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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

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


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
BTW, just for the record on the " no more a professional scientist in the field than I am" statement. :)

Dr. Actually he doesn't have any scientific qualifications on climate change. No meteorology qualifications. No climatology qualifications or education. He is a missle designer. That's it.


I would respectfully suggest that all scientific and engineering disciplines must have voice in the GW debate. Continuous discussions add clarification for all and moves the science forward. All minds are opened and more a better information becomes available for all. And yes, there will be on going discussions, discussions that will be fruitful for all.

However, some have less to offer than others as noted in this recent story;

" Bin Laden blasts US for climate change, calls for boycott of US goods, dollars

2 hours, 55 minutes ago

By Salah Nasrawi, The Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt - Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has called for the world to boycott American goods and the U.S. dollar, blaming the United States and other industrialized countries for global warming, according to a new audiotape released Friday.
In the tape, broadcast in part on Al-Jazeera television, bin Laden warned of the dangers of climate change and says that the way to stop it is to bring "the wheels of the American economy" to a halt.
He blamed Western industrialized nations for hunger, desertification and floods across the globe, and called for "drastic solutions" to global warming, and "not solutions that partially reduce the effect of climate change."
Bin Laden has mentioned climate change and global warning in past messages, but the latest tape was his first dedicated to the topic. The speech, which included almost no religious rhetoric, could be an attempt by the terror leader to give his message an appeal beyond Islamic militants.
The al-Qaida leader also targeted the U.S. economy in the recording, calling for a boycott of American products and an end to the dollar's domination as a world currency.
"We should stop dealings with the dollar and get rid of it as soon as possible," he said. "I know that this has great consequences and grave ramifications, but it is the only means to liberate humanity from slavery and dependence on America."
He argued that such steps would also hamper Washington's war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The new message, whose authenticity could not immediately be confirmed, comes after a bin Laden tape released last week in which he endorsed a failed attempt to blow up an American airliner on Christmas Day."

Yikes !!
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Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Glad to see that it is used, this blog is a great resource
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The Portlight Auction House is OPEN!!!!!!!!

:)
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Actually he doesn't have any scientific qualifications on climate change. No meteorology qualifications. No climatology qualifications or education. He is a missle designer. That's it.


JF originally said: "He is no more a professional scientist in the field than I am."

This guy is physics. Those laws do apply across all fields of science. I do concur that this fellow has no formal climatological education, apparently, but seems well-equipped to handle the physics.

And, yes, is a bit closer to a professional scientist in the field than JF...
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Quoting tornadodude:


well like research papers, things like that


Oh, you mean like for papers on human behavior in a non face to face environment. ;)

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Quoting PcolaDan:


???? any works?


well like research papers, things like that
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Quoting tornadodude:
I wonder if anyone ever references this blog for any works


???? any works?
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Ugh... another country plans manned space exploration while we back away from it...

India Plans Manned Space Mission
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I wonder if anyone ever references this blog for any works
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Quoting IKE:
And some will come on here and agree with him blaming the US for GW. Which will lead to more arguments and bans....get ready! he-he.
It is intresting because he agrees with the science and is also against the oil industrie from arab countrys. Which as pointed out here
http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/13/foreign-oil-tea/
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Quoting PcolaDan:


As I'm sure you well know though, nothing works on ice. Was just wondering though. Through middle Tennessee could be, uhhhh, challenging.


you underestimate us Indiana drivers haha but yeah, should be interesting, although I think the interstate will be the best bet by far
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Quoting tornadodude:


doubt it, but we have a newer 4 wheel drive truck lol


As I'm sure you well know though, nothing works on ice. Was just wondering though. Through middle Tennessee could be, uhhhh, challenging.
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Quoting AussieStorm:
TC OLGA IS BACK
What a strange storm system it is.Thanks for the updates Aussie.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Is it going to be gone by the time you leave?


doubt it, but we have a newer 4 wheel drive truck lol
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715. XLR8
Quoting IKE:
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MEMPHIS TN
932 AM CST FRI JAN 29 2010

.UPDATE...HAVE UPGRADED THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY ACROSS A
PORTION OF NORTH MISSISSIPPI...AND REMAINDER OF COUNTIES ACROSS
NORTH MISSISSIPPI TO A WINTER STORM WARNING THROUGH 12Z SATURDAY.
METAR OBSERVATIONS AND SPOTTER REPORTS ACROSS NORTH MISSISSIPPI
IN THE 60 TO 90 MINUTES HAVE BEEN IN THE FORM OF SLEET/FREEZING
RAIN. AT THIS TIME THINK...AREAS IN NORTH MISSISSIPPI HAVE THE
POTENTIAL TO RECEIVE BETWEEN ONE HALF TO THREE QUARTERS OF AN INCH
OF ICE ACCUMULATIONS THROUGH THIS EVENING.




I hope it stays in north MS and does not come to central MS. But if it does at least I have gas heat.
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Quoting CaneWarning:
No good news for Tampa and Gasparilla...

There is a small craft advisory for tomorrow, but you know there will still be thousands of boaters anyway.

The Tampa PD, and the Coast Guard have a meeting scheduled at 2 PM today to discuss.
Link


Add to that the fact most boaters will be 'making merry with ye olde meade' during the invasion...
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Quoting tornadodude:
Dang, that ice is gonna be rough. Glad I moved my trip to Atlanta to Saturday instead of this afternoon


Is it going to be gone by the time you leave?
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Good night Everyone, Stay safe.
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No good news for Tampa and Gasparilla...

There is a small craft advisory for tomorrow, but you know there will still be thousands of boaters anyway.

The Tampa PD, and the Coast Guard have a meeting scheduled at 2 PM today to discuss.
Link
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Dang, that ice is gonna be rough. Glad I moved my trip to Atlanta to Saturday instead of this afternoon
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708. IKE
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MEMPHIS TN
932 AM CST FRI JAN 29 2010

.UPDATE...HAVE UPGRADED THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY ACROSS A
PORTION OF NORTH MISSISSIPPI...AND REMAINDER OF COUNTIES ACROSS
NORTH MISSISSIPPI TO A WINTER STORM WARNING THROUGH 12Z SATURDAY.
METAR OBSERVATIONS AND SPOTTER REPORTS ACROSS NORTH MISSISSIPPI
IN THE 60 TO 90 MINUTES HAVE BEEN IN THE FORM OF SLEET/FREEZING
RAIN. AT THIS TIME THINK...AREAS IN NORTH MISSISSIPPI HAVE THE
POTENTIAL TO RECEIVE BETWEEN ONE HALF TO THREE QUARTERS OF AN INCH
OF ICE ACCUMULATIONS THROUGH THIS EVENING.

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hi guys come and check out my new blog bye
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Cane, that was what I was thinking with all the pine trees around here. I'm not convinced the ice gets this far south, though.
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Honey, break out the tom-tom! :)



love ya Oz man! :)
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Quoting CycloneOz:


Beam me up Scotty.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Would you believe there is still Flood warnings and watches from TC Laurence that was twice a Cat 5 Cyclone in W.A, and dumped over 300mm of rain across northern parts or NSW and southern parts of QLD, Olga will bring another 50mm+ to most areas in QLD and 100mm+ to northern and western parts of NSW and even 50mm+ to parts of Vic.

How's that drought going? Can we assume it is going? Away?
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Quoting largeeyes:
WRAL calling for .5-.75+" of frzing rain. Gonna be interesting.


Say goodbye to electricity.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Would you believe there is still Flood warnings and watches from TC Laurence that was twice a Cat 5 Cyclone in W.A, and dumped over 300mm of rain across northern parts or NSW and southern parts of QLD, Olga will bring another 50mm+ to most areas in QLD and 100mm+ to northern and western parts of NSW and even 50mm+ to parts of Vic.


Way to much rain... but doesn't that help cure the drought they were having?
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WRAL calling for .5-.75+" of frzing rain. Gonna be interesting.
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Quoting tornadodude:


Lafayette, Purdue University Airport
Lat: 40.43 Lon: -86.93 Elev: 623
Last Update on Jan 29, 8:54 am EST

Fair

12 °F
(-11 °C)
Humidity: 70 %
Wind Speed: NE 3 MPH
Barometer: 30.49" (1033.7 mb)
Dewpoint: 4 °F (-16 °C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi.


You need to put that thermometer in an oven or something! :)
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Quoting leftovers:
looks like olga is making a mess of things near pt mcarther australia

Would you believe there is still Flood warnings and watches from TC Laurence that was twice a Cat 5 Cyclone in W.A, and dumped over 300mm of rain across northern parts or NSW and southern parts of QLD, Olga will bring another 50mm+ to most areas in QLD and 100mm+ to northern and western parts of NSW and even 50mm+ to parts of Vic.
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666: Wow. The potential for up to a foot of snow for Hampton Roads? That doesn't happen often. Heck, they go whole winters without much more than a dusting...
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Quoting CaneWarning:
I just looked at the high for Sunday - it's only 68. Gasp.


Lafayette, Purdue University Airport
Lat: 40.43 Lon: -86.93 Elev: 623
Last Update on Jan 29, 8:54 am EST

Fair

12 °F
(-11 °C)
Humidity: 70 %
Wind Speed: NE 3 MPH
Barometer: 30.49" (1033.7 mb)
Dewpoint: 4 °F (-16 °C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi.
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I just looked at the high for Sunday - it's only 68. Gasp.
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Is it supposed to get cold again or something?
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Quoting Orcasystems:


ROFLMAO, its a question, not a statement :)


Ill answer it, NOT THIS TIME.
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Quoting Orcasystems:


ROFLMAO, its a question, not a statement :)


Oh! ;)

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Quoting CaneWarning:


Where are you getting that?


ROFLMAO, its a question, not a statement :)
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685. That Dr. doesn't count though and his credentials are not good enough because he disagrees with what they think.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
Excerpt from SHORT RANGE FORECAST DISCUSSION

VALID 12Z FRI JAN 29 2010 - 00Z SUN JAN 31 2010

LOCATIONS ACROSS NORTH CAROLINA AND SOUTHEAST VIRGINIA ARE EXPECTED TO HAVE THEIR HEAVIEST SNOWFALL IN 10 TO 20 YEARS.



Wow... That's saying a lot considering the snowfall they had before Christmas...
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Quoting Orcasystems:
Snow... FL Panhandle??


Where are you getting that?
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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