By: Meteorologist Paul Trambley
Updated: Feb 25th 2019

Professor Paul Thursday- The Strongest Winds Ever Recorded

Today's Topic - Record Wind Speeds

The instrument that is used to record wind speeds is known as an anemometer. The word is derived from the Greek word anemos, which translates to wind. The following records were recorded by an anemometer, which is a part of any manned or unmanned weather station. 

The highest wind speed ever recorded occurred on Barrow Island, Australia.  On April 10th, 1996, an unmanned weather station measured a 253 mph wind gust during Tropical Cyclone Olivia. The previous record that was eclipsed that day was an observed wind gust of 231 mph that was measured at a manned weather station at Mount Washington, New Hampshire, back on April 12, 1934. Even though Mount Washington lost its record for the all-time highest recorded wind speed in 1996, it still holds the all-time record wind gust from a manned weather station.

You may wonder if the wind speeds in tornadoes can be stronger than both of these records. Tornadic winds can certainly exceed both records, but the ability to measure these winds by an anemometer is impossible. Because tornadic wind measurements cannot be taken by an anemometer, they are not considered official by the World Meteorological Organization.  Wind speeds in tornadoes can only be estimated by dopplar radar. Back in 1999, a leading tornado researcher, Joshua Wurman, said his team recorded 301 mph winds in a tornado that struck near Moore, Oklahoma on May 3, 1999. Unfortunately, even a solid radar-estimated wind speed is not taken into consideration when talking about the highest recorded wind speeds on Earth. 

Mount Washington
An aerial view of the Mount Washington weather station. Image Courtesy: NOAA
Cyclone Olivia
A view of Tropical Cyclone Olivia as it moved along the coast of Australia in 1996