A new world record wind gust: 253 mph in Australia's Tropical Cyclone Olivia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:34 PM GMT on January 27, 2010

Share this Blog
6
+

The 6,288-foot peak of New Hampshire's Mount Washington is a forbidding landscape of wind-swept barren rock, home to some of planet Earth's fiercest winds. As a 5-year old boy, I remember being blown over by a terrific gust of wind on the summit, and rolling out of control towards a dangerous drop-off before a fortuitously-placed rock saved me. Perusing the Guinness Book of World Records as a kid, three iconic world weather records always held a particular mystique and fascination for me: the incredible 136°F (57.8°C) at El Azizia, Libya in 1922, the -128.5°F (-89.2°C) at the "Pole of Cold" in Vostok, Antarctica in 1983, and the amazing 231 mph wind gust (103.3 m/s) recorded in 1934 on the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire. Well, the legendary winds of Mount Washington have to take second place now, next to the tropical waters of northwest Australia. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has announced that the new world wind speed record at the surface is a 253 mph (113.2 m/s) wind gust measured on Barrow Island, Australia. The gust occurred on April 10, 1996, during passage of the eyewall of Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Olivia.


Figure 1. Instruments coated with rime ice on the summit of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Image credit: Mike Theiss.

Tropical Cyclone Olivia
Tropical Cyclone Olivia was a Category 4 storm on the U.S. Saffir-Simpson scale, and generated sustained winds of 145 mph (1-minute average) as it crossed over Barrow Island off the northwest coast of Australia on April 10, 1996. Olivia had a central pressure of 927 mb and an eye 45 miles in diameter at the time, and generated waves 21 meters (69 feet) high offshore. According to Black et al. (1999), the eyewall likely had a tornado-scale mesovortex embedded in it that caused the extreme wind gust of 253 mph. The gust was measured at the standard measuring height of 10 meters above ground, on ground at an elevation of 64 meters (210 feet). A similar mesovortex was encountered by a Hurricane Hunter aircraft in Hurricane Hugo of 1989, and a mesovortex was also believed to be responsible for the 239 mph wind gust measured at 1400 meters by a dropsonde in Hurricane Isabel in 2003. For reference, 200 mph is the threshold for the strongest category of tornado, the EF-5, and any gusts of this strength are capable of causing catastrophic damage.


Figure 2. Visible satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Olivia a few hours before it crossed Barrow Island, Australia, setting a new world-record wind gust of 253 mph. Image credit: Japan Meteorological Agency.


Figure 3. Wind trace taken at Barrow Island, Australia during Tropical Cyclone Olivia. Image credit: Buchan, S.J., P.G. Black, and R.L. Cohen, 1999, "The Impact of Tropical Cyclone Olivia on Australia's Northwest Shelf", paper presented at the 1999 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, 3-6 May, 1999.

Why did it take so long for the new record to be announced?
The instrument used to take the world record wind gust was funded by a private company, Chevron, and Chevron's data was not made available to forecasters at Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) during the storm. After the storm, the tropical cyclone experts at BOM were made aware of the data, but it was viewed as suspect, since the gusts were so extreme and the data was taken with equipment of unknown accuracy. Hence, the observations were not included in the post-storm report. Steve Buchan from RPS MetOcean believed in the accuracy of the observations, and coauthored a paper on the record gust, presented at the 1999 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston (Buchan et al., 1999). The data lay dormant until 2009, when Joe Courtney of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology was made aware of it. Courtney wrote up a report, coauthored with Steve Buchan, and presented this to the WMO extremes committee for ratification. The report has not been made public yet, and is awaiting approval by Chevron. The verified data will be released next month at a World Meteorological Organization meeting in Turkey, when the new world wind record will become official.

New Hampshire residents are not happy
Residents of New Hampshire are understandably not too happy about losing their cherished claim to fame. The current home page of the Mount Washington Observatory reads, "For once, the big news on Mount Washington isn't our extreme weather. Sadly, it's about how our extreme weather--our world record wind speed, to be exact--was outdone by that of a warm, tropical island".

Comparison with other wind records
Top wind in an Atlantic hurricane: 239 mph (107 m/s) at an altitude of 1400 meters, measured by dropsonde in Hurricane Isabel (2003).
Top surface wind in an Atlantic hurricane: 211 mph (94.4 m/s), Hurricane Gustav, Paso Real de San Diego meteorological station in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, on the afternoon of August 30, 2008.
Top wind in a tornado: 302 mph (135 m/s), measured via Doppler radar at an altitude of 100 meters (330 feet), in the Bridge Creek, Oklahoma tornado of May 3, 1999.
Top surface wind not associated with a tropical cyclone or tornado: 231 mph (103.3 m/s), April 12, 1934 on the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire.
Top wind in a typhoon: 191 mph (85.4 m/s) on Taiwanese Island of Lanyu, Super Typhoon Ryan, Sep 22, 1995; also on island of Miyakojima, Super Typhoon Cora, Sep 5, 1966.
Top surface wind not measured on a mountain or in a tropical cyclone: 207 mph (92.5 m/s) measured in Greenland at Thule Air Force Base on March 6, 1972.
Top wind measured in a U.S. hurricane: 186 mph (83.1 m/s) measured at Blue Hill Observatory, Massachusetts, during the 1938 New England Hurricane.

References
Buchan, S.J., P.G. Black, and R.L. Cohen, 1999, "The Impact of Tropical Cyclone Olivia on Australia's Northwest Shelf", paper presented at the 1999 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, 3-6 May, 1999.

Black, P.G., Buchan, S.J., and R.L. Cohen, 1999, "The Tropical Cyclone Eyewall Mesovortex: A Physical Mechanism Explaining Extreme Peak Gust Occurrence in TC Olivia, 4 April 1996 on Barrow Island, Australia", paper presented at the 1999 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, 3-6 May, 1999.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 434 - 384

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16Blog Index

Quoting okieyogi:
Good Morning Flood, I keep forgetting to ask you, When is Press going to be on the news, Thurs or Fri. Do you know?


I'm glad you brough that up; Paul is at the Atlanta location right now, helping to get a shipment of medical supplies out to Haiti. With him are a camera crew from NBC Nightly News. We're not sure when the segment will air,but we're thinking it will air tonight; there will be a second segment that will air sometime next week.

If thesegment from today doesn't air tonight then most liklely you will see Paul tomorrow night...

Now for the pitch, kids:

Portlight serves the disabled community in areas stricken by disasters. We supply durable medical equipment, clinical supplies, food and water to the disabled survivors of disasters here in the United States and abroad. We need further donations of medical supplies and money to help with the cost of shipping these goods to Haiti. You can help! Go to Portlight for more information!

Thanks
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting Floodman:


Aussie! How are you doing?

Doing well mate! well i was until i just started to get stomach cramps and i don't know why. I'll be listening to the barometer bob show
tomorrow afternoon(12pm)for your update on the Portlight Haiti quake effort.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Quoting atmoaggie:

Certainly. Probably not detectable for, say, some place like Baton Rouge, but our biggest cities do leave a measurable increase in lightning downwind of the city center. Houston is one where this has been studied. (An increase in lightning is an excellent indication of increased convection).

Reference and abstract: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2001/2001GL012990.shtml

PDF here: http://ocean-alt.tamu.edu/ciams/heat/related/Orville_et_al_2001.pdf

And, yes, believe it or not, my friend Dr. N-G is a coauthor on this one, too, as is our current NHC director, Bill Read (but this is when he was at the HGX WFO).

Dr. N-G was actually one of my Meteorology professors last semester and shared that report with us during one of our lectures. It really was quite interesting.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I thoroughly enjoyed thsi quote from the SOTU address last night:

"I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Challenger Jan 28, 1986


St. Petersburg, FL.

Fair

59 °F

Humidity: 60 %
Wind Speed: NE 7 MPH
Barometer: 30.32" (1026.7 mb)
Dewpoint: 45 °F (7 °C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
Quoting PcolaDan:


LOL Well, actually that would be a new one. Amy coined the handle dashboardcowMan. :)

I respond to most anything (easily amused)
Opps, sorry, not my 1st mistake on here, my 1st day after years of lurking
New Topic Posted:
South Florida StormWatch
(main site)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting okieyogi:
Thank You. Can I call you dashboardcowdan too?


LOL Well, actually that would be a new one. Amy coined the handle dashboardcowMan. :)

I respond to most anything (easily amused)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:

Really.

I was in third grade at a catholic school.

They brought a TV into the classroom and we just watched the news most of the day...and of course talked about it a bit. They didn't shy away from it at all.


Well, we were 5 year olds and watching it as it happened.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting PcolaDan:


According to press facebook - " I will be a guest Thursday Jan. 28 discussing Portlight's Haiti relief efforts for people with disabilities there..."

WBAI, New York - 99.5 FM Pacifica Radio - Home
www.wbai.org
WBAI 99.5 FM, Pacifica Radio in NYC

Think I remember him saying tonight or tomorrow for the NBC interview.


Just found it on Portlight blog.
"53. presslord 9:16 PM CST on January 26, 2010
OK...we're doing a major follow up Thursday AM with NBC Nightly News...first segment should run Thurs or Fri nite...second segment sometime next week"
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PcolaDan:


According to press facebook - " I will be a guest Thursday Jan. 28 discussing Portlight's Haiti relief efforts for people with disabilities there..."

WBAI, New York - 99.5 FM Pacifica Radio - Home
www.wbai.org
WBAI 99.5 FM, Pacifica Radio in NYC

Think I remember him saying tonight or tomorrow for the NBC interview.
Thank You. Can I call you dashboardcowdan too?
Quoting CaneWarning:


Our teacher told us it was fireworks and that the shuttle would take off later. I guess she wanted to shield us from the truth.

Really.

I was in third grade at a catholic school.

They brought a TV into the classroom and we just watched the news most of the day...and of course talked about it a bit. They didn't shy away from it at all.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting StormChaser81:


I actually say it blow up from Orlando, FL.

I remember seeing it on the news, was in shock
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Quoting AussieStorm:

Hey Flodman


Aussie! How are you doing?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting CaneWarning:


Our teacher told us it was fireworks and that the shuttle would take off later. I guess she wanted to shield us from the truth.


I was in my high school chemistry class when the school's chaplain (I went to Catholic HS) made the announcement and said a prayer.

Didn't actually see it until I got home that night...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CaneWarning:


I was 5 years old. I remember seeing it happen.


Yup, I was 5 years old too and remember asking my father what were the pieces and the big fire ball or smoke ball coming off the challenger.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
Quoting StormChaser81:


I actually say it blow up from Orlando, FL.


Our teacher told us it was fireworks and that the shuttle would take off later. I guess she wanted to shield us from the truth.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting okieyogi:
Good Morning Flood, I keep forgetting to ask you, When is Press going to be on the news, Thurs or Fri. Do you know?


According to press facebook - " I will be a guest Thursday Jan. 28 discussing Portlight's Haiti relief efforts for people with disabilities there..."

WBAI, New York - 99.5 FM Pacifica Radio - Home
www.wbai.org
WBAI 99.5 FM, Pacifica Radio in NYC

Think I remember him saying tonight or tomorrow for the NBC interview.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaTom:
Today is the anniversary of the Challenger accident...

I can remember exactly where I was when I heard...


I actually say it blow up from Orlando, FL.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
Quoting TampaTom:
Today is the anniversary of the Challenger accident...

I can remember exactly where I was when I heard...


I was 5 years old. I remember seeing it happen.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting atmoaggie:

Certainly. Probably not detectable for, say, some place like Baton Rouge, but our biggest cities do leave a measurable increase in lightning downwind of the city center. Houston is one where this has been studied. (An increase in lightning is an excellent indication of increased convection).

Reference and abstract: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2001/2001GL012990.shtml

PDF here: http://ocean-alt.tamu.edu/ciams/heat/related/Orville_et_al_2001.pdf

And, yes, believe it or not, my friend Dr. N-G is a coauthor on this one, too, as is our current NHC director, Bill Read (but this is when he was at the HGX WFO).

One additional though on this...

Lightning creates NOx (any process that substantially heats the air does). So this leads to an assumption that the increase in lightning is also partly responsible for an increase in NOx and, thus, surface-level ozone, too.

Both NOx and ozone are very effective GHGs. But, I am prolly making out the contribution of lightning-created NOx to be more significant than it really is...

(Aside: Mother nature does create some of the surface ozone. NOx from lightning, isoprenes or terpenes from oaks or pines, respectively. Mix with sunlight, and you have ozone.)

So far, it seems the UHI-convection effect is minimal to nonexistent for small to mid-size cities.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting Floodman:


Howdy, okie and welcome!

Hey Flodman
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Quoting StormW:


You are more than welcome okie! and welcome to the WU community! And thank you!! As far as questions, you go ahead and ask away! , whether you think they're silly or not. More than happy to asnwer them.

No question is to silly when i comes to weather.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Today is the anniversary of the Challenger accident...

I can remember exactly where I was when I heard...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Floodman:


Howdy, okie and welcome!
Thank you Flood, Husband is right, everyone on here is great
Obama and Biden will be in Tampa today to announce a high speed rail system that will go from Tampa to Orlando. I guess it isn't wise for me to try to leave for lunch today. There are already crowds walking towards UT where the townhall will be held.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting StormW:


You are more than welcome okie! and welcome to the WU community! And thank you!! As far as questions, you go ahead and ask away! , whether you think they're silly or not. More than happy to asnwer them.
Thank You Storm. and good luck with that moving
Quoting okieyogi:
Mornin' Atmo. and yes I remember 07 well. I feel like I know a lot of you from lurking and following Husband's posts etc. Also been helping alot from the background for the "Portlight" cause


Howdy, okie and welcome!
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting Floodman:


Hey, Storm!
Good Morning Flood, I keep forgetting to ask you, When is Press going to be on the news, Thurs or Fri. Do you know?
Quoting WaterWitch11:


you can still see the blog if your banned just clear your cookies and don't sign in. i did it the last time i was banned.


I know, but I hate reading it if I can't comment.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
400. What about red tile roofs? They are very popular here in Florida. Just about everybody has them. I've always wondered how they are for the environment compared to black shingles.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
401. WaterWitch11
3:22 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Quoting CaneWarning:


Just 24 hours...seemed like a long 24 hours as I sat here at work yesterday and couldn't see the blog. Did I miss anything?


you can still see the blog if your banned just clear your cookies and don't sign in. i did it the last time i was banned.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1681
400. Skyepony (Mod)
3:21 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
White roofs lower surface temps, save like 23% energy & greatly reduce a household's carbon foot print..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 193 Comments: 38684
396. okieyogi
3:16 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Quoting StormW:
Just dropping by to say a quick "Good morning"!
Hi Storm. I have been following this blog for years but am new as a blogger. Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your knowledge of hurricanes. Thanks for all you do! I'm sure I will be asking silly questions of you during cane season. Again, Thank You.
395. Floodman
3:15 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Quoting StormW:
Just dropping by to say a quick "Good morning"!


Hey, Storm!
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
394. atmoaggie
3:14 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Quoting StormW:
Just dropping by to say a quick "Good morning"!

Howdy and Good Morn!

How's the move? Any dust-induced sneeze fits, yet?
(not a jab...everyone has dust somewhere and moving always brings it out)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
393. AwakeInMaryland
3:13 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Quoting StormW:
Just dropping by to say a quick "Good morning"!

Nice to "see" you. How is the move going?
Have time for any quick weather thoughts?
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
390. atmoaggie
2:57 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Quoting JFLORIDA:


I didnt ether. But was thinking along the lines of increasing convection/less vegetative surface area in cities (drier air coming back) -> winds/increasing evaporation -> heat of vaporization acting like a conveyor transfer to the upper troposphere.

Everything has to go somewhere.

But records dont support it and are inconclusive now due to instrument advances it seems.


Ahhh. The end result of what you are describing, I think, isn't drier air, but more clouds, rain, and higher humidity...at least outside of deserts. (at least in the thinking of increasing convection)

And, the increasing clouds and rain parts would reduce surface temps in the short run during the daytime, but the lingering humidity at night would have a warming effect. What is the net effect of a city's extra convection? I have no idea.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
387. DDR
2:48 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Piarco int. Trinidad
Updated: 4 min 47 sec ago
25 °C
Light Rain
Humidity: 94%
Dew Point: 24 °C
Wind: 15 km/h / 4.1 m/s from the ESE

Pressure: 1013 hPa (Steady)
Visibility: 4.0 kilometers
UV: 4 out of 16
Clouds: Mostly Cloudy 304 m
Mostly Cloudy 1371 m
(Above Ground Level)
First rain for me in weeks.We've had alot of bush fires on the plains.

Member Since: April 27, 2007 Posts: 14 Comments: 1711
386. IKE
2:45 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Quoting AussieStorm:

I was here but not here, if you get what i mean.


I don't blame you.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
385. atmoaggie
2:45 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Quoting JFLORIDA:
The heat holding and conductivity factors of rocks/ceramic are also a critical issue.

Do not discount the importance of the same for concrete, asphalt, and water (irrigation, water treatment plants, etc.)
Quoting JFLORIDA:
Remember too "Urban Heat Island" is a collective generalized term associated with a large area and is not necessarily trended in one direction.

The trends of a specific area could be influenced in several directions over several distinct periods. No all necessarily warmer.

Umm, there are very few setups where anthropogenic land use effects would change surface in anything but a positive direction, is my understanding.

Got any sources at all that support the notion of man-made surface land use changes that actually lower the surface temps (below that of a natural landscape)? Even for one period (such as day/night or summer/winter)?

I have never seen anything that supports that...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
384. okieyogi
2:44 PM GMT on January 28, 2010
Quoting CaneWarning:
I do wish that wish that when one is put in jail, that the admin would reference the specific post that caused it. I still really have no clue what I did! :)
Kinda sad, doin the time without knowin the crime

Viewing: 434 - 384

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Overcast
43 °F
Overcast