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So long to Mt. Washington wind speed record, 14 years ago
January 28, 2010 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Mount Washington gust record gone with the wind. Mount Washington had been the home of the surface wind speed record since April 12, 1934 with a 231 miles per hour wind; but during cyclone Olivia (with only 10 minor injuries) on April 10, 1996, a wind gust of 408 km/h (253 mph) in Austrailia was only just now noticed and confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The Mount Washington Observatory has accepted the record in their offical reaction but in more personal blog posts they are a bit more skeptical. The Washington Post Capital Weather Gang posted a Farewell to Mt. Washington's wind record from two former employees of the Observatory, lovingly referring to the record wind as "Gale." (And via Capital Weather Gang.)
posted by skynxnex (46 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by dirtdirt at 1:20 PM on January 28, 2010


The World Meteorological Organization still holds the record for Longest Amount Of Time Required To Notice And Confirm Stuff, right?
posted by bondcliff at 1:22 PM on January 28, 2010


The Australian wind should be tested for doping.
posted by Mister_A at 1:24 PM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, as a proud New England hiker, I gotta give one up for ol' George:

.
posted by bondcliff at 1:25 PM on January 28, 2010


Now the only question is how long until Americans get wind of this and come down and build beachfront homes on that island.
posted by crapmatic at 1:30 PM on January 28, 2010


Noooooooooooooooooo..... first the Old Man in the Mountain and now this? How my proud New Hampshire has fallen. What's next, arcade records being set in places other than the Funspot in Weirs Beach? HERESY!
posted by nathancaswell at 1:30 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Awww man...

Well, at least I climbed it back in December when it still technically held the record... er, sort of. It'd be kind of hard to climb a cyclone anyway. We were out on a comparatively lovely day (especially for winter) with the sun shining and wind at a steady 10 mph or so. It didn't get below freezing until the sun dropped and the wind picked up to 30 with gusts of 60+ mph. We were headed down the Lion's Head trail by that point, and there's a bedrock lip above Tuckerman's Ravine where the wind just kind of funnels through. I was knocked down three times before we managed to duck over the hump and down towards the treeline. And that was a day of amazingly good weather, compared to the previous year's climb.

I've been out to the Presidentials twice now and I'm always pleasantly surprised by how much the people there love their job. They're absolutely great people. Milling about the Pinkham Notch visitor's center lets you eavesdrop on a lot of interesting conversations, and the employees there are always interested in where you're going, how you're doing it, and even a little excited for you. Their jobs are clearly personal, and all of them seem to really love the mountain. Most everyone I'd spoken to had taken a turn manning the weather station on top of the mountain. I'm not surprised by the response; it even makes me feel a little nostalgic and sad.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:33 PM on January 28, 2010


Back in July I tried to do the Presidential Traverse in a day. I got as far as Mt. Washington and the walk up to that point was rather unpleasant. Being caught up in inclement weather at that altitude is not for the meek, mild-mannered or squeamish. Let them have their wind; I just want to enjoy a peaceful walk.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:39 PM on January 28, 2010


It is ok, nathancaswell. New Hampshire's Division of Economic Development it is designating the Three Wolf Moon shirt as the official T-shirt of New Hampshire economic development. They'll never take that way from you.
posted by onhazier at 1:42 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I preferred Three Wolf Moon shirt's earlier work.
posted by Mister_A at 1:45 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The worst part of climbing Mount Washington is that you reach the top and there's a parking lot.

OTOH, that does mean you can get nachos at the top. Which was one of the best parts.
posted by smackfu at 1:46 PM on January 28, 2010


They'd probably need video proof there wasn't a funnel for me to be comfortable accepting this... tornadoes and waterspouts are well-known side products of tropical storms/depressions and hurricanes. It's really unlikely to find those windspeeds in something that's not even a full-bore hurricane.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:48 PM on January 28, 2010


I'm trying to imagine what a 250mph wind would feel like. The only thing I can think of is what it's like to stick your head out of a car window at 60 and then multiplying that by 4. That didn't really seem to help.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:56 PM on January 28, 2010


Looks like Olivia got up to about 120 MPH sustained winds, meaning that it was a full-blown hurricane–there's regional variation in what we call these things though. See here.
posted by Mister_A at 1:58 PM on January 28, 2010


...arcade records being set in places other than the Funspot in Weirs Beach?

Ah, yes. Funspot.
posted by ericb at 2:04 PM on January 28, 2010


I'm trying to imagine what a 250mph wind would feel like. The only thing I can think of is what it's like to stick your head out of a car window at 60 and then multiplying that by 4. That didn't really seem to help

More like sticking your head out of an airplane, I'd think.
posted by mikelieman at 2:05 PM on January 28, 2010


I've been out to the Presidentials twice now and I'm always pleasantly surprised by how much the people there love their job.

A couple of my friends have been on the summer 'Hut Croo' ... and enjoyed hiking the food up to the AMC huts, preparing it and then entertaining the guests. A coveted summer job for many.
posted by ericb at 2:14 PM on January 28, 2010


Well, if you're exposed to a 250 MPH wind gust, unless you're securely tied to something very heavy, you probably should worry more about how it's going to feel when your body strikes an object after being picked up and hurled a non-trivial distance rather than how it is going to make your eyelids peel back or something.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:15 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always preferred climbing Jefferson, then looking across the ridge and biting my thumb at the motorists.

But yes: .
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:25 PM on January 28, 2010


...biting my thumb at the motorists.

Ah, the bumper sticker: 'This Car Climbed Mount Washington.'

As some claim it is "the oldest man-made tourist attraction in the U.S."
posted by ericb at 2:34 PM on January 28, 2010


Bumper Gallery.
posted by ericb at 2:36 PM on January 28, 2010


This would be a fun ride up the mountain.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:36 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


A bumper sticker from the 1930's.
posted by ericb at 2:37 PM on January 28, 2010


Cool, my 8 year old son was doing a project on Mt. Washington because he loved the idea of visiting a place that held the world wind speed record. Now we get to go to Australia.
posted by Sk4n at 2:40 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now the only question is how long until Americans get wind of this and come down and build beachfront homes on that island.

Just like those folks who live in Oklahoma, where the winds come rushin' down the plain. Also known as Tornado Alley.

Yes, I looked at your profile.
posted by longsleeves at 2:41 PM on January 28, 2010


This would be a fun ride up the mountain.

Riding the Cog Railway up-and-down is indeed fun. "The world's first steep mountain-climbing cog railway since 1869."
posted by ericb at 2:43 PM on January 28, 2010


The worst part of climbing Mount Washington is that you reach the top and there's a parking lot.

No kidding. A buddy and I hiked it on a nice summer day and tried to get photos of each other at the summit. He was practically pushing through the mob of car people surrounding the summit marker and was royally pissed that people could drive to the top.

There was the time we were caught by a snowstorm on a mid-October hike during an overly ambitous peak-bagging trip in the northern Presidentials. We made it back to our tent wet and exhausted about two hours after dark. Like an idiot, I had forgotten the pump for the white gas stove, and we were probably too wiped out to mess with it anyway. For "dinner" we had about a liter each of satisfying, rich, dark homebrewed beer.
posted by exogenous at 2:53 PM on January 28, 2010


The World Meteorological Organization still holds the record for Longest Amount Of Time Required To Notice And Confirm Stuff, right?

In all fairness, the new record was set in Australia: a country that may or may not have had someone set off a nuclear weapon in 1993, but no one troubled to investigate until 1995. The Aussies are not uptight about such things.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:54 PM on January 28, 2010


Now we get to go to Australia.

Unfortunately, Barrow Island is an arid, pockmarked oil and gas field, although there's still some wallabies and bandicoots to check out.
posted by Jimbob at 2:55 PM on January 28, 2010


(However, it's only a short jaunt to Marble Bar, which holds the world record for number of consecutive days over 100F, so you could kill two birds with one stone.)
posted by Jimbob at 2:57 PM on January 28, 2010


Should be noted that while this is the fastest gust ever directly measured, even faster wind speeds in tornadoes have been measured indirectly.
posted by dw at 2:58 PM on January 28, 2010


Confused: how come the May 9, 1999 tornado in Oklahoma - with recorded wind speed of 318 miles per hour - isn't the record holder in this category?
posted by davidmsc at 3:01 PM on January 28, 2010


Barrow Island was recently in the news here because of the huge gas discovery by the Gorgon Project and the threat to Barrow Island wildlife.
posted by tellurian at 3:02 PM on January 28, 2010


The worst part of climbing Mount Washington is that you reach the top and there's a parking lot.
OTOH, that does mean you can get nachos at the top. Which was one of the best parts.

Sometimes the worst part of climbing Mount Washington is Dying on it.

Nachos or death, nachos or death...
posted by longsleeves at 3:10 PM on January 28, 2010


Unfortunately, Barrow Island is an arid, pockmarked oil and gas field, although there's still some wallabies and bandicoots to check out.

There were. You know, the wind. They're all in Bali, now.
posted by _dario at 3:59 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I'm trying to imagine what a 250mph wind would feel like. The only thing I can think of is what it's like to stick your head out of a car window at 60 and then multiplying that by 4. That didn't really seem to help."

The force you experience (load) actually increases with the square. Four times as much wind speed on the same surface is 16 times as much force. Stick your head out the car window at 60 and to get what 240 feels like multiply by 16.
A calculator here.
posted by vapidave at 4:01 PM on January 28, 2010


Time to read Mother of Storms again...
posted by fairmettle at 4:17 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The mast was a cyclone-rated Hills telescoping 10m tower comprising 2 x 4.5m sections with a 1m mast extension. Each section was guyed with 3 x 6mm stainless steel wires.

In layman's terms, a pole with a Hills Hoist on top.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:34 PM on January 28, 2010


The Cog Railway is awesome, though be warned that the descent is really a controlled fall in disguise. This picture shows the view on the way down.
posted by stannate at 4:47 PM on January 28, 2010


I grew up watching and studying from Voyage of the Mimi I and II in school fifteen years ago. "Mount Washington" and "wind speed record" immediately brought back the memory of young Ben Affleck in one episode braving the harsh wind on that mountain. I loved Voyage of the Mimi.
posted by janek at 5:12 PM on January 28, 2010


Nuke the Cog!

Anyone who has ever been hiking past the tracks when the cog goes by, spewing forth a mass of disgusting, suffocating black smoke while the oblivious knuckleheads on the train wave to the quaint little hikers too stupid, in their opinion, to realize they can get a ride up to the top, knows that the Cog is evil.

Yeah, yeah, neat train, history, yadda yadda yadda. The Cog can eat a big bowl of dick.
posted by bondcliff at 5:32 PM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Confused: how come the May 9, 1999 tornado in Oklahoma - with recorded wind speed of 318 miles per hour - isn't the record holder in this category?

That was derived from radar data, and the Mt Washington and Barrow Island winds were measured by anemometers. I don't know the WMO's rules, but I imagine directly measured is considered more accurate that derived. The May 3, 1999 tornado was a "back of the envelope" calculation made by the radar scientist (Dr. Josh Wurman, seen on Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers). I'd have to look at the papers that were published about those observations, but I don't know if the 318 was ever made official.

I've always wanted to visit Mt Washington. I remember seeing footage from one of their windy storms and it was funny to watch them try and walk in the incredibly strong winds.
posted by weathergal at 5:44 PM on January 28, 2010


I remember seeing footage from one of their windy storms and it was funny to watch them try and walk in the incredibly strong winds.

Oh, it gets better than that. Up at the top they run a continuous loop of a video called "Breakfast of Champions"--a guy trying to eat a bowl of Cheerios at the weather station. The cheerios go all over the place, the milk pours horizontally, and pretty soon the whole table takes off.

I was bummed about the wind speed record being broken if for no other reason than that record was set on my husband's birthday (not 1934!) and for some reason that just seemed weirdly appropriate.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:01 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The guy writing the "personal blogs" link rightly asks questions about the accuracy of the equipment that took the Australian measurement, such as has it been wind-tunnel tested and is it accurate at that high wind speed. But when I looked at his own writings on the Mt Washington readings they were taken by an instrument where the operators had to count the number of clicks it made as it rotated. Presumably he should have asked the same questions about those readings.

I'd love to see more comment on how accurately you can count a click rate during short duration wind gusts. It strikes me that the Mt Washington measurement is pretty questionable. Does anyone know what the highest gust recorded at Mt Washington is in more recent years with modern equipment?
posted by markr at 11:59 PM on January 28, 2010


This page shows monthly records, some of which are more recent and max out at 170 or so. Of course, at some level it's a false comparison: they're measuring other wind gusts, not the one in question.
posted by smackfu at 6:05 AM on January 29, 2010


That's a great link. Obviously, as you say, when you're talking about things like the strongest wind ever it's going to be a one-off event, but it seems pretty suspicious to me that in that list of strongest gusts ever in each month, you've got this reading of 231 in 1934, and then since better equipment was installed in the 40s there is nothing over 180. It's not just that they haven't measured anything greater, they haven't even got close.
posted by markr at 4:46 PM on January 29, 2010


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