High-resolution satellite-derived QuikSCAT ocean surface wind data are used to provide an 8-year climatology of average as well as below- and above-average winds in the Nordic seas. A number of localized wind speed maxima are identified, with average wintertime wind speeds exceeding 14 m s−1 in the Denmark Strait. Five distinct wind speed nadirs are also discovered, of which the two most pronounced are located in the Greenland Sea. In the second part of the paper, two data sets derived from the National Centers for Environmental Protection/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP/NCAR) reanalysis are found to concur well with QuikSCAT in terms of both low-frequency (monthly means) and high-frequency (daily means) variability. Correlation coefficients between QuikSCAT and reanalysis daily and monthly mean wind speed are around 0.9, but notable and systematic differences are also identified. Root mean square differences between QuikSCAT and reanalysis of daily mean wind speed averaged over four separate regions range from 1.11 to 1.81 m s−1, and from 0.75 to 1.00 m s−1 for monthly means. Furthermore, a correspondence between the ocean surface wind speed and five teleconnection indices, of which the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Scandinavian pattern are the most important, is found.