph - 1996
Mount Washington, New Hampshire Previous Highest Recorded Wind Speed 32mph 231mph - 1934
Bridge Creek, Oklahoma Unofficial Highest Recorded Wind Speed 17.55mph 302mph - 1999
St David’s, United Kingdom Windiest City in the UK 13.5mph 42.5mph - 2019
The Shetland Islands,United Kingdom The UK’s Windiest Place 17mph 173mph - 1992
Cairngorm Summit, Scotland Highest Recorded Wind Speed in the UK 33mph 173mph - 1986
St Albans, United Kingdom Least Windy City in the UK 5.7mph 33.6mph - 2019
London, United Kingdom Windiest time of the year from October - April 11.5mph 25.8mph - 2008

Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica - Highest Annual Wind Speed

As well as being one of Earth’s most remote locations, this is also its windiest spot, according to both The Guinness Book of World Records and National Geographic Atlas. The incredible conditions here are due to bitterly cold Katabatic winds that drive downhill to the bay.

In fact, the average annual wind speed here is a breath-taking 50mph. The highest recorded speeds at Commonwealth Bay are over 150mph. Winter is especially wild here, with almost constant winds and powerful whirlpools. A giant colony of penguins got landlocked in this unforgiving spot when an iceberg got stuck in 2010, causing them a marathon trek to look for food. 

Wellington, New Zealand - Windiest City

The capital of New Zealand sits near the most southerly point of the North Island. As well as being the most southerly capital city on the planet, it is also regarded as being the windiest city on the face of the Earth. This is due to it experiencing average wind speeds of 29mph throughout the year.

Winter is especially windy in Wellington, with a maximum of 154mph once recorded. The windiest year in recorded history saw gale force wind speeds on 233 days out of the year.  Why is there such extreme weather here? The gap between the North Island and the mountains of the South Island creates a funnel that forces powerful gusts onto the city.

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Barrow Island, Australia - Highest Officially Recorded Wind Speed

Back in 1996, the highest ever surface wind speed was recorded here by an unmanned weather station. It showed a blustery 253mph, which was caused by the powerful Cyclone Olivia hitting the island. This beat the previous record holder of Mount Washington, where 213mph gusts were once recorded.

Yet, the average annual speed here is a fairly modest 12mph. Apart from the weather, this is the second largest island of Western Australia and it has an interesting combination of oil and gas production, together with a conservation reserve status.

Mount Washington, New Hampshire - Previous Highest Recorded Wind Speed

As mentioned earlier, Mount Washington previously held the record for highest wind speed. This was due to an incredible 231mph being noted by Observatory staff here on a day in 1934. It held this record for over 60 years until Barrow Island claimed it.

The average wind speed is a powerful 32mph. This means that it is the windiest spot in the US. The reason for this is that it is located at the meeting point of a number of common storm tracks and forms a natural barrier. In this way, there are hurricane force winds here on more than 100 days of each year.

Bridge Creek, Oklahoma - Unofficial Highest Recorded Wind Speed

Probably the highest wind speed ever recorded on Earth occurred in the Bridge Creek area of Oklahoma City. This happened in 1999, when a tornado whipped through the region and a Doppler radar device registered a staggering 302mph. The record isn’t officially recognised, though.

This is part of the so-called Tornado Alley in the US. The vast majority of the world’s tornadoes occur here, with over 200 of them forming in just one day in 2017.

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St David’s - Windiest City in the UK

The varied geography of the UK means that wind speeds fluctuate wildly from one place to another. Remote locations in the north and west are particularly prone to strong gusts, with St David’s in Wales listed as being the windiest city in the country.  

11.8 knots (13.5mph) is the average speed in St David’s. This puts it just ahead of Liverpool, Portsmouth and Truro on the list. As for the least windy city in the UK, this title goes to St Albans with 5 knots (5.7 mph), followed by Hereford with 5.3 knots (6 mph).

The Shetland Islands - The UK’s Windiest Place

Away from the cities, the northerly Shetland Isles is the place where you are most likely to get hit by strong gusts in the UK. The average wind speed here is 14.7 knots, which is almost 17 mph.  Orkney and the Outer Hebrides are fairly close behind the Shetland Islands in this respect.

April to September is the calmest time of year in the Shetlands, while winter sometimes sees extreme weather and speeds going up to hurricane force 12. However, the hilly nature of the islands means that it is often possible to find a sheltered spot even in the midst of a blustery winter’s day.

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Cairngorm Summit - Highest Recorded Wind Speed in the UK

Scotland’s imposing Cairngorm Summit saw the UK’s highest ever wind speeds, in 1986. It was a mighty 173mph. This snowy summit often experiences severe weather conditions.

This same spot is also where an unverified speed of 194mph was recorded at the end of 2008. An anemometer close to the summit recorded this speed, which is getting close to the strongest winds ever experienced anywhere in the world. However, it isn’t officially recognised as there is no reading or printout to back up the claim. The wind monitoring device wiped the information 48 hours later.

There are many parts of the planet that see extreme weather, either as part of their normal climate or due to specific circumstances such as tornadoes or cyclones. However, even on a relatively mild day in the UK, it pays to be aware of the wind and to know exactly what to expect.

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