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What is the fastest wind gust in Colorado history?

Windy mountain cat
Posted at 10:32 AM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 12:37:50-05

Have you ever walked outside in Colorado and just wondered, why is it always so windy here?!

Let's talk about where all that wind comes from and the current fastest recorded wind gust.

Why is it so windy?
There are two main reasons for Colorado being so windy: pressure differences over the mountains and plains, and Chinook winds.

Pressure induced winds over Colorado
Pressure and temperature differences lead to strong winds across the Front Range.

A strong, cold high-pressure system moving from the west across the Rockies can generate a damaging wind down the leeward slopes of the mountains, known as a Bora.

Pressure-induced wind storms from the west or northwest into the eastern plains can gust as high as 100 mph.

Chinook Winds
Formation of down-slope of Chinook winds

Chinook winds are formed when dry, cool air over the mountains sinks and warms down the lee sides of the range. As the air descends and warms down the mountains, it will rapidly pick up speed and blow across the low-lying, flatter plains.

These winds, often known in our area as downslope winds, can bring gusts of 60 to 100 mph near the foothills in areas such as Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, Canon City, Westcliffe, Walsenburg, and Trinidad.

What are the current wind gust records in Colorado and the world?

Record Wind Gusts
Current record wind gusts in Colorado and across the world

The strongest wind gust in Colorado was recorded 4 years ago on a mountain at the summit of Monarch Pass.

The strongest wind gust in the world occurred near Barrow Island off the coast of Austrailia. This gust was generated from Tropical Storm Olivia and stands as the strongest recorded wind gust in the world.

Monarch Pass Record Wind Gust
Record gust recorded at the summit of Monarch Pass

What is fascinating about the record wind gust recorded on Monarch Pass has to do with the wind at different elevations.

At the same time the 148 mph gust was recorded at the MYP weather station at the summit of a mountain on Monarch Pass, a 32 mph gust was recorded just 700 feet below at a CDOT weather station.

Air moves faster at higher elevations because it is less dense, and that's why the summit station recorded a gust almost 5 times as strong as the CDOT station.