In April 1934, the U.S. recorded its highest wind speed ever, a gust of 231 miles per hour at Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire. The Mount Washington weather station, situated at the highest point in New England, continues to record high wind speeds, averaging 35.8 miles per hour between 1984 and 2020.
Wind is caused by varying levels of pressure in the Earth's atmosphere. Air pressure is influenced by air temperature and density. And uneven heating caused by Earth's rotation around the sun and on its own axis creates global circulation patterns
Wind patterns also become more pronounced during different seasons. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere's winter, windy jet stream patterns tend to shift further south, but as summer approaches jet streams lift northward. Many cities on the list find themselves in the middle of this transition during spring.
Wind speeds aren't universal across the U.S. Besides seasonal changes, topography also plays a role in which regions are the windiest. Plains states, relatively flat and without natural barriers like mountains, can develop higher wind speeds than other regions. Some of the top cities on the list are also located at high elevations.
Stacker cited data from NOAA to identify the 50 windiest cities in the U.S. Cities are ranked by average wind speed between January 1984 and December 2020. Maximum monthly average wind speeds served as a tiebreaker. Wind speeds are calculated by NOAA 1.5 meters above the surface of the weather station. The analysis is limited to cities with populations of at least 50,000 according to Census 2021 estimates.
Chicago, famously dubbed the Windy City, makes the top 50 list but falls short of the number one spot. Its famous skyline, featuring some of the tallest buildings in the U.S., can intensify winds as gusts flow around skyscrapers and create higher-speed wind channels. The Willis Tower can even sway up to three feet on the top floor during windy days. Combined with the breezes from Lake Michigan, it seems the Windy City has still earned its moniker.
Read on to see the full list and see which cities beat Chicago.
You may also like: 100 cities where summer is starting earlier