Jesse Ferrell

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A New World Wind Speed Record at 253 MPH!

January 26, 2010; 11:45 AM ET

UPDATE: Our Mount Washington Blogger, Brian Clark, has some additional information about how this new record may have been set by a meso-vortex within the hurricane eyewall.

UPDATE: Based on the American Meteorological Society's use of "253 mph" I am going with that -- it all depends on how you convert it amongst knots, km/h and mph. Brian Clark from our own Mount Washington Blog has written an entry about this new record and has left a comment below in response to one of my blog readers.

I blogged nearly a year ago about a mysterious piece of weather trivia that came into my e-mail box via Chris Burt, Author of "Extreme Weather"... a wind gust of 408 km/h (253 mph)* was measured during Tropical Cyclone Olivia at Barrow Island, Australia in 1996. If certified by the World Meteorological Office, it would be a new record. The rumor was that they were looking into it. As of January 22nd, they have certified the reading and we have a new World Wind Speed Record! This takes the prize away from Mount Washington, NH (see links at right) who gusted to 231 mph in 1934.



Here is a revision of the table of top wind readings that I posted last year:


318 MPH - Oklahoma City 1999 - Tornado, Above Ground, By Doppler Radar (ABOVE GROUND - NOT OFFICIAL)
253 MPH - Australia 1996 - Cyclone Olivia, On Ground, By Cup Anemometer (NEW OFFICIAL WORLD RECORD!)
236 MPH - Guam 1997 - Typhoon Paka, By Hot-Wire Anemometer (DISPUTED)
231 MPH - Winter Storm 1934 at Mount Washington, By Cup Anemometer (OLD OFFICIAL WORLD RECORD)
207 MPH - Winter Storm 1972 in Greenland (VERIFIED)
201 MPH - Winter Storm 1981 in Colorado (NOT VERIFIED)
200 MPH* - Winter Storm in North Carolina (DISPUTED)
200 MPH* - Winter Storm 1973 in New Hampshire, By Cup Anemometer (VERIFIED)
190 MPH - Tropical Storm 1966 in Miyakojima (NOT VERIFIED)
186 MPH - Massachusetts 1938 - Hurricane, On Ground (OFFICIAL LAND HURRICANE RECORD)

*Depends on which source you use. Although 408 km/h converted here = 254 mph, the AMS says 253 mph.

**Rounded up from 199.5 MPH

Comments (7):

Brian Clark:

In response to John Joseph's comment:

I'm not sure where you are getting your information, but I assure you there is no record of any sort of the anemometer that measured the Big Wind on Mount Washington being blown away. This is a complete and total myth.

In fact, to the contrary, the anemometer survived the storm fully intact. It was then taken off the mountain a couple of months later and was tested in wind tunnels in Washington, D.C. For more information about how the Big Wind was measured, check out this entry that I posted to my blog in 2008.

Posted by Brian Clark | January 28, 2010 8:18 PM


What took so long for this record to be verified? Usually they act much quicker after extreme events.

FROM JESSE: Apparently the officials dismissed it right afterwards and someone brought it up again a few years ago. International stations, especially those not readily available on the Internet, often get ignored. Had this station been online these days, it probably wouldn't have been ignored. The AMS has some more information in their blog about the delay, I believe.

Posted by md | January 28, 2010 11:31 AM


"that stronger gust's came along after the anemometer was blown off and torn away."

I never heard of this, what's your source??

Posted by md | January 27, 2010 10:13 PM

p curley:

The one record that Mt. Wash. still has that was not broken is the record for windiest known location. The record mentioned here is for the highest single wind speed observation. When all observations are averaged, Mt Wash. is still the record holder. Barrow Island does not get hurricanes or typhoons all the time. I would suspect that some parts of Antarctica could actually be the windiest on overall average if there were full time observation stations there.

Posted by p curley | January 27, 2010 4:30 PM

Rodney Mattson:

What sort of cup anemometer was in use in Australia?

The anemometer used when the Mt. Washington record was set may be called a cup anemometer, but it was unlike anything most of us have ever seen -- it was a big disk with many little tiny cups as an integral part of the edge. And as I recall it had, by chance, been calibrated at MIT a few months beforehand.

Where can we find details on the Australia record?

FROM JESSE: Click on that link that says "MORE DETAILS", thanks. :)

Posted by Rodney Mattson | January 26, 2010 9:36 PM

John Joseph:

Mount Washington's wind speed record has been broken. But as with many things, there is a fly in the ointment.Weather observers atop MT Washington made clear in their notes, that stronger gust's came along after the anemometer was blown off and torn away. The notes of that time reflect that the observers,not only lost their wind guage to the wind. But that they believe after the guage was blown off they experienced over a 4 hour period much stronger gusts.They were very afraid the steel chains and anchors were close to their breaking point with these higher gusts.

My money stays with Mount Washington

FROM JESSE: That is a good point but from the perspective of the World Meteorological Society, if it wasn't recorded, it didn't happen.

Posted by John Joseph | January 26, 2010 6:52 PM


Do you know which city in Mass.holds the wind record?

FROM JESSE: Yes, click on "MORE DETAILS" :)

Posted by Nolan | January 26, 2010 6:50 PM

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.