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Wind over Ireland

Mean Annual Wind SpeedThe wind at a particular location can be influenced by a number of factors such as obstruction by buildings or trees, the nature of the terrain and deflection by nearby mountains or hills. For example, the rather low frequency of southerly winds at Dublin Airport is due to the sheltering effect of the mountains to the south. The prevailing wind direction is between south and west. Average annual wind speeds range from 7 m.p.h. in parts of south Leinster to over 18 m.p.h. in the extreme north. On average there are less than 2 days with gales each year at some inland places like Kilkenny but more than 50 a year at northern coastal locations such as Malin Head. Indeed the north and west coasts of Ireland are two of the windiest areas in Europe and have considerable potential for the generation of wind energy.

Wind Measurement

Since the days of Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857), who introduced the Beaufort scale of wind force, the knot (one nautical mile per hour) has been used as a unit of wind speed. Modern meteorological practice however is to use metres per second (1 metre per second = 1.94 knots = 2.24 miles per hour).

Notable Storms

Maximum gust speed likely to be exceeded once in 50 years"The night of the Big Wind" on the 6th-7th January 1839 probably caused more widespread damage in Ireland than any storm in recent centuries. Winds reached hurricane force and between a fifth and a quarter of all houses in Dublin experiened some damage, ranging from broken windows to complete destruction. In more recent times, the year 1974 began with a very stormy period, with record speeds occurring at a number of locations on the night of the 11th-12th of January. Trees were blown down, many buildings were damaged and electricity supply to 150,000 homes was interrupted. It was during this storm that a gust of 124 m.p.h. was recorded at Kilkeel in County Down, making it the highest sea-level wind speed recorded in Ireland.

WIND DIRECTION (percentage frequency of wind direction)
Circled number=%CALM

Wind Direction


  Wind Force   Short Description   Specifications for use on Land   Wind Speed at 10 metres above Level Ground
              Knots Metres per second KM per hour

  0   Calm   Smoke rises vertically   <1 <0.3 <1 
  1   Light Air   Direction of wind shown by smoke but not by wind vanes   1-3 0.3-1.5 1-5 
  2   Light breeze   Wind felt on face, leaves rustle, ordinary vanes moved by wind   4-6 1.6-3.3 6-11 
  3   Gentle breeze   Leaves and small twigs in constant motion, wind extends light flag   7-10 3.4-5.4 12-19 
  4   Moderate breeze   Raises dust and loose paper, small branches are moved   11-16 5.5-7.9 20-28
  5   Fresh breeze   Small trees in leaf begin to sway, crested wavelets form on inland waters   17-21 8.0-10.7 29-38
  6   Strong breeze   Large branches in motion, whistling heard in telegraph wires; umbellas used with difficulty   22-27 10.8-13.8 39-49
  7   Near gale   Whole trees in motion, inconvenience walking against the wind   28-33 13.9-17.1 50-61
  8   Gale   Breaks twigs off trees, generally impedes progress   34-40 17.2-20.7 62-74
  9   Strong gale   Slight structural damage occurs (chimney pots and slates removed)   41-47 20.8-24.4 75-88
  10   Storm   Seldom experienced inland, trees uprooted, considerable structural damage occurs   48-55 24.5-28.4 89-102
  11   Violent storm   Very rarely experienced, accompanied by widespread damage   56-63 28.5-32.6 103-117
  12   Hurricane   -   64 and over 32.7 and over 117 and over


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