Weather Watch: What wind speed is capable of ripping flesh from bones?

Latest weather news with MetDesk in Wendover
Latest weather news with MetDesk in Wendover

On a typical blustery British day, when the wind is buffeting the trees and turning your umbrella inside out, if you were to guestimate the strength of the wind it’s very common to overestimate.

Wind is the motion of air and is omnipresent. Its causes are numerous, ranging from vast global trade winds due to hemispheric temperature differences to gentle sea breezes as the land warms up.

What speed may require you to lean into the wind to steady yourself, or perhaps even force you back a step as a gust hits? I’ve asked people to guestimate this and answers have included 70mph, 80mph and even 100mph. In fact, a gust of only 40mph would be enough to unsteady you.

Wind is immensely powerful and the force exerted on an object is exponential. In other words, a 40mph isn’t twice as powerful as a 20mph wind but is four times as powerful. During the damaging storms that affected southern England and Aylesbury Vale last winter, wind gusts were topping out at around 60-80mph.

Some of the strongest winds on earth occur within hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones. Hurricane-force winds require sustained strengths of over 73mph but, in many cases, the actual speeds are much higher.

One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded was Haiyan which smashed the Philippines in November last year. The 10-minute sustained wind was 170mph whilst, just before hitting land, the 1-minute sustained speed was 195mph with gusts to 245mph. Put into context, these gust speeds are around 16 times more powerful than those measured in our strongest storms last winter. Rather gruesomely, winds of 200mph are capable of stripping the skin from a human body and would certainly lay waste to any object in their path.

Thankfully, no strong winds will affect the Vale for the rest of this week, although it is looking fairly unsettled for a time. Rain look set to head in from the east on Thursday, giving way to a mix of sunshine and scattered showers for Friday and the weekend, although it will start to turn warmer and early indications are for a lot of warm, summery weather next week.



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