I grew up thinking that Grande Prairie was one of the windiest places on earth. Then I moved to Lethbridge. Upon returning to GP, my perspective has changed dramatically! Now, when I hear people talk about how windy it is here, I get a little perturbed. So I thought I'd do a little digging to see how windy Grande Prairie really is...empirically. Here's what I've found:
When you look at Environment Canada's data on the windiest cities in Canada (out of the 82 most populous cities), Grande Prairie is ranked 67th with an average daily wind speed of only 11.25 km/h. Every other city in Alberta, other than Fort MacMurray, is windier than us according to this measure. Average wind speed is only one measure though, so let's look at another.
If you look at the number of days a city gets with wind speeds of 5 km/h or less, Grande Prairie ranks 11th with an astounding 318 days (87% of the year!) Out of Alberta cities, only Fort Mac gets more of these peaceful days (only 0.63 of a day more though!) Lethbridge only gets 243 of these days (67% of year) while poor old Gander, Nfld gets a measly 124 (34% of year).
So by these two measures Grande Prairie is looking pretty good. So where does this idea come from that Grande Prairie is so windy? I think the answer lies in one final stat:
Looking at the number of days with wind speeds of over 40 km/h, Grande Prairie ranks 31st with an average of 33 days per year. So while GP is generally a pretty calm place, when the wind does blow, it blows hard. As an aside, I've heard that this is one of the reasons that we don't have any commercial wind farms up here. Wind farms operate best with constant, steady winds and Grande Prairie's wind spikes are not conducive to their operations.
In any case, I guess you could say GP is windy in the sense that we get bouts of really windy days. However, in comparing to other places in Alberta, we aren't quite that bad. While we double Edmonton's 15 days of 40+ km/h winds, we have only half as many as Calgary (66 days) and pale in comparison to Lethbridge who has a whopping 115 days.
In sum, I think we can safely say that Grande Prairie is not the wind magnet it's often made out to be. Personally, I would rather have lots of calm days with a few really windy ones than to have windy days all year long.
I hope this was somewhat informative, even if it just informed you that Rory is a major nerd who has no qualms with blogging about the weather. I would appreciate any comments you may have!
All stats can be found on Environment Canada's site here: http://www.climate.weatheroffice.gc.ca/winners/intro_e.html.