Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.
By: Christopher C. Burt , 12:03 AM GMT on November 20, 2011
World and U.S. Lowest Barometric Pressure Records
In light of my previous blog on record extra-tropical cyclones, I thought I would follow up with a brief survey of world barometric pressure records (both high and low) in this blog just the low records. Next week I’ll post on the high-pressure records. Recent communication with Stephen Burt, an expert on this subject hailing from the United Kingdom, and Blair Trewin of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology have helped shed some light on this arcane subject.
World Record Minimum Pressure Readings: Tropical Storms
Of course (aside from estimates from tornadoes) the lowest pressures observed on earth have occurred during tropical cyclones, mostly those that have formed in the Western Pacific. The most commonly accepted figure as the world record is that observed during the peak intensity of Super Typhoon Tip when a reading of 870 mb (25.69”) on October 12, 1979 when the storm churned in open waters near the island of Guam. Another contender is an estimate, based on Dvorak intensity, during Cyclone Monica in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria. The U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated a pressure of 879 mb (25.96”) and perhaps as low as 869 mb (25.66”) based on the Dvorak intensity on April 23, 2006. These figures, however, are not accepted by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology that places a minimum pressure for the storm at 905 mb (26.72”) on the same date and location.
The lowest pressure actually measured in Australia was also 905 mb on the North Rankin A Gas Platform of the coast of Western Australia during Cyclone Orson on April 22, 1989.
Lowest Pressure Readings from Tropical Storms by Ocean Basin
Here is a summary of the lowest barometric pressures measured or estimated to have occurred in tropical storms by ocean basins:
World Record Minimum Pressure Readings: Extra-Tropical Storms
I just blogged on this topic but have received some new information from Stephen Burt and Blair Trewin and so summarize further here:
NORTHERN HEMISPHERE: There are apparently two contenders for the record lowest pressure established in the northern hemisphere. 1) Storm of January 10, 1993 deepened to a central pressure of 912-915 mb (26.93”-27.02”) between Iceland and Scotland near 62°N 15°W and, 2) Storm of December 15-16, 1986 deepened to at least 916 mb south-east of Greenland near 62°N 32°W. A ship in the vicinity actually made a measurement of 920.2 mb on December 15th while still some distance from the center of the storm. The British Meteorological Office assessed the central pressure of the storm at this time as being 916 mb (27.05”) but the West German meteorological service proposed a pressure possibly as low as 912-913 mb (see Stephen Burt article in Weather magazine Vol. 42 pp. 53-56, February 1987).
Surface chart for 0000Z on December 15, 1986 showing the intense cyclone at its deepest southeast of Greenland. The isobars are drawn for every 4 mb. Chart courtesy of Stephen Burt.
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE: Barometric records for the many intense storms that develop in seas surrounding Antarctica are hard to come by and difficult to assess for accuracy. Blair Trewin of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology relates a value of 919 mb (27.14”) from Casey station on the Windmill Islands (just outside the Antarctic Circle) on Vincennes Bay (66°17’S 110° 31’ E) on August 8-9, 1976. However, this is considerably lower than any other value on record and may very well be an instrument fault although he states “the values are internally consistent with readings below 940 mb from 1600 local time on August 8th to 0700 on August 9th”.
Aside from this remarkable figure the lowest other readings from the region include 934 mb (27.59”) at Halley Bay, Antarctica on Aug. 11, 1994, 942 mb (27.82”) at Grytviken on South Georgia Island (54° 16’S 36° 30’W) sometime between 1929-1964, and 945.1 mb (28.17”) at Campbell Island located about halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica (52°S 69°W) on July 18, 1982.
Some National Low Barometric Pressure Readings
This data is hard to come by for most countries in the world. Here is a potted list (excluding the U.S.A. which I’ll cover separately after this list):
Surface chart of the cyclone that resulted in the lowest barometric pressure ever measured in the United Kingdom; 925.6 mb at Ochtertyre in Scotland on January 26, 1884. Chart courtesy of Stephen Burt.
United States Lowest Barometric Pressure Records
The lowest pressure ever measured anywhere in the United States (either as a result of a tropical or extra-tropical storm) was a reading of 892 mb (26.34”) at Matecumbe Key, Florida during the Great Labor Day Hurricane of September 2, 1935, the most intense hurricane ever to strike the United States. Here is a list of the lowest pressure readings for extra-tropical storms in the United States by region:
ALASKA: 925 mb (27.31”) Dutch Harbor on 10/25/1977
*LOWER 48 STATES: 952 mb (28.10”) Bridgehampton, New York on 3/3/1914
MIDWEST: 955.2 mb (28.21”) Big, Fork, Minnesota on 10/26/2010
OHIO VALLEY: 956 mb (28.23”) Mount Clemens, Michigan 1/26/1978
WEST COAST: 962 mb (28.40”) Quillayute, Washington on 12/1/1987
*This reading is not accepted as official by the NCDC. They post the lowest extra-tropical official pressure readings in the lower 48 states to have occurred on two occasions and places: 955 mb (28.20”) at Nantucket, Massachusetts on March 7, 1932 and also at Canton, New York on January 13, 1913.
Barometric Pressure Records for Select U.S. Cities
For those interested in details of barometric pressure records (high and low) for about 80 U.S. cities click this link to see a Word document with such.
Next week I will cover world and United States record anti-cyclone (high pressure) records. I’m sure you can’t wait.
Christopher C. Burt
KUDOS: Special thanks to Stephen Burt of the U.K. (see references below) and Blair Trewin of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
REF: For details on pressure records of the British Isles see Stephen Burt’s two articles:
“The Lowest of the Lows: Extremes of Pressure in the British Isles” Weather Vol. 62 No.1, Jan 2007 and “The Highest of the Highs” Weather Vol. 62 No.2, Feb. 2007
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