January 22, 2010

New Hampshire’s Tumbling Icons

Filed under: Climate History

Boy, it seems like it’s been a rough couple of years for New Hampshire, as far as natural wonders go.

First, back in 2003, the rocky outcropping that was known as Old Man of the Mountain—a natural wonder gracing both the state’s license plates, and state’s quarter, came crumbling down.

Now, another one of New Hampshire’s icons has fallen—that of the highest wind gust ever recorded on the surface of the earth. Back in the spring of 1934, at the observing post atop New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington—the tallest mountain in the Presidential Range and one of the most prominent peaks in the eastern U.S.—a howling 231 mph (372 km/hr) wind speed was recorded. That observation has long stood as the answer to the trivia question as to the “official” fastest wind speed ever recorded.

Now, the World Meteorological Organization has just announced that that the non-tornado surface wind speed record has been broken—actually, the WMO announced that the record was broken back in 1996, but it is just now officially recognizing the observation.

Back on April 10 1996, tropical cyclone Olivia passed near Barrow Island, Australia, where a wind gust of 253 mph (408 km/hr) was recorded. The WMO’s panel of “experts in charge of global weather and climate extremes within the WMO Commission for Climatology” has just finished a review of that observation and decided that it was indeed accurate, and thus knocking Mt. Washington’s 1934 observation from the top of the list.

But, New Hampshire can rest assured, because the general weather at Barrow Island, Australia is rather pleasant, and therefore Mt Washington’s claim to be the “Home of World’s Worst Weather” still seems be pretty safe.

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