Lufthansa jet narrowly avoids crashing in German windstorm

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:39 PM GMT on March 05, 2008

A Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 137 people on board nearly crashed at the Hamburg, Germany airport on Saturday, March 1, as the pilot struggled to land the airplane during high winds kicked up by winter storm "Emma". If you don't have a fear of flying, take at look at the remarkable video an amateur photographer captured of the landing. It's been uploaded to and YouTube. As seen in the still images captured from the video (Figure 1), the pilot attempted to land the aircraft with a strong crosswind blowing from right to left. The crosswind is so strong that the drift angle of the aircraft (the difference between where the nose is pointed and the actual track of the airplane along the runway) is about 20 degrees. As the pilot touches the wheels down, he kicks the rudder to straighten the airplane out, and at that moment, a strong gust of wind lifts up the right wing, pushing the left wingtip of the aircraft into the runway. The pilot is skillful and lucky enough to avoid having the airplane cartwheel down the runway and explode, and aborts the landing attempt. You can see the blast of the engines kick up a cloud of dust on the left side of the runway as he goes to full throttle for a "go around" (thanks to Jeff Weber of UNIDATA for making the correct analysis of this dust cloud). The plane landed safely on its second attempt. Do you think the passengers were praying during that second landing? I do! Only minor damage was done to the left wingtip, and the plane was back in service by the next day.

Figure 1. Still photo of the Lufthansa jet (left) as it approached the runway. Note sharp angle between the direction the airplane's nose is pointed, and the track it is taking along the length of the runway. Strong winds of 40 mph gusting to 63 mph were observed at the airport that afternoon. Right photo: the left wingtip of the jet scrapes the runway as a big gust of wind hits. Image credit:

The weather that led to the near disaster
The initial press reports indicated that a wind gust of 155 mph hit the aircraft as it tried to land. That sounded rather dubious to me, so I took a closer look at the weather conditions that day. The only way a wind gust of that magnitude could have been generated would be from a powerful microburst flowing out from the base of a severe thunderstorm. The world record strongest thunderstorm microburst occurred on August 1, 1983, when winds of 149.5 mph were clocked at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington D.C., just five minutes after President Reagan landed there aboard Air Force 1. So, a 155 mph wind gust is possible, but it would be a new world record.

Figure 2. Visible satellite image from 10:20 GMT Saturday March 1 2008. Winter storm "Emma", a 960 mb low pressure centered north of Hamburg over Norway, has pushed a cold front through Germany. A strong northwest to west-northwest flow of air coming off the North Sea (red arrows) brought sustained winds of 36 mph, gusting to 56 mph, to Hamburg, Germany. Image credit: University of Bern, Switzerland.

Were there severe thunderstorms near Hamburg on March 1 that could have generated such a wind gust? A powerful low pressure system (Emma) with a central pressure of 960 mb passed to the north of Hamburg, Germany that morning, dragging a strong cold front through in the late morning (Figure 2). After cold frontal passage, the wunderground history page for Hamburg at 12:50 GMT, five minutes before the time of the incident, shows sustained winds of 35 mph, gusting to 56 mph. A temporary wind reading of 40 mph, gusting to 63 mph, also occurred. The temperature was about 45°F, with occasional rain. This is classic post-cold front weather, and is not the sort of environment where severe thunderstorms with strong microbursts occur. Later press reports corrected the 155 mph wind gust, reducing it to 56 mph. Apparently, the aircraft's landing speed was 155 mph. In any case, the plane was operating very near to the maximum crosswinds an Airbus A320 is permitted to land in--38 mph, gusting to 44 mph. There are questions whether air traffic control should have used that runway for landings, and whether or not the pilot should have attempted a landing in those conditions. There is an interesting discussion at the discussion forum where some pilots weight in on the near-disaster.

Winter storm Emma did considerable damage across Germany. Six people died in weather-related automobile accidents, power was cut to 150,000 homes, and high winds ripped the roof off of a school in Hesse. In neighboring countries, 260 buildings lost their roofs in Poland, flooding collapsed a bridge in Romania, and in the Czech Republic, 92,000 people (about 10 percent of the population) lost power.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

Sign In or Register Sign In or Register

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: 1003 - 953

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26Blog Index

1002. Patrap
10:06 PM CDT on March 09, 2008
LOL..what is it with folks today?
IS this a Political forum?
There a dime a dozen,
This is a individuals blog with a PHD in meteorology.

Politics are 2-3 blog doors down.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 438 Comments: 136296
1001. TampaSpin
2:59 AM GMT on March 10, 2008
Our US economy is now feeling the full affects of the idiots that support their Global warming aggenda. All the laws and deregulations that hamper business to succeed has now put the US businesses in the hands of foreign governments to excell. Thank you very much those of you that support such crap.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1000. Patrap
9:57 PM CDT on March 09, 2008
NHC forecast verification for 2007 is now complete; read full report (pdf)Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 438 Comments: 136296
997. Ivansrvivr
2:20 AM GMT on March 10, 2008
I agree with DR. Grey that our planet goes through changing cycles of temp and precip. Some may warm the Earth on average, others cool it. (Or maybe La Nina and El Nino are figments of our imaginations). The Sun also goes thru hotter and cooler cycles which, combined with gradual changes in the Earth's orbit(from circular to eliptical) has variable effects on climate. I totally disagree with the "man made" part of most folks' climate change arguements. Dr. Grey is now labelled an Idiot by former colleagues for not following the "man made GW" herd. (Note the leaders of that herd are behind a new money making scheme: The Carbon Tax!)
On the subject of la Nina, A weakening La Nina is often followed by major US landfalling hurricanes. After the last 2 La Ninas, it was the Eastern Seaboard that was hit, not the GOM. Unless La Nina changes soon, resulting changes (westward around the world)
may not occur till after the hurricane season. If things don't change, i'd look for some early and very late activity possible for U.S., with the Bermuda High pushing everything far south during most of the heart of the season.
996. Patrap
9:44 PM CDT on March 09, 2008
Maybe the remnants of Karen will regenerate early..,seems to be still round, lurking .
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 438 Comments: 136296
994. ShenValleyFlyFish
10:20 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
987. lindenii

May I again request that those who find this guys displays of ignorance entertaining refrain from making those of us who don't read them.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
993. BahaHurican
10:20 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
Hey Addict. Long time no see.

I haven't been thinking pre-season so much as early season. If the La Nina holds steady, I doubt either your thinking or mine will pan out, but otherwise a fading La Nina can cause generally favorable conditions to appear in the ATL early in the season.

It's still much to early to tell, though.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
992. CaneAddict
2:01 AM GMT on March 10, 2008
Good evening folks, Im not on much unless during hurricane season so much of you may not remember me. Anyway i just wanted to mention that i think there is quite a possibility for a pre-season system to form out in the Atlantic or Caribbean. If you look at SST maps the water is either above or borderline what supports tropical development in the caribb. and Atlantic. If shear drops enough we could possibly see some development before the Official hurricane season starts. Who agrees? Also dont forget to check out my website for updates on things and as a good weather site.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
991. BahaHurican
9:44 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
987. lindenii 9:08 PM EDT on March 09, 2008

Uh, Ivan, I did not accuse him of being in the manmade global warming camp, his own words show him to be in the global warming camp, . . .

Which words are those? Can I get a quote / reference? I'm asking because just about everything I've read from / about Dr. Grey says he views global warming as part of the natural earth cycle of warming and cooling.

I don't see what is "bad" about that at all.

BTW, lin, if u want to make a web page you have posted into a link, you need to hit the blue Link button above the comment box and paste it in there. For example
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
990. lindenii
1:27 AM GMT on March 10, 2008
Here is a link that points to an abstract of an article regarding sunspots and their potential effects on our planet.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1:19 AM GMT on March 10, 2008
cells popin n cen texas migrating ese towards s central se oak heads up
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 193 Comments: 60416
988. lindenii
1:11 AM GMT on March 10, 2008
Someday I will remember to proofread before posting. GRRR. :-(
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
987. lindenii
1:08 AM GMT on March 10, 2008
968. Ivansrvivr 5:11 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
Uh, lin, Dr. Gray et al are in the ANTI-manmade global warming camp . . . .

SO AM I!!!!!

Uh, Ivan, I did not accuse him of being in the manmade global warming camp, his own words show him to be in the global warming camp, which is almost as bad, considering the thought I posted regarding sunspots and their contribution to warming and cooling of the earth.

While the following links flies in the faces of my comments regarding sunspots and their importance, the article is, on the whole, a very interesting read that will please many who visit here and upset the alarmists.

And here it is...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
986. Patrap
7:12 PM CDT on March 09, 2008
pssst, of the page and every wunderground page.

Find the Weather for any City, State or ZIP Code, or Airport Code or Country


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 438 Comments: 136296
985. SBKaren
4:29 PM PDT on March 09, 2008
Wow - I have a German family friend that works for Lufthansa...I'm going to send him a link to your blog!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
984. Weather456
7:08 PM AST on March 09, 2008
A very punishing storm

Infrared Satellite Image

Sea Winds

Wave Heights

Current Surface Plots through 2300 UTC

Almost all reports are well above gale force

24 hr Nogaps Rain forecast (mm)

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
983. dearmas
7:15 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
Question, anyones for see a cold front that will drop snow in NC next week, Banner Elk? Going skiing there next week and I have never seen snow, want some to fall while we are there
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
982. nash28
9:57 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
Intellectual honesty anyone???



Dr. Masters?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
981. nash28
9:42 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
And I for one, am not buying into this geo-political crapfest! It is a political expediency money maker. That's it!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
980. nash28
9:37 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
Did anyone notice the big anti-warming conference that went from last Sunday to last Wednesday in NYC went COMPLETELY UNCOVERED by ALL of the major media sources?

Gee, seems awfully convenient to me. The second the IPCC blurts out two words about ANYTHING it's splashed ALL OVER the front page!!!!

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
979. nash28
9:41 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
Quite frankly, I am a little disappointed in Dr. Masters. I expect more from him. To completely buy into this garbage is disturbing, considering he is a MET.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
978. Weather456
5:19 PM AST on March 09, 2008
977. hurricane10 4:14 PM AST on March 09, 2008
hey what do you guys use for drawing on maps and such?

I use Jasc Paint shop pro and diagram studio

try a google search for free photo illustrators...
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
977. hurricane10
8:14 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
hey what do you guys use for drawing on maps and such?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
976. Weather456
4:24 PM ADT on March 09, 2008
Based on model expected trends.....CI stands at 4.0

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
975. Tazmanian
12:22 PM PDT on March 09, 2008
Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service Chicago/Romeoville Illinois
209 PM CDT sun Mar 9 2008

a weekend snowstorm looms in the realm of possibility. Will
continue the dry trend into Saturday at this time...but keep watch
on the setup for a late winter storm
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
974. BahaHurican
1:53 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
968. Ivansrvivr 1:11 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
Uh, lin, Dr. Gray et al are in the ANTI-manmade global warming camp . . . .

SO AM I!!!!!

Kinda hard to blame his forecasts on global warming hype, then, isn't it?

Like I said before, the forecasts are valuable, but not so much (at least currently) as they are measurements of our understanding of what "causes" weather. This kind of long range forecasting is still very much a new science.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
973. BahaHurican
1:46 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
I do know that

1) la ninas typically weaken in the second year, but very strong ones may persist into a third season

2) in years where a la nina is weakening, the ATL tends to get an above-average # of storms, and there is a greater potential for storms to hit the US than when the la nina is strengthening. (Note last year's storms made landfall in Central America, mostly).

The current La Nina has had some pretty strong anomalies, and it has deepened despite some scientists' expectations that it would moderate. I think Gray et al's forecast for above average activity is not that far off. Whether the la nina weakens, and even how much it weakens, will influence how bad the season is.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
972. Patrap
12:24 PM CDT on March 09, 2008
UNYSIS 10-day GFSx shows the next Storm well..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 438 Comments: 136296
971. Patrap
12:23 PM CDT on March 09, 2008

Europe: Infrared satellite animation
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 438 Comments: 136296
970. TampaSpin
1:17 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
Do you know if another major winter system is suppose to loom next week.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
969. Weather456
1:38 PM ADT on March 09, 2008
Some more tropical Information.....

We have looked at forecasting tropical cyclone actvity
We have have llooked at sources of development
Now we come to the development.

Ingredients for development

a. Low wind shear in the vertical
b. High wind shear in the horizontal or high low level positive vorticity
c. Warm, deep sea surface temperatures
d. Tropospheric Humidity in the low to mid levels
e. Potentially Unstable Atmosphere/Rapid cooling with height
f. A Threshold Value of Earth's Vorticity (Coriolis parameter)
g. A low level disturbance (see above)
h. Upper tropospheric outflow
i. A large moist air mass extending 6 degrees from the disturbance

You need a low level disturbance inorder to get convergence started. As convergence increases, so does horizontal wind shear. When air spiral winwards in covers a larger surface area thus picking up more moisture. This will not occur if the Coriolis force is low (which is 0 at the equator and highest at the poles). The air flowing into the storm aquires warm moisture from the surronding atmopshere and the sea surface. As the air converge, they are finally force to rise. Air will continue to rise as along as the atmopshere remains unstable. The air condenses, releasing latent heat, which further causes air to rise aloft and generating more convergence at the surface. This forms a warm vertical column that enchances the rising motion further. The vertical coloumn becomes distrupted by high wind shear. The warm build up within the storm is finally vented in the upper troposphere in the form of outflow.

Signs of development
a. Convection has been initiated and has induce a mid-surface low
b. Area of thunderstorms have persisted and remain its identity for 24hrs
c. Development of a closed circulation (isobars become closer and more numerous)
d. Consolidation of convection around a vorticity center
e. Increase in low level wind speed
f. Decrease in surface pressure or heights in the vicinity of the disturbance
g. Signs of rotation seen on satellite
h. Increase in symmetrical organization of cloud clusters
i. Well-defined cloud system in association
j. Increase in low-mid level Theta-e or instability
k. Increase in latent heat of condensation or 200/100 mb temperature
l. Formation of cloud bands or banding features
m. Increasing and persistent convection near the centre (CDO)
n. Upper level outflow or development of outflow channels
o. Development of an upper level anticyclone
p. Organization of the eye wall
q. Formation and warming of an eye/shrinking eye
r. Upper divergence exceeds low level convergence
s. The surface level, 850mb, 700mb, 500mb and 300mb heights fall, while the 200mb and 100mb height rises.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
968. Ivansrvivr
5:10 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
Uh, lin, Dr. Gray et al are in the ANTI-manmade global warming camp . . . .

SO AM I!!!!!
967. Ivansrvivr
5:08 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
La Nina usually breaks up during early spring. This one is stubborn. The jury is still out on it's future, but If it weakens, look out come August!
964. BahaHurican
12:16 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
In this IR satpic from Oz's BoM, u can see two areas of interest, each affecting a different area of North Australia. 92P is approaching Queensland while 91S is over the Northern Territories.

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
963. BahaHurican
12:14 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
Current S Indian satpic.

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
962. BahaHurican
12:10 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
Thanks 456.

Well, I see they've named Kamba (finally). They must have been waiting for it to reach hurricane status. I also notice Jokwe didn't lose its hurricane status as previously forecast. It looks likely to hit Mozambique again, at it may actually survive as a hurricane until then.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
961. BahaHurican
12:05 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
Yes, 456, it's as grey UNDER those dirty looking clouds as it is looking at them from above. . .

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
960. Weather456
1:04 PM ADT on March 09, 2008
fixed it
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
959. Weather456
12:53 PM ADT on March 09, 2008
Webcams are one of the many tools use to prepare a synopsis. What is better than seeing the actually weather at hand. And it brings life to charts and texts.

This image was taken at Rocky Bay in the Bahamas...showing some surf and overcast skies....if I'm seeing correctly.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
958. BahaHurican
12:01 PM EDT on March 09, 2008
Morning JFV. What's the weather like post-front in your area? The frontal line is hanging about in the central Bahamas, and today it's somewhat overcast here.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
957. BahaHurican
11:56 AM EDT on March 09, 2008
952. lindenii 10:52 AM EDT on March 09, 2008

I don't believe that it is the forcasts per se that are being decried. It is the blatant bias, especially on the part of the global warming alarmists which drives their forcasts that is in serious question.

Uh, lin, Dr. Gray et al are in the ANTI-manmade global warming camp . . . .

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
956. latitude25
3:55 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
That's a really big picture 456! LOL

952. lindenii 2:52 PM GMT on March 09, 2008
Having a predisposition toward any one viewpoint brings with it the impression that a person
will tend to see only those things that confirm a taken position and minimize those things that do not.

Any thinking person can not help but see the humor in it.

We have the technology - if we act right now - to actually change the climate on this planet.


We do not have the technology to survive a 1/2 of a degree increase in temperature over the next several hundred years.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
954. BahaHurican
11:55 AM EDT on March 09, 2008
Morning, all.

Hey, 456, can you put a size on that photo? It's stretching the blog. Thanks.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 24778
953. Weather456
11:40 AM ADT on March 09, 2008


Weak surface ridging has established itself over the Southern United States and Gulf of Mexico following the passage of a cold frontal boundary. QuikSCAT and marine reports showed this feature is producing easterly flow between 10-20 knots and 3-7 ft easterly swells (South Padre Island Webcam). Meanwhile, scattered low clouds....remnant moisture...are seen rotating within this flow over much of the Gulf. Fair weather is seen elsewhere over Mexico and Southern United States.

A well define frontal band extends from the Caribbean, across Cuba and the Northern Bahamas and into the Western Atlantic through 25N/75W 30N/75W. Broken to overcast low clouds and light-moderate precipitation can be expected within 120 nmi of the front south of 25N...and within 78 nmi north of 25N. A rather deep ridging is ahead of the front with mid-upper dry air supporting surface partly cloudy to fair weather.


The big weather producer across the region is a cold front that is generating scattered to overcast cloudiness and possible showers over the Northwest Caribbean from the Gulf of Honduras/Belize to Western Cuba and the Northern Bahamas.

Meanwhile, the upper level pattern across the region consist of a large 250 hpa ridge centered near 12N/74W and a trough that dips into the Eastern Caribbean near Guadeloupe and extends to the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao). Abundant dry/stable air aloft...especially over the Eastern resulting in moderate to strong subsidence and fair weather dominates most of the basin with the exception of the northwestern corner. The weather will be further modified by patches of stratocumulus clouds that are invading the region south of the ridge. Trades continue to blow around 20 knots...increasing to 30 knots over the Southwest Caribbean. The other wind maxima exist over the Northwest Caribbean where a surge of northerlies is invading the area behind the front. Seas will be generally 6-7 ft, with 10-11 ft seas over the Southwest Caribbean and Yucatan Channel. Small craft should exercise caution.

by W456

Grand Anse Beach, Grenada

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076

Viewing: 1003 - 953

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26Blog Index

Top of Page

Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog


Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

Local Weather

44 °F

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Cedars Plastered by Snow
Snowstorm over Dunham Lake
Beech tree fall color in the U.P.
Altocumulus clouds over Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore beaver pond