Wallenda’s Walk over the Windy City: How Windy?

By : admin |October 29, 2014 |Uncategorized, weather-report |0 Comment

[su_pullquote align=”right”] “I’ve trained all my life not to be distracted by distractions.” Nik Wallenda [/su_pullquote]

Stunt devil Nik Wallenda plans to walk the tightrope over the city of Chicago on November 2nd, only about a year and a half after his last historic walk that took place over the Grand Canyon.  Throughout the entire broadcast of the walk, one of the major topics was wind.  What kinds of wind did he experience as he walked the tightrope over the Canyon?  Were they beyond his control?  Was he ready for them?  How did he prepare?

One question that may come up on November 2nd could be: How will the winds in Chicago compare to the winds he endured over the Grand Canyon?


This Line graph shows the winds that occurred at the area Nik Wallenda crossed the Grand Canyon (Blue line) on June 23, 2013 compared to the average wind speed at Chicago on November 2 (1980-2013 average, Orange line).  According to Chicago’s average, winds seem to be more consistent throughout the day, while the wind at the Grand Canyon peaks in the afternoon (3-4PM).  Nick performed this stunt at around 4PM local time, where winds at the Grand Canyon were stronger than the average winds in Chicago.  However, the average of Chicago’s winds only show one side of the story.  Let’s add the Maximum and Minimum winds that occurred for each hour over the past 34 years in Chicago:


The red and green lines (max and min wind speeds, respectively) show that Nik could experience either much stronger winds (up to 25 mph) or much weaker winds (down to 5 mph).

All we have seen were the past winds for Chicago, but this does not tell us exactly what he will encounter when he’s walking over the city.  Sure, he could experience some fast winds of up to 30 mph, or some slow winds of only 5 mph, but what about wind turbulence due to the buildings around him?

These images were gathered from http://www.chicagotribune.com, showing the location of Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk.

These images were gathered from http://www.chicagotribune.com, showing the location of Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk.

According to http://abc7chicago.com, he will be crossing the Chicago River on a tightrope from the Marina City towers to the Leo Burnett Building at 7PM ET (6PM CT). After crossing, he will then head back to the western Marina Tower and walk across the gap between both Marina Towers blindfolded.


panorama image

Since the Marina City towers are about 100 feet lower than the Leo Burnett Building, he will be walking uphill.  The effects of buildings on wind includes turbulence, which is extreme changes to the normal flow pattern of wind.  Depending on the direction of the wind, this could cause trouble for the daredevil.  Wind to his back or front would be the most dangerous as winds travel up and over the building and form areas of turbulence on the other side.


These effects, however, may be less harmful due to the fact that he will be above most buildings, but not all, around him.  As seen in the figure above, the effects of turbulence decrease as you get further away from a building.  If there is a headwind, he will feel stronger wind turbulence from the taller Leo Burnett Building as he makes his way up the rope.

Nik Wallenda is trying to make it tough on himself for the excitement of his audience, in which he was successful last year while crossing the Grand Canyon.  Nothing is keeping him from being successful this year.  Good Luck, Nik!

Sources: http://abc7chicago.com