Wind is one of the most entertaining and useful phenomena nature has to offer. Wind makes kites fly during a fun day out, generates energy through the use of windmills, and cools us down during the heat. However, high speed winds can be dangerous, especially as a result of a storm. They can uproot trees, tear down houses, and fling people about. High speed winds can even result in death.
What Causes Fast Winds?
High speed wind is caused by differences in the atmospheric pressure gradient. This simply means how fast the pressure changes over a distance. Changes in pressure over a long distance results in slower winds while fast changes in shorter distances causes high speed winds. The speed of the wind is also influenced by where the wind is blowing and what it is blowing over. For example, a wind blowing through trees on land can be slowed down by the friction of the vegetation, as opposed to wind blowing over a water body with little to no friction to slow it down.
Storms and natural disasters can also cause winds, such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones. In these cases, the wind results from temperature changes in addition to these factors, such as cold air bursts.
Wind can travel at very high, dangerous speeds. Let’s look at some of the top recorded wind speeds in history.
8. Typhoon Cora – September 5, 1966: 191mph
On September 5, 1966, a strong super typhoon named Cora hit the Ryukyu Islands, particularly the small Japanese island of Miyako-jima. For 13 hours, there was a constant torrent of harsh winds racing at speeds of over 89 miles per hour. The crowning speed came in at 191 miles per hour and confirmation came from the Japan Meteorological Agency. Fortunately, there were no human casualties during the typhoon, although reports indicate that a total of 2,363 people were rendered homeless due to the disaster. Only five people were injured as a result of the typhoon, and a total loss of $30 million was sustained.
7. Typhoon Ryan – September 22, 1995: 191mph
Number seven on the list of highest recorded wind speeds on earth is the Super Typhoon Ryan which occurred on Orchid Island, Taiwan on September 22, 1995. The island, also known as Lanyu, experienced the eye of the storm over it or very near it. This resulted in the wind velocity achieving 191 miles per hour. Five people died as a result of the typhoon.
6. Hurricane Irma – September 6, 2017: 199mph
On September 6, 2017, the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean experienced a devastating disaster in the form of Hurricane Irma. The peak wind speed measured by a personal weather station was 199 miles per hour. It became the first Category 5 hurricane to ever hit the Leeward Islands. Hurricane Irma also went on to be the third strongest Atlantic hurricane at landfall ever recorded and cost a whopping $77.16 billion. It resulted in a total of 134 fatalities.
5. Ward Mountain, CA – February 20, 2017: 199.5mph
In the week of February 20, 2017, California experienced multiple barrages of wind due to a Pacific storm. The fastest gust of wind was recorded by an anemometer at 199.5 miles per hour around 11 pm EST at the top of Ward Mountain. This report was confirmed by the California State Climate Extremes Committee.
4. Thule Air Force Base, Greenland – March 8 1972: 207mph
A peak wind gust of 207 miles per hour was recorded during a storm at the Thule U.S. Air Force Base in Greenland on March 8, 1972. This speed was measured on a Bendix-Friez Aerovane anemometer. A weather observer named John Kurasiewicz also noted that they experienced violent hail during the course of the storm.
3. Hurricane Gustav – August 30, 2008: 211.7mph
On August 30, 2008, Hurricane Gustav became the second most devastating hurricane that year. The disaster struck in the Americas, forming first in Haiti before hitting Cuba, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and the United States. The peak wind gusts reached 211.7 miles per hour and was measured by a Dines pressure tube anemometer on the Cuban coastal town of Paso Real de San Diego.
Hurricane Gustav resulted in $8.31 billion in damages and a total of 153 casualties.
2. Mount Washington, New Hampshire, USA – April 12, 1934: 231mph
The Mt. Washington wind speed record of 231 mph enjoyed the title of the longest-standing record for the fastest wind for almost 62 years. Notoriously one of the most intense locations on earth in terms of windy weather, Mt. Washington was experiencing relatively low wind speeds during the storm that produced the former world record wind velocity. The purported reason for the incredibly high record was the close pressure differences around the area. The 231 mph remains the fastest wind speed record in the Northern and Western Hemispheres.
1. Cyclone Olivia – April 10, 1996: 253mph
The all-time highest record for the fastest wind speed ever recorded on earth goes to the 253 mph recorded on Barrow Island, Australia on April 10, 1996. The record wind speed was taken during the tropical Cyclone Olivia which was a Category 4 storm. The anemometer that took the three-second reading was located 210 feet above sea level and took the reading at 6:15 pm. The reading wasn’t valid until 14 years later in 2010.
The Cyclone Olivia took no casualties and resulted in damages worth about $47.5 million.
It is important to know how to stay safe during a natural disaster, especially one that incurs high wind speeds and can potentially cause heavy damages and injuries.
- The best and safest place to ride out a windy storm is indoors. If you are far from your place of residence, then you can take shelter in or next to a building or storm shelter.
- It is important to remember to steer clear of any roads, railroad tracks, or the like. This is because the wind could be so strong that it blows you into the direction of a moving vehicle.
- Find somewhere to anchor yourself if you’re outside. This could be railings and other structures.
- Windy storms can be pretty brutal and violent. Wind is able to uproot trees and send them flying. Make sure you keep an eye out for flying debris on your way to finding shelter.
- Keep a vigilant eye and ear out for weather reports of windiness. If you made plans on such a day, cancel them and stay indoors. Better safe than sorry!
- Discover The Highest Wind Speed Ever Recorded On Earth!
- Discover the Windiest Place on Planet Earth (Where 150mph Winds Are Common!)
- Watch a Powerful Storm Pound Lake Superior and the Great Lakes
The photo featured at the top of this post is © LouiesWorld1/Shutterstock.com
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What was the fastest wind speed ever recorded?
The all-time highest record for the fastest wind speed ever recorded on earth goes to the 253 mph recorded on Barrow Island, Australia on April 10, 1996 during Cyclone Olivia.
What causes high wind speed?
High speed wind is caused by differences in the atmospheric pressure gradient. This simply means how fast the pressure changes over a distance. Changes in pressure over a long distance results in slower winds while fast changes in shorter distances causes high speed winds.
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