New World Record for Wind Speed Announced
This record-breaking wind gust occurred during Typhoon (the name for a hurricane in Australia) Olivia on April 10, 1996. That's right; it happened nearly 14 years ago, which makes the news seem kind of old.
The reason for the delay, according to Mount Washington Executive Director Scot Henley, is that there was no international panel to evaluate such potential weather records until a few years ago. After the WMO Evaluation Panel was formed, it found the report of the incredible wind gust when reviewing Australian weather data -- and launched the investigation.
In the United States, we look to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) for official weather records, but NOAA isn't responsible for worldwide records. Henley believes it's appropriate for an international organization to investigate international weather events, and while everyone associated with the Mount Washington observatory wishes the record could remain with them, Henley says "there is no indication that points to it [the new record] being inaccurate."
Having said that, the observatory staffers are eager to review the documentation associated with the investigation, which the WMO has shared with them. They want to know more about the anemometer (wind-measuring device) used, how it was calibrated, and the methods used to calculate the wind speed.
According to Mount Washington meteorologist and observer Brian Clark, "it's not a matter of challenging the new record but a healthy skepticism" from those who know the importance of detail when dealing with weather records. Even when the old record was established in 1934, Clark said, great care was taken to ensure the reliability of the reading. For example, the anemometer was removed from the location after the wind was recorded so that it could be tested for accuracy and reliability.
From a meteorological perspective, the two record-setting events are drastically different. For a wind gust to reach 253 mph within a category 4 typhoon, which has an estimated sustained wind of up to 155 mph, there needs to be a small-scale weather phenomenon, such as a tornado, embedded within the storm. For Mount Washington, on the other hand, where, according to Clark, "the wind gusts to over 100 mph every couple of weeks," the record-breaking wind was the result of large-scale weather factors.
The consistency of the wild weather, as opposed to a one-time observation on an exceptional weather day, is why Clark believes that despite the wind record belonging to Barrow Island, Mount Washington remains "one of the most extreme locations on earth."