Spring Winds

- March 5, 2012

"...if 2012 is anything like 2011, we can expect strong and cold winds in March"

A guest blog from Tim Michael, which was originally published in the Santa Fe Master Gardener Spring Newsletter.

It is no surprise that the wind blows cold in Santa Fe in the spring. As the young plants we so hopefully place in the ground just seem to wilt or blow away in cold and dry springtime winds, it is easy to convince ourselves that Santa Fe must be about the windiest place in New Mexico. But compared to other places, how windy is Santa Fe?

Wind speed data are available from the National Climatic Data Center website. According to the site, Santa Fe's average annual wind speed is in the range of nine to 10 miles per hour. This is slightly greater than Albuquerque's at about nine, and less than Clayton's at about 12 miles per hour. None of these winds are as strong as those measured at the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, with average wind speeds of 35 miles per hour. But there is more to wind than just its speed. Depending on the regional weather pattern, the particular storm track, or the time of day, the wind may blow from any (sometimes it feels like all) directions. A "wind rose" plot is a graph that shows wind speed and direction. Wind rose plots for many New Mexico locations, including Santa Fe, can be found here.

The wind rose shows Santa Fe's annual average wind speed and direction for the years 1985 to 2005. Average wind speed is reported to be 8.86 knots, or a little over 10 mph. Winds blow about 20% of the time from the north, 15% from the southwest, with the remainder from pretty much every other direction. The strongest winds are from the southwest and west.

Although annual average winds speeds may not be what we feel on any one day, we have all observed the pattern of calm mornings and breezy or stormy afternoons. The graph shows wind speed and direction during a stormy 40-hour period on March 21 and 22 of last year. Speed is indicated by bar height and direction by colors. March 21 began with calm air blowing from the southeast and east (orange and yellow bars) with small bursts from other directions. By late morning, strong winds were blowing from the southwest (green bars), and continued until the early morning hours of the March 22, when the wind blew from the west (the turquoise bars), bringing light snow, and finally blowing from the northwest (the blue bar) as evening arrived. (The data is from www.wunderground.com).

Not every March day will have winds as strong as these two days of last year, but if 2012 is anything like 2011, we can expect strong and cold winds in March. Hold on to your petunias!