10 of the Windiest Places in the World

Person with umbrella at windy beach, Isle of Skye, Scotland
A person struggles with an umbrella in the wind on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Westend61 / Getty Images

Determining the "windiest place on Earth" depends on how you quantify wind speed. Rarely do places with fast averages experience significant gusts, and besides, gusts are recorded both at ground level and in the sky—namely during tornadoes. So, "windy" has a rather precarious definition; nonetheless, the following places all have a reputation for being consistently blustery.

From coastal Newfoundland to the capital of Azerbaijan, the U.S. Midwest to New Zealand, find out where the world's windiest places are and what makes them so breezy.

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Windiest City on Earth: Wellington, New Zealand

Solace in the Wind statue on Wellington waterfront
The Solace in the Wind statue greets gusts of air on the Wellington waterfront.

asgw / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Wellington is often called the world’s windiest city due to both its average wind speed and strongest recorded gust. On the ground, where disturbances in the terrain create a sort of shelter, annual averages range from 5.5 to 11.5 mph; however, the anemograph on Mount Kaukau records a 27.3-mph average. The strongest gust ever recorded in Wellington (125 mph) was on that hill.

The winds in this region are called the "Roaring Forties" because the city is located 40 to 50 degrees south of the equator. It's in the perfect position for gale-force westerly currents to rip across the Pacific Ocean and become compressed by the narrow Cook Strait before wreaking havoc ashore. Wellington takes advantage of its winds, though, harnessing them for clean energy and appreciating the way they keep the air relatively fresh. There's even a statue, "Solace in the Wind," on the waterfront that depicts a human figure leaning into the breeze.

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Fastest Katabatic Wind: Antarctica

Humans and penguin struggling in Antarctic snowdrift
Strong Antarctic winds make life hard for humans and penguins alike. Fotosearch / Getty Images

How strong are the gusts at the bottom of the world? It’s hard to say because instruments so often ice up and stop working, and those immune to freezing sometimes simply blow away in the harsh polar weather. Blowing snow can trick ultrasonic wind meters as well.

In any case, Antarctica holds the Guinness World Record for fastest katabatic wind (wind that travels down a slope), which was 168 mph, recorded in 1912 at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay. The region's annual average daily maximum wind speed is 44 mph, qualifying as gale force (greater than 39 mph).

The weather patterns are affected by cold temperatures and by the topography of Antarctica itself, which slopes down toward the coastlines. This geography creates strong downslope winds that can cause blizzardlike conditions for weeks on end.

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Fastest Recorded Wind Speed: Barrow Island, Australia

Barrow Island viewed from the air
Western Australia's extremely isolated Barrow Island is no stranger to a coastal storm. indianoceanimagery / Getty Images

Barrow Island currently holds the Guinness World Record for highest recorded wind speed not associated with a tornado. During 1996's Tropical Cyclone Olivia, 253 mph winds were clocked by an unmanned weather station on this portion of Western Australia's northwest coast.

Cyclones are hurricanelike storms that form in the Pacific. Barrow's record was determined by a three-second average and overthrew a previous record held by the New Hampshire's Mount Washington. The island is a major center for oil and natural gas operations, accommodating the most productive oil-extraction site in Australia, and also home to a conservation reserve where spectacled hare wallabies, sea turtles, perentie (Australia’s largest lizard), and other rare and protected species live.

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Windiest U.S. Peak: Mount Washington, New Hampshire

"Highest wind ever observed" sign on misty Mount Washington
Mount Washington boasts some of the strongest winds in the world.

Dennis Kartenkaemper / Shutterstock

Mount Washington, a 6,000-foot New Hampshire peak, held the world record for strongest recorded wind gust (231 mph, recorded in 1934) for most of the 20th century. While it's no longer a record holder, Mount Washington—with an average annual wind speed of 35 mph and average fastest monthly peak gusts of 231 mph—remains the windiest place in the U.S. and one of the windiest places in the world.

The White Mountains, of which Washington is a member, sit at the intersection of several common storm tracks. The peaks are a barrier for easterly winds and often see a clash between low pressure from the Atlantic and inland high pressure. These factors combine to create hurricane-force winds (greater than 75 mph) on Mount Washington's summit more than 100 days each year.

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Windiest U.S. City: Dodge City, Kansas

Longhorn Statue in Dodge City, Kansas
Dodge City is constantly breezy because of Rocky Mountain winds to the west. JerryBKeane / Getty Images

Some of America’s windiest places are in the Midwest. Chicago, of course, is known as the Windy City, but that nickname is a widely misconstrued misnomer thought to have originated from its history of long-winded politicians rather than the actual weather. The data shows that many other U.S. towns and cities have faster average drafts and record gusts. Dodge City, Kansas, is thought to be the windiest of all.

This frontier cattle town's average wind speed is 15 mph. There are locations in the U.S. with higher averages, but this is the windiest place with a significant population (roughly 27,000 people). While Kansas is indeed located within Tornado Alley, the winds sweeping down off the Rocky Mountains and into the Great Plains play a larger role than the occasional twister does in setting that high average. A similar downslope wind pattern affects another one of the U.S.'s windiest towns, Amarillo, Texas.

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Windiest City in Eurasia: Baku, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, Baku, high angle city skyline
North winds keep Baku cool during summer and south winds have a warming effect in the winter. Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is known as the City of Winds. Though still apt today, the nickname was first used in ancient times, when the settlement was referred to as the "city of pounding wind" in Persian. From about June to April, wind speeds average more than 11 mph.

There are two sources of Baku’s breezes: cold winds blowing in from the Caspian Sea, sometimes reaching gale force, and warmer winds moving overland into the city. Despite the prevalence of the colder winds and the wind chills that can come with them during winter, Baku benefits from its breezy weather patterns. The city has a pollution problem, but the consistent blowing clears the air. There's nothing to impede these gusts because Baku is 92 feet below sea level.

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Windiest City in Canada: Saint John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

Cape Spear Lighthouse in Saint John's
Saint John's claims to be the windiest, cloudiest, rainiest, and snowiest major Canadian city. mmac72 / Getty Images

Saint John's is the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. One thing for which it's famous is its weather-related superlatives. Its average annual wind speed, topping 13 mph, and gusts over 30 mph recorded on almost 50 days out of the year have earned it the title of "windiest city in Canada." The Newfoundland hub is also one of the foggiest, cloudiest, rainiest, and snowiest of any major Canadian city.

Wind chills can be an issue in the wintertime, but Saint John's actually claims to have the third-most temperate climate in the country, after Vancouver and Victoria.

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Windiest European Country: Scotland

Wind farm near Ardrossan, Scotland
Scotland is so breezy it has become something of a wind power pioneer. Alan Majchrowicz / Getty Images

Scotland’s ranking as the windiest country in Europe hails from a rather unusual source. A Scottish ice cream company, Mackie’s, ran an ad campaign that said it used wind power to operate its factory, and that plant was located in the "windiest place in Europe." The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority disputed that claim and asked Mackie’s to prove it, or else pull the ads. The ice cream maker then gathered the data from British scientists and showed the veracity of its claims.

Scotland has average wind speeds of between 10 and 18 mph, with the strongest gusts occurring in Western Scotland. Some coastal areas have 25 days worth of gale-force winds per year. The strongest winds occur during the wintertime and are caused by depressions in the Atlantic.

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Windiest Place in South America: Patagonia Region, Chile and Argentina

Person Walking On Countryside Landscape
People in the Patagonia region sometimes have to hold on to rope when walking around. Stan Reimgen / EyeEm / Getty Images

Like New Zealand, South America's Patagonia region is affected by the Roaring Forties. The cities of Punta Arenas, Chile, and Rio Gallegos, Argentina, are in the crosshairs of these muscular gusts. Punta Arenas, the largest city in the world below the 46th parallel, actually maintains a moderate temperature thanks to its proximity to the ocean. However, it's so windy here that authorities have strung ropes in between some buildings so that people have something to hold onto during extreme gusts. 80 mph winds are not uncommon, especially during summer.

In Rio Gallegos, the average annual wind speed is about 15.7 mph, but that figure is much higher during the summer. The winds help to keep the average summertime highs below 70 degrees.

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Fastest Tornado Winds: Tornado Alley, Oklahoma

Tornado over Oklahoma city. USA.
Tornadoes in the U.S. Midwest can create 200 to 300 mph winds. john finney photography / Getty Images

Many of the highest wind speeds ever recorded during tornado activity were in Oklahoma. This includes a 1999 tornado that occurred in Bridge Creek, a suburb of Oklahoma City, which reached a speed of about 300 mph in the sky. Measured by Doppler radar, this record overthrew the previous airborne wind speed record belonging to fellow Oklahoma town Red Rock, which recorded 286 mph winds during a tornado in 1991.

Yet another twister near Oklahoma City in the small town of El Reno in 2013 was nearly three miles wide and had winds approaching 300 mph. The World Meteorological Organization does not accept Doppler speed readings as official, which is why Barrow Island still holds the record for fastest recorded wind speed. It’s difficult for instruments to survive tornados, let alone take accurate readings.