Extreme surface winds

E. Linacre and B. Geerts


A notice-board on top of Mount Washington (New Hampshire), 1,920 m high, runs as follows:

The highest wind ever observed by man was recorded here

From 1932 to 1937 the Mt Washington Observatory was operated in the Summit Stage Office then occupying this site. In a great storm April 12, 1934 the crew’s instruments measured a wind velocity of 231 miles per hour

That speed is 371 km/h, or 103 m/s! This is the current world record for a measured wind speed, though there may be places on Earth that are windier (on average) and/or have experienced stronger wind extremes. For instance, Mt Fuji in Japan may be a candidate, not just because it is higher (3776 m), but rather because in winter the mid-tropospheric winds are stronger over Japan than anywhere else in the world. But there is no weather station on Mt Fuji.

The wind speed in a F5 tornado is, by definition, at least 162 m/s, but no direct measurements have confirmed such extreme wind speeds. Many wind instruments have been destroyed in a tornado or under the eyewall of a hurricane. On 16 December 1997, a peak wind gust of 105 m/s was recorded by a hot-wire anemometer on the northeast corner of the island of Guam (in the northwest Pacific) as super typhoon Paka passed overhead. However this new world record was not accepted as official by the National Climate Extremes Committee, because the hot-wire anemometer was not properly calibrated for the combination of high wind and heavy rain (1).

The annual average wind speed at Mt Washington is 15.8 m/s, ranging from 11.3 m/s in July to 20.7 m/s in January (2). Even at night it is windy on Mt Washington, in fact the diurnal variation of wind speed is very small. In terms of the average wind speed too, Mt. Washington takes the lead amongst weather stations. Several Antarctic coastal stations, such as Casey and Dumont d'Urville, which are notoriously windy, measured annual mean wind speeds between 10-13 m/s only.



  1. Horvitz A. 1998. Super Typhoon Paka’s winds studied – Mt Washington’s record holds. Nat. Wea. Assoc. Newsletter, 98-3, p3.
  2. See the Mount Washington Observatory.