What are wind alerts and how to use them for your sport or outdoor activity

What are wind alerts and how to use them for your sport or outdoor activity


To find out in advance about wind speed increase, changing wind direction or other wind parameters, you may need wind alerts. Let's find out what they are and how to use them for your sport and outdoor activity.

What are wind alerts?

In general, wind alerts are messages about wind increase created by different meteorological services and emergency departments of the cities. As a rule, these are urgent short messages that contain information about when, where, and for how long the wind increase is expected.

Wind warnings, watches, and advisories like these ones from the US National Weather service are all different types of wind alerts:

  • A wind watch means that it is likely that a weather event will occur. Usually, it covers a large area and long periods of time and is used to warn of rather harsh weather conditions.
  • A wind advisory is commonly used to report less severe weather such as wind, thunderstorms, or frost.
  • A wind warning means that the probability of the occurrence of weather conditions is very high, their occurrence is inevitable. Used for a short period of time.

The alerts are very important for safety. For example, in ports, when the wind speed rises, the crew is urgently called on board to take all measures so that the ship is not carried off the berth into the sea.

How fast and strong the wind can be to be considered dangerous?

Average wind speeds near the earth's surface are close to 5—10 m/s and rarely exceed 12—15 m/s. In strong atmospheric vortexes and storms in temperate latitudes, it can reach 30 m/s, and in some gusts — 60 m/s. In hurricanes, wind speeds reach 65 m/s, and in gusts even 100 m/s, judging by the destruction they cause.

High wind warnings are issued when winds become destructive — from point 8 on the Beaufort scale, i.e. from 17 m/s. At this speed, it begins to break off tree branches. From 20 m/s, shingles are blown off the roofs, and from 24 m/s (this is already 10 on the Beaufort scale), the wind can uproot trees and destroy buildings.

There are also wind gusts — short-term and strong air movements. In other words, it’s a wind that sharply increases for a few seconds. The phenomenon, when the gusts are especially strong and sudden, is called a squall or squall wind.

Photo: Kalen-emsley / Unsplash

Why is strong wind not always a bad thing?

A strong wind can be not only destructive but also beneficial for humans:

  • In nature, it carries pollen of many plants. This helps to develop agriculture and maintain the ecological well-being and diversity of the regions.
  • Power stations generate electricity thanks to the wind. For example, in Denmark, such sources generate almost 50% of all electricity. 
  • Also, it’s impossible to engage in some extreme wind sports and outdoor activities without wind of some particular speed, direction and other parameters.

Which sports do I need wind alerts for?

Many active sports are directly dependent on the wind because, in them, the movement occurs due to the force of the wind. To use sails, wings, and kites and practice windsurfing, all types of kiting, and yachting, you need at least a few meters per second — otherwise, the rider will simply not budge with the equipment.

When gliding, paragliding and others, air movement is also important — in such sports, you constantly need to catch vertical currents and move between them.

For all of these sports, it’s imperative to have prompt wind alerts to know when, where, and at what speed, and for how long the wind will blow. This is necessary in order to determine whether it’s possible to play sports and, on the contrary, wouldn't be too dangerous.

How to set up wind alerts in Windy.app?

In Windy.app you can set up wind alerts for kite and windsurfing, but also for other sports, outdoors, and life activities.

Where to find wind alerts

1. Open your favorite spot or the nearest one to your current location by searching on the Home Screen or the Wind and precipitation map. To do this, turn on the Geolocation feature in the app's Settings beforehand.

Wind Alerts in the Windy.app for iOS

2. Click on the "bell" icon on the spot screen to the right of the Wind rose or swipe down the screen to the "Wind alerts".


Wind Alerts in the Windy.app for iOS

How to set up wind alerts

The Alerts screen consists of 5 subsections — wind parameters that you can customize for yourself:

1. Wind speed. Set the desired wind speed for your particular sport. For example, a good wind speed for kitesurfing is between 5.5 and 7.9 m/s.

You can choose from 0 to 40 m/s although you will not probably need to go to the extreme values as zero wind does not allow you to go kiting and too strong wind is dangerous.

But. If you are a fisherman — lack of wind is good for you, if you are a yachtsman — notification about maximum wind force wind will work as a warning about dangerous weather conditions, and something in the middle may be good for you.

In general, winds of 7 m/s or more on the Beaufort scale are considered strong. In such winds, it is difficult to move on two legs and tree branches bend severely.


Wind Alerts in the Windy.app for iOS

2. Notify me, days before. Set the number of days before the desired conditions. This is relevant for remote spots that need to be reached and the trip will take you more than one day. Select from 1 to 10 days by choosing not just one but several days.

3. For at least. Set the number of hours that the wind will blow with the parameters you want. In other words, how long you plan to do some sport on the spot. It can be a short workout or a whole sports day. You can choose 1 hour, 3 hours, 6 hours and 9 hours.

4. Time frame, h. Set the time interval for the desired wind conditions from 0 to 24 hours.


Wind Alerts in the Windy.app for iOS

5. Wind direction. Finally, set the specific wind direction you want. For example, in kitesurfing, this is just as important as wind speed. That's why there is a concept in this sport called "Working wind direction". This is where the wind blows mainly — that's where you can ride. If the wind blows in another direction, the surfing will not be as effective or will not work at all.

Choose between 8 directions clockwise: north (N), northeast (NE), east (E), southeast (SE), south (S), southwest (SW), west (W), northwest (NW).

By default all directions are selected. They're blue. Click on the direction you don't need and it will turn gray.

Where the alerts will appear

After you set up notifications, press OK to have them automatically saved in the app's memory. The alert will appear to you as a push message on your phone screen, even if you're not using the app at the time.

For example, the three days' before alert about winds of 5 to 10 m/s from southwest or northeast that will blow for 3 hours between 9 am and 6 pm.

After you set the alert, the icon with the bell will also appear after the name of the spot in the list of your favorite spots.

Wind Alerts in the Windy.app for iOS

Learn more about how to read wind direction in the article. Even if it sounds too simple.


Text: Natalia Kirasheva and Ivan Kuznetsov, an outdoor writer from the Dolomites, Italy, and Karelia, Finland. His favorite sports are cycling, hiking and sauna. Read his other articles.

Cover photo: Isai Ramos / Unsplash

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