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

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1203. sullivanweather
12:01 PM EDT on March 11, 2008
Well, at least we don't have to rely on the nested grid model anymore...LOL

It's fun to look at the model and laugh at it...
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1202. beell
3:58 PM GMT on March 11, 2008
Ain't that the truth-after all we have taught them about weather lol

One useful link here for CONUS-and only 500mb/SLP. Have to scroll down a ways to get to it. Some of the other models presented here are user friendly. Step thru loops, etc.

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1201. sullivanweather
11:50 AM EDT on March 11, 2008

Wouldn't it be nice if one day someone would commission enough funds for the NWS to create a model as good, or better than, the ECMWF?

The Europeans are very secretive over their little model. If you're in the general public, good luck trying to find data output for that model...
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1200. beell
3:48 PM GMT on March 11, 2008

Thanks sullivan, was just about to post this tutorial.
GFS Convective Feedback
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1199. sullivanweather
11:48 AM EDT on March 11, 2008

Data?? What do you mean?
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1198. FLBlake
3:40 PM GMT on March 11, 2008
"So how about them Bears"

We'll see. I hold no hope. I'm a Bears fan.

Sully -
Care to present any data?
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1197. sullivanweather
11:42 AM EDT on March 11, 2008

That's convective feedback. It's a little quirk the GFS model seems to have.
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1196. beell
3:32 PM GMT on March 11, 2008
Just as a curious item to watch:

Supposed to be a surface low moving up through the OH and TN Valleys this Friday with attendant cold front dragging behind. GFS appears to be showing a surface feature forming at the S end of the front in the N Central Gulf then moving it across FL. Could be a CAT 5 headed for NOLA...

GFS seems to be the only model showing this.

Graphic is from 3/11 06Z GFS Valid 06Z Fri 03/14.

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1195. Michfan
2:55 PM GMT on March 11, 2008
So how about them bears?
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1194. sullivanweather
10:41 AM EDT on March 11, 2008

You're telling

I just put out my hurricane season forecast and waited for wars to break out. Thus far it's been benign.
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1193. Patrap
9:20 AM CDT on March 11, 2008
The featured Blogs are a lil overated I feel. And theres not much traffic on a good percentage of them too.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140058
1192. Patrap
9:16 AM CDT on March 11, 2008
Its a supply and demand market the Oil Business.Never been a crime to make money, last I checked.
Hell, its good for Oil Producing states and those who do the Majority of Refining. Plus it employs Millions of Americans. Or do you think the Magic Oil Fairy just waves the magic Wand and oil turns into unleaded Gas?
Do some research on Oil,Drilling, Production, transporting and refining. Then come back on a bicycle and tell us more.
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1191. Patrap
9:14 AM CDT on March 11, 2008
No banning here.
Cept during high volume times like a Hurricane threat.
We have the ol filter , or just use the ignore feature.

Its simple.
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1190. sullivanweather
10:13 AM EDT on March 11, 2008


The WU climate pages lnks you back here under the 'climate change blogs' section on the right.
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1189. afcjags03
2:12 PM GMT on March 11, 2008
Its so courageous of you to stand tall for oil companies and the wealthy. But you may want to take some time out to prefect your arguments.

I just love the stance people take that don't agree with the likes of you and others. Its not a matter of standing tall for oil companies and the wealthy, that's just your slam to make on someone. Why would anyone in their right mind want to do that when they don't receive the benefits? We are all falling victim to oil companies, so that is a rather weak statement/slam to make on some one unless they truely are benefiting.

Kind of hypocritical to talk about banning someone when you want to label people yourself. The arguments are out there, closed mindness is choosing to ignore them though. That can often prevent rational thinking.

Like any other message board on the internet, they have their own cliches, and if your not part of it, you better get out of the way. This applies here to say the least.

i'll go crawl back under the rock where I came from though, it's safer there. lol
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1188. sullivanweather
10:09 AM EDT on March 11, 2008
As far as I can tell, human activity results in around 2% of emissions. Is there some proof otherwise?


I don't understand how this argument is still used? Add up ALL the co2 emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution. I can guarentee you that you won't get 2%...
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1187. Patrap
9:09 AM CDT on March 11, 2008
I Suggest one goes here for that debate..Climate Change Blog Link

Or maybe here Link
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1186. FLBlake
1:12 PM GMT on March 11, 2008
Where is this evidence that global warming is caused by human activity? As far as I can tell, human activity results in around 2% of emissions. Is there some proof otherwise? Where is your proof af anything, other than a few charts that show temperature changes over the past few months? Oh, no, I'm asking questions, better ban me. How dare I.
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1185. Patrap
8:54 AM CDT on March 11, 2008
Im thinking Boca....How bout you dear?

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140058
1184. NEwxguy
1:21 PM GMT on March 11, 2008
Thanks Storm,watching this weekend here in New England closely
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 896 Comments: 16202
1180. biff4ugo
12:44 PM GMT on March 11, 2008
Ok, I'm ready for a new topic Dr. Masters.

Since we are still here...
"Greenland" was green... um no. The ice cores in greenland go back thousands of years and thousands of feet. It is not the result of the little ice age. Unless you are going back to Gondwana land.
You want to talk southern hemisphere? Lets look at the oceans there. Aren't they warmer too? Aren't we begining to see Tropical storms in the southern Atlantic and looking for a naming convention? Are the Glaciers calving off texas sized pieces because it is colder?
Our oceans and air are connected.
The greenhouse effect doesn't stop in winter. This is shaping up to be an average year around the southeast U.S.and I for one will be happy to see it.
We have RAIN! After years and years of lake lowering drought.
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1179. lindenii
12:58 PM GMT on March 11, 2008
1161. JFLORIDA 4:13 AM GMT on March 11, 2008

isn't anyone tired of being lead around by the nose by people exploiting your ignorance and fear of complexity?


Yes, we are and that is why we are shineing the light of truth on you and your fellow alarmists.
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1175. sullivanweather
7:59 AM EDT on March 11, 2008
Oil is vital to our national defense, our economy, our infrastructure, and our general well being.

I don't see how this is relevant. Oil is a finite resource which is going up expodentially in price. If we build a different infrastructure that is dependent on renewable sources of energy, it brings jobs to this country and it supports a sustainable way of living as sources for wind, solar and tidal/coriolis energy are infinite.

It won't be pretty if oil runs out and there's nothing else to fall back on.
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1174. FLBlake
11:43 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
I see many entities exploit the government. I see the government exploit the people of this country. I'm willing to let the oil companies drill in my backyard if it will lessen our dependence on imported oil. To single out these things that drive our economy and most of the the world's economy, and paint them evil, quite frankly is childish. Oil is vital to our national defense, our economy, our infrastructure, and our general well being. You go ahead and beat that drum, pal. Oh, and did I read you correctly, did you say oil company revenues belong to the government? If anyone is laughing here, sir, it's me, at you. I suppose we should take billions from Weyerhaeuser, and Nike, and while we're at it why not from private colleges. Let's nationalize health care, and nationalize our auto industry, and give everything to the government. They do such a good job at everything else.
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1173. Weather456
7:10 AM AST on March 11, 2008
Last Night



This afternoon visible imagery showed a vigorous squall moving across Eastern Texas, and into Louisiana and Arkansas. This activity is clearly associated with a surface cold front as indicated by the cloud ropes observed. In addition, surface observations indicated this feature associated with a weak low pressure area in the vicinity of 30N/94W. This feature is being enhanced surface inflow off the Gulf in conjunction with upper divergence between an upper trough over the Central Plains and a broad ridge over the Caribbean. Doppler radar is showing numerous scattered showers and thunderstorms over Southeastern Texas and much of Louisiana. The cold front is also clearly identified on radar imagery. In the meantime, a surface ridge remains over the Gulf of Mexico providing for a weak surface pressure gradient resulting in light winds which is driving 6-7 ft northeast swells mainly over open waters. Widespread low clouds continue to be scattered over the Gulf of Mexico which is caused by remnant moisture found in the tranquil marine layer (little mixing occurring). High level cirrus clouds are seen extending from Southeast Mexico across the Central Gulf Region and into the Atlantic. Water vapor imagery showed these clouds clearly associated with high level moisture advection between the two aforementioned upper level features. Fair weather dominates elsewhere across the Southeastern United States where the surface ridge is in control.

A very well define frontal boundary has stalled out across the Western Atlantic with a band of cloudiness and showers extending from Straits of Florida, across the Northern Bahamas and within 120 nm of 28N/70W 30N/60W 36N/50W. In the meantime, a stable marine layer situated over the Western Atlantic is supporting stable air low clouds across much the region behind the front. As the front struggles westward, the surface ridge ahead is tightening the pressure gradient and maintaining a surge of steady northeasterlies and fair weather from 70W to 50W.

by W456

Visible image taken earlier this afternoon shwowing rope clouds over Southern Texas indicating the presence of a front.

Later, radar imagery showed the front has just move offshore Southern Texas, illustrated by the band of showers and possible t-storms extending from the main area of low pressure over Eastern Texas.

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1172. Weather456
7:03 AM AST on March 11, 2008
Interactions with Mid-Latitude Flow

Mid-latitude circulations often affect the tropics. These interactions are illustrated by the interaction between a mid-lattitude trough in the upper troposheric westerlies and the ITCZ or NECZ. As a trough approaches from the west and dig deep into the tropics, rising motion ahead of the trough induces a band of cloudiness and bad weather extending from actvity along the ITCZ/NECZ into the mid-latitudes. Other effects include the slackening or break within the tradewind regime as seen by the QuikSCAT pass.

This is seen in the image below. A very broad positively tilted upper trough extends from the northeast Atlantic into the tropics. Upper divergence (associated rising motion) "taps" into moisture assoicated with thunderstorms along the ITCZ/NECZ. This flow produces a continuous band of cloudiness into the mid-latitudes.

(This chart was from Saturday 8 March...Same trough, same concept, but not the exact location).

Visible Image showing a cloud band extending from activity over NE South America into the Subtropical Atlantic over a stratocumulus cloud deck.

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1170. Altestic
6:31 AM EDT on March 11, 2008

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1169. SWFLgazer
6:42 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
Saw maybe 2 seconds of the launch. Night launches are awesome if there aren't clouds.
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1166. Ivansrvivr
4:19 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
If temps are rising so fast, why is the antarctic glacier growing as fast as the arctic is melting? how can Global Warming be proven with only 50 years of solid data? That is barely a snapshot if data compared to cycles that last hundreds, even thousands of years. Look at history...when the Vikings explored Greenland in the latter 13th century-it was green!!! Then the climate shifted into what was known as the "little Ice Age" and greenland was white. What culture was putting out so much greenhouse gasses that the climate warmed from 1000-1300A.D? Did the E.P.A. shut them down causing the earth to cool?
Personally i could care less if the scientific community debates Rush Limbaugh, but the way many have tried to eliminate any sort of debate against their beliefs shows a lack of credibility on their part. If someone is right, they don't have to hush everyone that disagrees with them. You'd think such scientists would be debating everyone that disagrees, not silencing them.
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1165. Patrap
11:37 PM CDT on March 10, 2008
Exxon 2017

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140058
1163. FLBlake
4:20 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
So, the big five have increased exploritory spending over 50% in 2006 over 2005. The twenty-next lowest never reduced this spending, but increased since 1998.

What's the point here? Who doesn't want us drill in Alaska? Who doesn't want to drill off Florida, while the Chinese pump Cuban oil 90 miles from Key West? Who doesn't want wind farms out of site off Nantucket Sound?

If the oil companies want to under-spend themselves out of future production thru exploration, let them. Other companies will take the role. I suppose you agree with the hildabeast wanting to sieze billions of dollars of private money to, redistribute it. Sounds a little chavezian to me.

I'd prefer to give government less power over most things in life. I guess we disagree here.
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1160. FLBlake
3:49 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
Yes, those greedy oil companies I assume.
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1158. Caffinehog
3:40 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
Sadly, the technology just isn't in place for switchgrass ethanol production. It will probably take at least several decades, even it we do figure it out.

And nothing will change this: Ethanol has 27% less energy per gallon than gasoline. Ethanol is also more dense than gasoline. That not only means that you'll fill up more often, but it also means that more energy will be used moving the fuel. This isn't a deal breaker, but it definately is a serious disadvantage to the fuel.
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1157. Caffinehog
3:30 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
Actually, the main thing driving up the price of oil is irrationally exhuberant investors riding the latest bubble. Oil prices WILL drop. Trust me.
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1156. Caffinehog
3:20 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
Biofuels are NOT the solution to the CO2 crisis, especially not ethanol. Probably the best short-term solution is carbon sequestration. Using nearly pure oxygen instead of plain air will make it easier to trap CO2. Instead of having to separate CO2 from air, you just capture all the gas that comes off, which is actually easier. It also locks up some of the nasty pollutants. Burning coal with pure oxygen also allows for higher temperatures in the power plant, which leads to increased Carnot efficiency.

Eventually, the world will turn to solar power for most of its energy, and LED's will be the lighting source. All it will take is for efficiency to increase and prices to drop for both, and LED's could use improved phosphors to make a more natural light.

Cars will still have to use fossil fuels for a while, even if that makes hippies cry. Eventually, they will move to electric. Don't count on fuel cell powered cars.
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1154. Caffinehog
3:12 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
Typical humans, we think we know so much more than we really do
and we are running around helter skelter
totally forgetting the fact that we are humans

The rainforests really are being detroyed at the fastest rate ever
because of clearing land for palm oil plantations for bio-fuel.

The orangutans really are heading to rapid extinction because of those same palm oil plantations.

The world really is in a world food shortage because cereals are being diverted to bio-fuel and it is estimated that millions could starve.

Water use, pesticides, fertilizers, etc really are on the increase because more land is being cleared to convert to farm land to grow bio-fuels.

The cost of every thing down line from what was cereal, is rapidly rising, because of those cereals being diverted to bio-fuel. Not only a limited supply, but some refief agencies are being priced out of the market.

and on and on

We are creating an environmental disaster out of this.
Right now.

Now THAT is a fact.

And just where did the CO2 that is emitted come from? Hmmm... Plants take in CO2 from the air... ethanol is made from plants...

You have to take into account the ecosystem being destroyed to grow corn. Sure, ethanol production will eventually counteract this, but it will take decades, at least.
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1153. Ivansrvivr
2:47 AM GMT on March 11, 2008
I did research project about agricultural chemicals draining into the everglades as a science project in high school( a long time ago ). I realize the destructive potential of chems abused in agriculture well. The Corps may own the land, but crops don't grow on their own. Something that I support that many argue about is selective breeding (aka geneticically engineered) crops that are drought, insect resistant and thrive in poor soil, opening up areas to agriculture never before available. "Reverse Osmosis" desalinization of deep ground water and seawater for large scale irrigation has potential for arid areas too. Both processes could eliminate much unnecessary use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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