Most of us have been exposed to intense or even gale-force winds at some point in our lives. These were, for the most part, outliers in otherwise calmer conditions. In this age of climate change and global warming, extreme weather patterns are nothing uncommon. However, there are few spots on the planet where the sheer forces of nature smash and besiege specific destinations. These include winds with such terrifying ferocity that they have been given names and have made history. But where is the world’s windiest place on Earth, and how windy does it get?
The method for determining the “windiest place on Earth” is dependent on how wind speed is measured. Declaring a location to be the “windiest” on the planet is more complicated. Some criteria use maximum wind speeds, while others consider average sustained velocity, and others examine how frequently wind gusts occur. Significant gusts are rare in regions with quick standards, and gusts are observed both on the ground and in the sky—for example, during tornadoes. Although the term “windy” has a vague meaning, the Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica has a reputation for being constantly windy. Below, we will explore the windiest place on the planet, how windy it gets, and other fascinating facts.
What is the Windiest Place on Planet Earth?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records and the National Geographic Atlas, Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica is the windiest place on the planet.
During the winter, frigid winds of over 150 mph (241.4 kmph) are commonly reported, with an annual average wind speed of 50 mph (80.5 kmph). To put it in perspective, a storm is considered severe when wind speeds reach 58 mph (93 kmph). Furthermore, at speeds of 39–46 mph (62–74 kmph), the Beaufort wind force scale defines winds as gale-force. A gale-force wind (or gale) is a mighty, persistent wind commonly associated with, but not limited to, coastal areas. In other words, the average yearly wind speed in Commonwealth Bay is greater than the threshold for a gale-force wind.
Typically, high wind speeds occur during rare weather events for brief periods. Winds at Commonwealth Bay, on the other hand, are continuously gale-force throughout the year. With practically continual gusts and massive whirlpools, winter is extremely wild here. When an iceberg became lodged in this harsh environment in 2010, a large colony of penguins was landlocked, forcing them to embark on a marathon search for sustenance.
Why is Commonwealth Bay so Windy?
The slope of the Antarctic continent and the geometry of Commonwealth Bay are both responsible for the high wind velocity experienced there.
Antarctica has a dome structure because it is entirely covered by a continental glacier. Katabatic winds form, which blow down the continent’s slopes toward the ocean. The cold, heavy air near the surface, which is forced to accelerate toward the shore by gravity, intensifies the winds. Cold temperatures and the geography of Antarctica influence weather patterns. Hence, this location produces powerful downslope winds that can last for weeks and bring blizzard-like conditions.
The half-moon shape of the bay enhances the power of these katabatic winds by forcing air to funnel through the center, causing a significant rise in wind speed.
Another factor is the temperature trends in Antarctica. On warmer continents, the air temperature drops as altitude rises; in other words, the higher you go, the colder the air becomes. In Antarctica, though, things are a bit different. The high Polar Plateau, which is covered in a thick ice sheet, is the inner region of Antarctica. As a result of this vast ice sheet cooling the air above it, the air above the Polar Plateau is a freezing one. The coldest, densest air is closest to the ground; the higher the air rises, the further it is from the icy surface. When you get higher above the ground, the air temperature increases (rather than drops). This is known as a temperature inversion because it is the inverse, or opposite, of more usual temperature patterns on warmer continents.
What are Inversion Winds and Katabatic Winds?
Because the Polar Plateau is covered in so much ice, it is continually cold, which means that the air above it is constantly cool. As a result, the Polar Plateau is surrounded by a mass of frigid, dense air. Because this cold, thick air wants to sink, it rushes down from the high continental interior toward the lower coast, much like a stream. “Inversion wind” is the name for this type of air movement. The ground becomes steeper, and the wind becomes faster as it approaches the sea.
The wind may speed up when a smooth flow is disrupted by a monolithic cliff rising from the ice field, a ridge, or a valley. When the surface of the ice barrier falls even quicker, the wind becomes exceptionally forceful. This type of wind is termed “katabatic wind,” which resembles an avalanche.
What Other Places Have the Most Powerful Wind?
With its average wind speed and the most significant recorded gust, Wellington, New Zealand, is the world’s windiest city. On the ground, annual averages range from 5.5 to 11.5 mph, but the anemograph on Mount Kaukau measures 27.3 mph. On this hill, Wellington’s most significant gust was recorded (125 mph).
Dodge City, Kansas, takes the crown if we’re only talking about the windiest city in the United States. Kansas’ windiness is accentuated by the featureless expanse of the Great Plains, particularly in the southwest, which bears the brunt of gusts blowing down from the Rocky Mountains. Because of its average wind speed of 15 mph, Dodge City qualified to be labeled alongside Chicago.
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