Wind, it can blow you off your feet on a hike, or be your best friend while windsurfing – but what makes a place windy? We’ve spoken to some experts and they’ve given us their take on the world’s windiest places.
1. Mount Everest because of the jet streams
Where: Top of the planet
What: Fast-moving jet streams
It seems pretty obvious that the highest mountain in the world is going to attract some strong winds, but why? Red Bull X-Alps athlete Honza Rejmanek, shares his expertise: “Mt Everest lies just under the 9,000m elevation. Thus it protrudes well into the level where the jet stream is found.
“The position of the jet stream is not always over the same location so it is possible to catch a calm day at the summit. There is a known window in May when most summit attempts are made because there is a lowered possibility of having the jet stream overhead.”
2. Mount Washington, a windy place to work
Where: New Hampshire, USA
What: Dangerous, erratic weather
This is where one of the strongest winds in history was recorded. The 372kph wind speed held the record from 1934 until 2010 when a 408kph wind speed was recorded on Barrow Island, Australia.
Media-meteorologist and mountain weather expert at Ubimet, Clemens Teutsh, says the location is a big reason for the strong wind.
He explains: “Mt. Washington is situated in the presidential range of the White Mountains and so located in the convergence of several storm tracks. It's a barrier for westerly winds and also is influenced by Lows that develop along the coastline. Mt. Washington also lies in between colder air in the North and warmer air in the South(west). All combined hurricane force winds can be observed many times of the year.”
3. Gruissan, the windsurf paradise (the video below will show you why)
Where: Aude, Southern France
What: Home of Defi Wind
Sometimes, wind is your friend, and no more so than for windsurfers. Strong winds attract these athletes, and professional windsurfer Jason Polakow reckons Gruissan, France has to be one of the windiest places for the sport.
He says: “I was just at the Defi Wind event in Gruissan France and the wind toped out at 78 Knots. I would say that this location would be one of the most windy spots to windsurf in the world.”
4. Pistol River, the windy spot for big jumps
Where: Oregon, USA
What: Great for windsurfing
Pistol River is in Curry County, Oregon and is a top spot for windsurfers looking for big jumps. It’s so good, the American Windsurfing Tour created the Pistol River Wave Bash which takes place every June.
Red Bull windsurfing athlete Levi Siver talks about his favourite spot: “Pistol River is one of my favourite spots due to how remote and beautiful it is. Few people can handle the rough seas and cold ocean out there but it's worth it just for the panoramic view. In this photo I was shooting for my world record windsurfing jump just me and this huge ocean was an amazing session."
5. Patagonia, the wind at the end of the world
Where: End of South America
What: Roaring forties
The end of South America is infamous for its powerful winds, as Honza Rejmanek explains: “The southern hemisphere, in the 40°S to 70°S latitude range, is covered almost exclusively ocean. The few exceptions are Tasmania, The south island of New Zealand, Patagonia, the Antarctic Peninsula, and a few scattered islands.
“Prevailing westerly winds get stronger as we move southward through these latitudes. These are known "roaring forties", the "furious fifties", and "screaming sixties". Cape Horn lies at 56°S at the north end of the Drakes Passage. Besides being at a latitude where winds tend to be very strong, there is an additional acceleration of the wind as it if funnelled around the southern tip of South America.”
6. Antarctica, icy and windy
Where: Bottom of the planet
What: Freezing katabatic winds
Antarctica attracts some of the strongest winds on Mother Earth as there’s no landmass to slow it down before it hits. While exploring Commonwealth Bay, the Australian explorer Douglas Mawson battled winds higher than 320kph.
“Due to a very thick ice sheet the South Pole sits at an elevation of approximately 2,800m,” says Honza. “This sheet slopes progressively downward towards sea level on the Antarctic shores. Cold sloping surfaces develop Katabatic, or down-slope winds. Over a large distance these can reach speeds of 25mps or more in regions where the topography causes them to converge,” he adds.
7. Tornado Alley, Kansas
Where: Tornado Alley
What: Destructive twisters
Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz got very lucky when a giant twister fell upon her house. The reality in America’s Tornado Alley is of course rather less pleasant. That’s why people living there have underground shelters.