Weather Extremes

Late Season Tropical Storms that have affected the U.S. north of Hatteras

By: weatherhistorian, 8:26 PM GMT on October 26, 2012

Late Season Tropical Storms that have affected the U.S. north of Hatteras

As it appears increasingly likely that a ‘Frankenstorm’ may hit the U.S. coast somewhere between Delaware and Maine between October 29th and November 1st I thought I would take a look back and see what other late season storms of this nature and magnitude have previously affected the region.

The Great Storm of October 29, 1693: Virginia to Long Island

A tremendous storm, possibly tropical in origin, changed the course of rivers and modified the coastline from the Delmarva Peninsula to Long Island. It is believed that Fire Island (just east of New York City) was bisected by the storm. The same apparently occurred to many coastal portions of the Delmarva Peninsula and region around Chesapeake Bay.

The Benjamin Franklin ’Eclipse’ Hurricane of November 2, 1743: New Jersey to Maine

David M. Ludlum in his classic book ‘Early American Hurricanes: 1492-1870’ (American Meteorological Society, 1963) said this about the storm:

The storm that raced northward along the Atlantic Coast on November 2, 1743 deserves a unique place in the annals of American meteorology. Not only was this the first tropical storm in America to be measured accurately by scientific instruments, but it also provided Benjamin Franklin with a key to unlock for the first time the secret of a storm’s forward movement.

Franklin noted that in Philadelphia the barometer fell to 29.35” (994 mb) and the damage done both on land and at sea was “the worst in [20] years”. The same was said in Boston where a storm surge overwhelmed the city wharves and flooded the streets of the city. Storm surge flooding was also reported at Piscataqua and damage was reported inland at Newbury, New Hampshire. It has been called the ‘Eclipse Hurricane’ because it occurred during the night of a total lunar eclipse (which Franklin was disappointed to miss because of the storm’s cloud cover). However, Franklin noted the times that the storm struck at various locations between Philadelphia and Boston and the change in prevailing wind directions and thus was able to discern how the path of a storm and its wind circulations were related.

Great New England Hurricane of October 23-24, 1761

A possibly major hurricane struck Rhode Island and southeast Massachusetts on October 23-24, 1761. It was said to be the worst storm in Boston since the great hurricane of 1727 and many buildings were destroyed and bridges washed out from Providence to Newport, Rhode Island and north to Boston and across Cape Cod. John Winthrop in Boston measured a barometric pressure of 29.57” (1001 mb) when the storm was at Force 1 but failed to note the pressure when the storm reached is full fury of Force 4, the highest rating on the storm severity scale he used at that time.

Cape Cod Storm of November 1, 1778

A presumed tropical storm brushed Cape Cod on this date and 50 to 70 lives were lost, mostly maritime. Little more is known about this storm. The death toll, however, ranks it as one of the top 20 deadliest late-season tropical storms in U.S. history.

The ‘Expedition’ Hurricane of November 2-3, 1861: Cape Hatteras to Boston

The name of this hurricane is a result of a Federal Army fleet “the largest fleet of war ships and transports ever assembled” that was set to sail from Fort Monroe inside the entrance of Chesapeake Bay south around Cape Hatteras and attack Confederate coastal forts in South Carolina and Georgia. The fleet set sail on October 29th. On November 2nd, just as the fleet was rounding Cape Hatteras, a hurricane struck. A fort on Cape Hatteras beach itself saw the water rise and cover the entire island strip leaving the fort the only site above water. Four sentry’s drowned here and two of the fleet vessels sunk with an unknown loss of life.

Further north the storm overwhelmed New York City’s waterfront with the storm surge extending five blocks inland on Broad Street as far as Beaver Street. The eye of the storm seems to have passed inland around the Rhode Island/Connecticut border judging by a wind shift to the SE at Providence and Boston. The ship Maritania, sailing from Liverpool to Boston, ran onto rocks just east of Boston Light and 22 passengers and crew were lost. A total of 33 lives were lost during this storm according to NHC archives.

Hurricane of October 30, 1866

Little is known about this storm and, in fact, it may be an error since mention of it only appears in Dunn and Miller’s book (see references at end of blog). They designated it a “major” hurricane (meaning winds of 101-135 mph in their classification system) affecting the southeastern New England coast with “very high tides”. Ludlum has no mention of this storm in his book.

Hurricane of October 23-25, 1878 ‘The Great Gale’: Hatteras to New England

This was a very intense tropical storm that inflicted major damage from Virginia to Maine. Winds of 120 mph were measured on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, 100 mph at Cape Lookout, and 82 mph in Portsmouth, North Carolina. The barometer fell to 28.82” (976 mb) in Washington D.C. where the eye passed over. The path of the storm was similar to Hazel in 1954. 71 fatalities were reported as a direct result of the storm although it is unclear how many of these were maritime in nature. 700 buildings were reported destroyed in Pennsylvania where 50 churches also lost their steeples. This storm is the most recent, intense, late-season tropical storm to affect the mid-Atlantic region.

Two graphics illustrating what the Great Gale of 1878 might have looked like synoptically when it was centered over Washington D.C. on October 24th (top) and what its path (bottom) was from its inception in the Caribbean Sea on October 18th. Both images from Wikipedia commons.

Halloween Hurricane of October 31, 1899

A rare late season tropical storm that caused minor damage swept up the coastline from Hatteras to Nova Scotia.

20th Century Late Season Tropical Storms North of Hatteras worthy of Mention

Here is a (very) brief list of significant tropical storms that have impacted the Hatteras-Maine coasts since 1900. One of these did not actually make landfall but passed close enough to cause damage to the region. It appears that no significant tropical storm has struck the Atlantic Coast north of Cape Hatteras after October 25th since 1904. However, the so called ‘Frankenstorm’ may no longer be considered a tropical storm by the time it reaches the mid-Atlantic coast and it is difficult to say if that may also have been the case for some of the examples listed in this blog.

November 13-14, 1904 This hurricane skirted the coastline and made landfall on Nova Scotia. Barometric pressure readings fell to 29.08” at Cape Hatteras, 29.00” at Norfolk, Virginia, 28.74” in New York City, and 28.60” (968 mb) in Nova Scotia. A wind gust of 78 mph was measured on Block Island, Rhode Island. Damage was minor.

October 23-24, 1923 A hurricane hit the coast at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and moved due north inland to Ontario, Canada (much Like Hazel in October 1954). Highest wind gust reported was 82 mph at Atlantic City, New Jersey. Damage from the storm was minimal.

December 2-3. 1925 I mention this storm since it is probably the latest tropical storm to ever affect the coast north of Cape Hatteras. It crossed over the Florida Peninsula on November 30-December 1st and again over Cape Hatteras on December 2nd and then headed out to sea off the Delmarva Peninsula on December 3rd. Atlantic City reported wind gusts to 64 mph. Little damage was noted with the storm although two deaths were reported.


If ‘Frankenstorm’ pans out to be as powerful and odd as the models currently forecast, then it may be said that this storm will be unique in the annals of American weather history.

The storm may be unique because of:

1) Its strength for a tropical-originated storm to impact the mid-Atlantic and/or New England regions at this late time of the season (after the last week of October or thereafter). This would hold true if the forecast minimum pressure falls to 955 mb (28.20”) or lower as it approaches the mid-Atlantic coast on Monday or Tuesday.

2) The potential curvature of the storm track from well offshore at the 37°-40° latitude and then perhaps turn west and barrel into the mid-Atlantic coastline. It is extremely rare for any storm (tropical or extra-tropical) to move westward at this latitude and make landfall in New Jersey or Delaware. Remember that there are only about three known instances of a hurricane or strong tropical storm to ever make landfall in New Jersey or Delaware at any time of the year.

3) Whether the storm is officially tropical or extra-tropical, no storm like this (if the current models are correct) has yet been observed in the records of modern meteorology.


Early American Hurricanes: 1492-1870 David M. Ludlum, American Meteorological Society, 1963

Hurricanes: Their Nature and History Ivan Ray Tannehill, Princeton University Press, 7 editions 1938-1950

Atlantic Hurricanes Gordon E. Dunn and Banner I. Miller, Louisiana State University Press, 1964

National Hurricane Center web site.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Tropical Storms

Updated: 12:51 AM GMT on October 27, 2012


The Top 12 Most Unusual Weather-related Photographs

By: weatherhistorian, 8:37 PM GMT on October 19, 2012

The Top 12 Most Unusual Weather-related Photographs

It’s been a relatively slow week weather-wise so I thought I’d take this opportunity to showcase some of the most unusual photographs ever taken of weather events. The selection is not a collection of the most beautiful (four of them are black and white) or spectacular weather images but rather a selection of very rare photographs mostly taken by amateurs that happened to be in the right place at the right time. Even professional weather photographers could probably never replicate most of them. Here they are in no particular order.

1. This is an image no one would be happy to replicate. Two seconds after Mary McQuilken snapped this shot of her brothers posing on top of Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, California a powerful lightning bolt struck them. A hiker just outside the frame was killed and Sean (on the left) eventually also died from complications associated with his injuries. Michael McQuilken (on the right) survived. The family was hiking in the Sierra Nevada during August 1975 when the incident occurred. Photo by Mary McQuilken.

2. There have been thousands of fantastic tornado photographs and videos but none quite like this one. It is the nonchalance of Audra Thomas as an F1 tornado swirls a mile away towards her family farm (in the background) that makes it so unusual. She looks like she was posing in front of the Statue of Liberty or such. In fact, the tornado did cut across the farm and destroyed a barn structure on the property. The scene took place south of Beaver City, Nebraska in April 1989. Photo by Audra’s mother, Marrilee Thomas.

3. Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR waterspouts churn simultaneously in the Mediterranean Sea near Cyprus in this extraordinary image! I don’t ever recall a photo or video showing more than three funnels in formation at the same time. I have not been able to find much information about this event (date or specific location). Photo by Roberto Giudice.

4. Photos of individual hailstones tend to be pretty boring, even if they are monsters like the Vivian, South Dakota 7” record-holder. Unfortunately, no one seems to have ever bothered to take a good photograph of the landscape littered with, say 5-7” diameter, hailstones before. There have, however, been several fascinating images of great hail accumulations but none that can beat this. Here hail cliffs some 15 feet high were formed in a wash near Clayton, New Mexico following a hailstorm on August 13, 2004. The hail was swept into the creek by heavy rain and backed up behind a clogged culvert. This photo was taken, I believe, the following day after the creek cut a path through the hail accumulation. The banks of hail resemble a glacier front!. Photo by Barbara Podzemny.

5. The ‘pole of cold’ region in northeastern Siberia is the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth, especially the region centered around Oymyakon and Verkhoyansk where January temperatures average around -65°F. During the Soviet era children underwent ultraviolet treatment to make up for the long, dark, and cold Siberian winters with the consequent lack of sunlight. I am not sure if this practice is still in use. Photo by professional photographer Mark S. Wexler.

6. This macabre photograph was taken in a cemetery in northwest Arkansas following a devastating ice storm on January 27-28, 2009. The ice accumulated up to 1-2” thick on most surfaces. The crushed trees in the background, the Washington Monument-like obelisk, and the colorful flower offerings all come together to create an image that is not only awesome but also fraught with iconic symbols. Photo by professional photographer Mike Hollingshead.

7. Snow rollers are very rare phenomena that only occur when the weather conditions are just right: fresh sticky snowfall (not to wet and not to dry), high winds, and a large open space for them to form (not necessarily on a hill like above). Although there are many fairly decent photographs of large snow rollers (they have been known to grow up to 4 feet in diameter) nobody aside from Mr. Hagerman seems to have had the presence of mind to place a human in the image to give it perspective. These giant snow rollers formed in Vermont’s Lamoille River Valley in February 1973. Photo by Ronald L. Hagerman.

8. While I’m on the subject of snow, I couldn’t resist to include this unique photograph. The Great Blizzard of January 1977 in the Buffalo, New York region was so intense that wind gusts up to hurricane speed smashed windows in homes allowing the up to 70” of snow accumulations and drifts 20 to 30 feet deep to penetrate into the living spaces of unfortunate victims of the storm. The blizzard and the entire winter of 1976-1977 were so extreme that some climate scientists at the time believed it was the beginning of a new ‘Little Ice Age’. Photographs like this helped reinforce that idea. Photo by Dino Innandrea and first reproduced in a book about the ‘Buffalo Blizzard’ titled ‘White Death’ by Erno Rossi.

9. Time for a couple of extraordinary cloud formation images. This one is of a twin lenticular cloud formation over peaks in the Omataco Mountains near Otjiwarongo, Namibia in Africa. The event occurred in February 2004. Although there are many fantastic lenticular cloud photos around (some much prettier than this one), I can’t recall ever seeing a photo of two side-by-side peaks experiencing almost identical clouds forming simultaneously. Photo by Viveca Venegas.

10. Like lenticular clouds, there have also been many thousands of extraordinary photos of super cell or other thunderstorm-related cloud formations. However, this particular image takes the cake in my opinion. It is of a super cell that formed over southern Nebraska in June 2011. As photographer Mike Hollingshead said “At times this storm looked like a giant tsunami in the sky.”. Photo by Mike Hollingshead. You may have noticed that two of the images in this blog collection were by Mike Hollingshead. Mike recently had the tornado cover shot in the September 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine. To view more of his amazing work see his web site.

11. Birds at sea sometimes become trapped in the eye of a hurricane or typhoon and seek refuge on the decks of passing ships that are also in the eye of the storm. This is what happened in the case above when, in August 1926, the S.S. West Quechee sailed through a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. I know of no other photograph of this phenomenon. Photographer unknown. Image from Ivan Ray Tannehill’s classic ‘Hurricanes: Their Nature and History’, Princeton Univ. Press, 1938.

12. Perhaps a strange choice to finish with, but it is interesting for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the photograph was taken in Lincoln, Nebraska on the night of July 25, 1936 when the minimum temperature fell to only 91°F in Lincoln. This was the hottest night ever experienced anywhere in United States recorded history outside of the desert Southwest (although a minimum of 92° was reported at Leavenworth, Kansas on August 10, 1934 but is suspicious). As the day progressed the temperature rose to an all-time record of 115°F in Lincoln. The second reason the photo is interesting is that, without air-conditioning, people spent the night sleeping on the lawn of the state capital building in Lincoln. This is a sight not likely ever to be seen again in the United States—at least due to a weather condition. Photographer unknown. Image from the Nebraska State Historical Society.

BTW: The community has posted hundreds of thousands of amazing photographs over the years on our web site and so, to make my dozen selections a ‘baker’s dozen’ here is my favorite yet posted:

13. It gets cold in Fairbanks, Alaska every year but last January (2012) saw temps fall to -50°F officially in the city and wunderground photographer Terezka Sunshine posted this joyful image on January 29th. Fairbanks has seen temperatures as low as -66°F (on January 14, 1934) but it may take some time before this jump can be captured at an even colder temperature again. Photo by Terezka Sunshine.

P.S. The one rarest of all weather phenomena that has NEVER been reliably photographed is ball lightning. Science knows this event does occur, there are many reliable eyewitness accounts. However, the numerous existing images purporting to be ball lightning are, without exception, unverifiable and easy to explain as the result of camera optics, fireworks, or hoaxes. Like my first image of the boys about to be struck by lightning, most ball lightning events occur over a matter of seconds so it is an event that could only be captured by pure chance. The best hope is that a surveillance video camera may some day capture this uber-rare event.

NOTE: Many of the photographs above can be found in my book which is still available on However, the book is now out of print and the remaining copies are about to be pulped by my publisher. So if you would like a copy, order soon!

KUDOS: To all the photographers that had the presence of mind to capture these unique images.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Photography

Updated: 12:07 AM GMT on October 20, 2012


50th Anniversary of the Columbus Day Storm

By: weatherhistorian, 7:34 PM GMT on October 12, 2012

50th Anniversary of the Columbus Day Storm of October 12, 1962

Today, October 12th, marks the 50th anniversary of the ‘Big Blow’ as the intense extra-tropical storm that hit the Pacific Northwest on October 12, 1962 is knick-named. This storm ranked as one of the deadliest and most destructive in that region’s and United States history. Here is summary of the storm.


On October 4, 1962 a tropical storm in the western Pacific named Frieda reached typhoon status near Wake Island. Frieda’s winds peaked the following day at 115 mph sustained. The typhoon drifted north and east in to the cool waters of the north-central Pacific where the storm lost its tropical characteristics and merged with an extra-tropical low that was moving east well south of Alaska. At the same time a strong subtropical jet looped along to the south of the surface low and fed additional moisture into the system. The cyclone moved to the southeast to a point about 300 miles west of the central California coast by October 11-12. At this point the storm intensified rapidly and began to move northeasterly along the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

The track of the Columbus Day storm from its inception as a typhoon on October 3 to the time it made landfall as a powerful extra-tropical storm on Vancouver Island, Canada on October 13th. The storm became extra-tropical in the West Pacific on October 9th. USWB chart reproduced in Weatherwise magazine’s December 1962 issue.

Surface weather map for 4 p.m. PST, about the time the weather station in Corvallis, Oregon was abandoned (see below). Map from Weatherwise magazine December 1962 p. 239.

It is interesting to note that this is not synoptically the same type of event that normally brings powerful storms to the Pacific Northwest and California; the so-called pineapple expresses that result in a long fetch of moisture from the Hawaiian Islands to the U.S. west coast. The pineapple expresses almost always occur during the winter months whereas intense October storms are often associated with decaying ex-typhoons (the most recent example being on October 13, 2009).

The Storm

The Columbus Day Storm of October 12, 1962 is also known as the ‘Big Blow’ as a result of the intense winds associated with the storm. In fact, no other storm (at least since the famous ‘Storm King of January 1880) has ever produced winds on the scale of this event in Oregon or Washington history. Some 15 billion board feet of timber was lost in the two states (enough wood to build 300,000 homes) and 6000 trees were blown down in the city of Portland, Oregon alone. Unfortunately, we can only estimate what the peak wind gusts may have been since the weather stations that measured the top wind speeds were literally blown apart prior to the storm peaking in intensity. The anemometer at Cape Blanco, on the southern Oregon coast and usually one of the windiest locations on the Pacific coastline, hit 145 mph before failing. The observers estimated that the wind gusts increased to up to 175 mph at the height of the storm. The NWS station in Corvallis (in the Willamette Valley) measured a gust of 110 knots (127 mph) before the site began to be blown apart. The observers were forced to abandon the station, something that has never before or since occurred anywhere in the West as a result of a wind event.

The log sheet from the Corvallis, Oregon weather bureau site where the station was forced to be abandoned at 4:15 p.m. (PST) on October 12th following wind gusts of 110 knots (127 mph). USWB.

Below is a map of the maximum observed wind gusts observed from northern California to Canada during the storm.

A map produced by storm historian Wolf Read illustrating the top observed wind gusts at various locations from northern California to Washington. Graphic from Wolf Read’s definitive work on the Columbus Day Storm The Big Blow of Columbus Day 1962.

The storm reached its maximum intensity when it was located about 50-100 miles off the northern Oregon coast. Astoria, Oregon (at the moth of the Columbia River) recorded the lowest measured surface barometric pressure with a reading of 28.61” (969 mb) at 7 p.m. on October 12th. The pressure in the center of the storm was estimated to have fallen as low as 28.34” (960 mb) at this time. Although lower pressures than this occurred during the great Storm of December 1995, the winds were considerably stronger in 1962 because of a tighter pressure gradient and faster intensification of the 1962 storm compared to that of 1995. In fact, no storm has ever in modern history produced winds so strong in the entire Willamette Valley and Portland (where a gust to 116 mph was measured on the Morrison Street Bridge).

Barometric trace for Astoria, Oregon on October 12, 1962. At the time, the reading of 28.61” was the 2nd lowest such reading ever measured at Astoria after a 28.45” reading set during the ‘Storm King’ of January 1880. Graphic by Wolf Read.

Damage from the storm was experienced as far south as the San Francisco Bay Area where torrential rains were the most notable aspect although wind gusts to 63 mph were reported at the airport. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, 20 miles south of San Francisco, Ben Lomond recorded 14.10” in one 24-hour period on October 12-13. This remains the greatest 24-hour rainfall during October in California history. Oakland picked up 4.52” in one 24-hour period (an October record) and the water works in the village of Orinda (just over the hill from Oakland) received an astonishing 18.41” over the two-day period of storm rainfall (a once in 6500 year period of return rainfall according to the California Dept. of Water Resources). Landslides in the Oakland Hills destroyed numerous structures and killed 2 children. Forbestown, in northern California near the Feather River, had the greatest 3-day precipitation total of any location in the Pacific Northwest with 25.78”.

The Big Blow topples the Campbell Hall Tower on the campus of Western Oregon State College in Monmouth near Salem where 90 mph wind gusts were measured. Photo by Wes Luchau.

Altogether, at least 46 deaths were attributed to the storm in Oregon and Washington and a further 2 to 8 in California. Damage was estimated to total $235 million ($1.7 billion in 2012 dollars) and some 53,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. It was the third deadliest weather-related disaster in Washington-Oregon history (after the Heppner, Oregon flash flood of 1903 which killed 247 and the Cascade avalanche near Wellington, Washington in 1910 that killed 96). The second deadliest storm of the ‘Columbus Day’ nature was that which occurred on October 21, 1934 when 22 lives were lost in Washington (mostly) and Oregon.


In terms of impact on communities in the Pacific Northwest no other storm has ever produced as much devastation as the Columbus Day storm of 1962.


Read, Wolf The Big Blow of Columbus Day 1962 Online perspective. See for the article.

Lynott R.E., and Cramer O.P., ‘Detailed Analysis of the Columbus Day Windstorm in Oregon and Washington’ Monthly Weather Review February 1966 pp. 105-117

Decker F.W. and Cramer O.P.,‘The Columbus Day ‘Big Blow’ in Oregon’ Weatherwise magazine December 1962 pp. 238-245.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extra-tropical Storms

Updated: 1:06 AM GMT on October 13, 2012


September 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By: weatherhistorian, 4:27 AM GMT on October 06, 2012

September 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary

September featured two major Category 5 Super Typhoons in the West Pacific, a tremendous extra-tropical storm in the United Kingdom and some horrific wild fires in Spain. A new national all-time heat record may have been set in Venezuela and some record rainfalls in Pakistan led to floods that drowned hundreds.

Below is a summary some of the month’s highlights.


The month began with an unseasonably strong low-pressure system (970 mb) in the Gulf of Alaska bringing damaging winds to the Anchorage area. Wind gusts of 88 mph (142 km/h) were measured at McHugh Creek in the Turnagain Arm area and 63 mph at Anchorage Airport. Some 55,000 homes lost power during the storm.

The month was generally a quiet one in the lower 48 states. Two weak tornados moved across sections of Queens in New York City on September 8th damaging a yacht club and several residences.

One of the two tornados that traversed a portion of Queens, New York on September 8th. It was originally a waterspout that came ashore at Breezy Point just west of Rockaway Beach. Photo from CNN.

The drought situation across the country stabilized with about 65% of the country under drought conditions with 10% (in the Plains and Midwest) suffering exceptional drought conditions.

It was the coolest September on record for San Francisco with an average temperature of just 58.1°F/14.5°C (previous record was 58.3°F/14.6°C in 1962). This was about 4°F below normal (September is usually the city’s warmest month of the year). The month, however, was warmer than normal in southern California and Death Valley reported its warmest September on record with a 96.3°F (35.7°C) average (previous record was 95.7°F/35.4°C in 1915). On September 8th and 9th the temperature peaked at 119°F (48.3°C), the warmest temperature recorded anywhere in the world during the past month.

The coldest temperature in the northern hemisphere for the month was -44.3°C (-47.7°F) at Summit GEO AWS, Greenland on September 30th. In spite of this cold reading, the Arctic ice sheet was reduced to its smallest size on record (since 1975) by the middle of the month.


An intense cold front swept across Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay on September 15-17 producing violent and destructive thunderstorms. Hail up to 3” in diameter was reported with some of the storms in Brazil with wind gusts to 172 km/hr (107 mph). At least five deaths were attributed to the storms. Prior to the front’s passage record heat gripped the region. All-time maximum temperatures were set at San Matias, Bolivia hit 42.3°C (108.1°F); Corumba, Brazil 42.2°C (108.0°F); and Poxoreu, Brazil 40.5°C (104.9°F). Villamontes, Bolivia recorded 43.1°C (109.6°F) on September 14th (the hottest temperature measured in the southern hemisphere during the month). Amazingly, snow was observed following the cold front’s passage in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina where temperatures fell to -5.6°C on the Planalto Serrano around 1800 m (6000’) elevation.

Venezuela recorded its hottest national temperature on record on September 29th when a reading of 41.4°C (106.5°F) was measured at Coro. The previous national record was 41.0°C at Maracaibo in August 1991.


A very powerful extra-tropical storm impacted the British Isles September 23-26. The highest wind gust reported was 72 mph (116 km/h) at Inverbervie, Scotland on the 25th and the greatest 24-hour rainfall reported was 97.8 mm (3.85”) at Ravensworth, North Yorkshire) on September 24-25. The high winds caused considerable tree and roof damage in Scotland, especially in the Aberdeen area.

Sea foam inundates coastal Aberdeen in Scotland during the ferocious storm of September 23-25 that saw winds gust to 70 mph (110 km/h) in the city. Image from a video still, BBC News.

The temperature extremes for the U.K. during September ranged from a high of 29.3°C (84.7°F) at Writtle, Essex on the 9th to -4.1°C (24.6°F) at Braemar, Scotland on the 23rd.

In France, the weather extremes of the summer (cold and wet in June to mid-July followed by record-breaking heat and drought in August) have decimated the nation’s grape crops and caused wine production to fall to its lowest level in 40 years. Especially hard hit has been the Champagne region. Expect an expensive New Year’s celebration this year.

Wild fires in Spain have burned 1600 square kilometers (615 sq. miles) so far this year with some of the worst fires occurring this past September that was also the driest September on record for the country. About 25 lives have so far been lost.


A deadly flash flood ripped through Adamawa State in northeastern Nigeria on September 15th drowning at least 70. The flood was blamed on heavy rains that forced the breaching of a dam on the Benue River in neighboring Cameroon.


The most powerful typhoon in two years, Super Typhoon Sanba formed in the Western Pacific in mid-September. The storm’s central pressure bottomed out at 900 mb (26.58”) on September 15th and its winds peaked at 175 mph (282 km/h) sustained with gusts to 200 mph (322 km/h). The storm struck Okinawa with wind gusts measured to 155 mph (250 km/h). Fortunately, Sanba weakened prior to making landfall in South Korea where two deaths were reported.

A huge wave smashes into a sea wall in Yeosu City, South Korea as Sanba made landfall nearby on September 17th. Photo from AFP.

Just a week later Super Typhoon Jelawat formed with sustained winds peaking at 155 mph (250 km/h). Okinawa was again directly struck y the storm with wind gusts to 132 mph (212 km/h) reported. The storm eventually passed over Japan’s Honshu Island but only as a strong tropical storm. Tokyo reported wind gusts as high as 70 mph (110 km/h).

The monsoon season, which finally kicked in over portions of India and Pakistan during September bringing, for the most part, beneficial, rains to the region. Jacobabad, Pakistan had only measured 3.2 mm (0.13”) for all of July and August but on September 13-14th a record deluge of 448 mm (17.64”) fell on the city. Of this, 304 mm (11.97”) fell in just 24 hours, an all-time record for the site. Floods in Pakistan claimed at least 450 lives during the month. Flash floods also affected Sikkim in northeastern India resulting in the deaths of at least 30 in the province.


It was a warm month for the country with the national average maximum temperatures being the 3rd highest for a September in the past 63 years. Precipitation was above normal in the north and below normal in the south.

Maximum temperature deciles for Australia during September (top). It was the 3rd warmest for such in 63 years. Precipitation deciles cane seen on the map above. Maps courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The warmest temperature for the month was 41.9°C (107.4°F) at Curtin Aero, Western Australia on September 23rd and the coldest -9.0°C (15.8°F) at Cooma, New South Wales on September on September 2nd. The greatest calendar rainfall was 97.0 mm (3.82”) at Thredbo Village, New South Wales on Sept. 29th.


New Zealand’s temperature extremes during September ranged from a high of 25.5°C (77.9°F) at Waiau, South Island on September 30th to a low of -8.1°C (17.4F) at Mt. Ruapehu, North Island on September 13th. The greatest calendar day rainfall was 165 mm (6.50”) at Milford Sound on September 14th.


The coldest temperature in the southern hemisphere and the world during September was -84.2°C (-119.6°F) recorded at Vostok on September 16th. This will almost certainly also end up being the coldest temperature measured on earth for the year 2012.

KUDOS Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for global temperature extremes data and Jeremy Budd and NIWA for New Zealand weather extremes.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather

Updated: 7:25 PM GMT on October 06, 2012


Weather Extremes

About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.