If you live in northern Utah, the wind has been hard to ignore the last several months.
Strong winds aided several large fires through the state, including the Halfway Hill fire, which bloomed to over 10,000 acres in July, while gusts of over 60 mph brought dust from the Great Salt Lake’s dry lakebed raining down on the Wasatch Front.
On Friday, strong winds near the Great Salt Lake wreaked havoc on a construction site and caved in a partially framed house.
On a lighter note, it’s made life challenging for anyone trying to walk outside after getting their hair done.
“I feel like my hair has been in a bun or ponytail basically all summer,” said one teen from Woods Cross, who spent a windy Friday afternoon shopping at the Gateway Mall — her hair in a ponytail, of course.
These aren’t just anecdotes — it has in fact been abnormally windy in the Salt Lake Valley, according to the National Weather Service data.
Measuring “windy-ness”: By some metrics, it’s been one of the windiest springs and summers the Wasatch Front has seen in years.
One of the best ways to measure “general windy-ness” is the number of days that have seen high winds, according to Monica Traphagan, lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
And 2022 takes the cake.
As of Friday, July 22, there have been 49 days where the weather station by the airport recorded a five-second gust of over 35 mph, according to National Weather Service data.
That’s the most of any year since 1998, the first year that figure was tracked at the airport’s weather station.
In 2011, the station documented 44 days with winds that speed as of July 22 of that year, and 41 days in 2019 by that date.
Another measurement is looking at the highest sustained gust recorded for each month. In May, the weather station at the Salt Lake City International Airport recorded a 67 mph gust that lasted 5 seconds.
That’s tied for the third highest five-second gust documented at that weather station since 1998, the furthest back that data is available. The second was 71 mph in 2004, and the first was 75 mph in 2006.
And in June of this year, the station recorded a five-second 60 mph gust, which is tied for the seventh highest five-second gust since 1998.
Still, Traphagan with the National Weather Service warns that defining a “windy” month is incredibly hard.
“We don’t really keep data on average ‘windy-ness,’ or things of that nature, because it can be quite variable from site to site,” she said. “So it’s difficult to say quantitatively that it’s been more or less windy in comparison to the last few years.”
It’s nearly impossible to truly determine when the windiest summer in northern Utah, or even Salt Lake County, was, Traphagan says.
But using the above measurement, we can say with certainty, yes — you’re not going crazy. It has been extra windy in Salt Lake City.
“It certainly seems that way,” said Traphagan.
Earth, wind and fire: High winds can be “a double-edged sword for air quality,” says Ashley Sumner with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
“When we’re talking about ozone, wind can be a really good thing,” she said. “But there are times when wind, when it’s not combined with precipitation, results in dust.”
That was the reality for residents along the Wasatch Front Friday afternoon — and likely dozens of afternoons this spring and summer — as an ominous white cloud lifted off the Great Salt Lake, blocked out the Oquirrh Mountains, and settled in Utah, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties.
Still, Utahns can thank the high winds for the lack of ozone sitting over the valley this summer, and for pushing out wildfire smoke.
“Less wildfire smoke and less ozone has resulted in better air quality, compared to last year,” Sumner said.
In addition to wind, it’s also been hard to ignore the record heat in the Salt Lake Valley this summer — on Sunday, temperatures reached a record high 107 degrees.
You can thank, at least in part, the wind.
“The conditions that lead you to have breezy conditions like this are also a lot of times going to result in hotter conditions,” said Traphagan.
That’s because weather patterns that cause wind are typically dominated by high pressure, which in the summer brings warm weather.