Why is it so windy in Oklahoma? The heritage of the Native Americans, the magnificent landscapes, and the cowboy lifestyle all contribute to Oklahoma’s fame.
But, there is something else that makes it famous, and that is its weather, and wind speed in particular.
The average wind speed in Oklahoma is 20mph, but it can certainly go up in certain areas. And that leaves us with a question, “why is Oklahoma so windy?”
It is so windy because of its location in “Tornado Alley,” as well as its flat terrain and low elevations.
Understanding the Way Wind Blows
Earth’s atmosphere always tries to be in a state of equilibrium. Every system, no matter how vast or small, strive towards equilibrium.
Scaled down, this would be the fizzing sound you hear when you open a can of soda and the air rushes out.
This is due to the can’s internal pressure being greater than the atmospheric pressure outside.
The same atmospheric pressure, but on a much, much larger scale, helps the weather system travel around the country.
Fact: Oklahoma usually witnesses a pleasing weather and an annual temperature staying close to 16C.
The Fluctuating Air Pressure
Variations in air pressure caused by temperature and humidity generate wind.
And this leaves us with a question about what causes air pressure to fluctuate so much.
Well, air pressure drops because rising hot air causes a vacuum.
When this low-pressure area draws air from the surrounding high-pressure areas, it generates wind.
The Change in the Wind Speed
Various factors are at play when it comes to determining the speed of the wind.
Some of these factors include:
- The force of a pressure gradient
- The friction between the wind and the ground
- The atmospheric stability
This also explains why wind speeds are often greater at higher altitudes.
It is usually the case because on those altitudes:
- The air is less dense
- There is less friction
Besides these factors, large-scale weather phenomena also play a role in determining the velocities of winds.
Some of these include:
- High and low-pressure systems
- Topographical characteristics (mountains and valleys)
When you add it all up, the wind’s velocity and direction are set by a tangled web of meteorological and environmental elements that can shift on the fly.
Fact: There are wide variations in yearly precipitation over Oklahoma, from over 45 inches in the Ouachitas to under 16 inches in the Panhandle.
Why Is It So Windy in Oklahoma?
As a state in the Great Plains, Oklahoma is no stranger to strong winds.
Oklahoma is notoriously windy because of:
- Its flat topography
- Its position in Tornado Alley
- The clash of warm and cold air masses
Due to the area’s relatively flat landscape, the wind is able to travel great distances across the ground with little resistance.
Moreover, Tornado Alley, which includes Oklahoma, is an area prone to tornadoes.
The state is in the path of powerful cold fronts traveling down from the Rockies, and colliding with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. It also contributes to the state’s propensity for high winds.
In the spring and autumn, when the air masses are closest together, this can cause gusty gusts.
Fact: Because of its location and wind speed, Oklahoma is ranked third in the list of the most tornado-prone states with 67 tornadoes hitting a year.
What is Average Wind Speed in Oklahoma?
Tornadoes and high winds are common in the Great Plains region of the United States, where Oklahoma is located.
There is a wide range of average wind speeds around Oklahoma, depending on both location and time of year.
During the spring, when thunderstorms are more likely, the average wind speed in Oklahoma can be anything from 10 to 20 miles per hour, with higher gusts possible.
Sometimes winds can get up to more than 50 miles per hour in more exposed regions, such as the broad plains.
Particularly during extreme weather events like thunderstorms and tornadoes, it is crucial to keep in mind that wind speeds can vary greatly and change rapidly.
What was the Highest Wind Speed in Oklahoma?
The tornado that struck Bridge Creek, Oklahoma in 1999 provided evidence that the wind speed may reach extremely high levels in the Sooner State.
Named the Bridge Creek-Moore tornado, it wreaked havoc throughout a wider area of the central United States.
Damage and loss of life were widespread as its winds reached over 300 miles per hour.
An Important Consideration
It is important to understand that measuring wind speed in a tornado can be difficult.
It is mainly because it requires specialist equipment and expertise. Therefore, it is not uncommon that the actual wind speed of the tornado may be unknown.
However, the Bridge Creek-Moore twister is commonly regarded as one of the world’s deadliest and fastest twisters.
The Increase in Average Speed in Oklahoma
While it is possible to notice fluctuations in wind speed in Oklahoma, it is quite evident that the numbers are going up gradually.
As per the weather service from 1970-2022, the average wind speed has gone up.
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And the trend continued through 2022.
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The change in wind speed was mainly due to larger storm systems moving across the U.S.
Fact: Just like tornadoes, Oklahoma has a significant danger of flooding because of its extensive water resources, flat terrain, and occasional strong storms.
What are the States Windier than Oklahoma?
There are much more windy regions in the United States than Oklahoma.
Chicago is known as the “windy city” because of the cold winds blowing in off Lake Michigan and across the city streets.
However, when you talk about the windiest states, you just cannot keep Nebraska, Montana, Alaska and Wyoming out of the list.
Nebraska is among the states with the highest average wind speed in the United States, at 20.5 miles per hour.
Thunderstorms are common in Nebraska’s summer and spring months, which is not surprising given that Tornado Alley passes across the state.
Extreme weather, such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, is most prevalent between May and September.
The topography of the state is responsible for its high wind speeds. Nebraska has a lot of open land and valleys where the wind may freely blow.
This is quite unlike other parts of the country where the landscape is more varied and can slow down the wind.
Montana is among the nation’s coldest states, with an average high temperature of around 14 degrees Celsius.
In spite of this, you cannot ignore the fact that it is one of the windiest states with average wind speeds of 20.5 miles per hour.
Eastern Rockies slope is the windiest place in Montana. These winds begin with warm air from the Pacific Ocean reaching the Rockies.
It then cools and loses its moisture, and then slams down the east slope at tremendous speeds, typically arriving in the late winter.
Winters are frigid and summers are scorching in this state that experiences a wide range of temperatures throughout the year.
The location and terrain of Wyoming make it an often windy place.
Location in the windswept western United States, and the fact that it is located at a fairly high altitude contribute to the state’s relatively high wind speeds.
And of course, the closeness of mountain ranges to the state can lead to specialized wind patterns that can be particularly powerful in some parts of the state.
It is because of these factors that Wyoming sees dramatic temperature swings. And that also leads to an average wind speed of 21.5 mph.
Interestingly, average hourly wind speed changes quite a bit in this state, mainly due to seasonal variations.
Similarly, some areas receive stronger winds than others, mainly due to the following:
- The jet stream
- Mountain position and height
Nevertheless, March is considered the windiest month with the average wind speeds staying close to 11.7 mph.
Why is it so windy in Oklahoma? Oklahoma’s topography and location is why it witnesses a high average wind speed throughout the year.
Thanks to its flat terrain, the wind moves freely, which is another reason you notice the powerful wind blowing across the state.
Interestingly, Oklahoma is windy, but it is certainly not the windiest state in the US, as some can cross 20mph as an average speed quite often.