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January 26, 2010

Mt. Washington, N.H. loses world wind speed record

Summit Mount Washington 

A panel of the World Meteorological Organization, a part of the United Nations, this week certified a new official surface wind speed record (not related to tornadoes) that eclipses one held for nearly 76 years by the weather station at the summit of New Hampshire's Mt. Washington.

The Mt. Washington mark of 231 mph, set during a winter storm, had stood since 1934. The WMO panel of experts, after a thorough review, concluded that the new world wind speed record is 254 mph, set at Barrow Island, Australia during a tropical cyclone (hurricane) called Olivia, on April 10, 1996. Barrow Island is off the country's northwest coast.

I suppose that means the N.H. record actually stood for just 62 years.

A wind speed reading of 236 mph - higher than Mt. Washington's - was reported from Guam in 1997, during a Typhoon named Paka. But that report is in dispute.

Here is part of the WMO statement:

Geneva, 22 January 2010 (WMO) - According to a recent review conducted by a panel of experts in charge of global weather and climate extremes within the WMO Commission for Climatology (CCl) the record of wind gusts not related to tornados registered to date is 408 km/h during Tropical Cyclone Olivia on 10 April 1996 at Barrow Island, Australia. The previous record was of 372 km/h, registered in April 1934 across the summit of Mount Washington, USA.

Here's how the folks at Mt. Washington responded on their Web site:

It was bound to happen, but it’s definitely quite a shock to hear that news,” says Scot Henley, Executive Director of the Mount Washington Observatory. “While we are disappointed that it appears that Mount Washington may have been bumped from the top, at our core we are all weather fans and we are very impressed with the magnitude of that typhoon and the work of the committee that studied it.”

(SUN PHOTO/Ernie Imhoff/Mount Washington summit, January 1999)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:10 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: By the numbers


We visited Mt. Washington's summit this past summer, and were amazed with the history. One point of interest regarding the wind speed record is that Mt. Washington's wind meter broke at 231 mph in the 1934 storm. They have never known for certain whether the wind speed that day might have been even greater.

I have been in the Rockies quite a few times, but Mt Washington has been and will always be my favorite mountain. I lived in New Hampshire in the 70's and visited "my mountain" frequently. Yes, it does have a storied history, certainly moreso than that island somewhere near Australia. When I hike the Appalachian Trail this coming fall/winter/spring, the highlight of my adventure will be that ole Na Hampsha Rockpile!

You should also know, my favorite town is Washington NH and my all-time hero is George Washington. Now you know, the rest of my story.

This begs the questions: If wind speeds related to tornadoes are specifically exempt from setting this record, why aren't hurricanes also exempt?? And, what would be the wind speed record excepting both storm phenomena?

As a northern NH native, the wind speed record always was a source of pride. I laugh at Marylanders who think their weather can change on a dime. Let me know when we experience ice fog.

FR: You'd be surprised:

I guess we now have a new way to waste 14 years. The inmates are clearly running the asylum.

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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