Looking back at Hurricane Gustav's record 211 mph wind gust

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 04:28 AM GMT die 30o December, anno 2008

Share this Blog
3
+

As we look back at the weather events of 2008, perhaps the most impressive record set during the year occurred during Hurricane Gustav, which pounded Cuba as a Category 4 hurricane in August. Gustav set a new world record for highest wind gust ever measured in a hurricane. As Gustav passed over the Paso Real de San Diego meteorological station in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, on the afternoon of August 30, 2008, a wind gust of 211 mph (94.4 m/s) was recorded (it was originally pegged at 212 mph, but has been "downgraded" to 211 mph after an official review by the World Meteorological Organization). The powerful winds blew down the anemometer, and it is possible that higher gusts occurred after the instrument failed. Not only is this the highest wind speed ever measured in a hurricane, it is the second highest wind gust ever measured at a non-mountain location on Earth, and is the third highest wind gust ever measured on the surface of the planet. The highest wind gust in recorded history is the amazing 253 mph reading recorded on Barrow Island, Australia, during Tropical Cyclone Olivia in 1996. The second highest wind speed ever measured was 231 mph (370 km/hr) on the top of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, on April 12, 1934, during passage of an extratropical storm. The fourth highest wind gust on record was the 207 mph gust measured in Greenland at Thule Air Force Base on March 6, 1972. The previous highest wind gust measured in a hurricane was 186 mph at Blue Hill Observatory, Massachusetts, during the notorious 1938 "Long Island Express" hurricane.


Figure 1. Anemometer used to measure the record 211 mph gust in Hurricane Gustav. Gustav's powerful winds flattened the instrument against the roof of the observing station. Image credit: Jose M. Rubiera Torres, Instituto de Meteorologia of Cuba.

Is this a believable record?
The instrument used for the measurement in Gustav was a Dines pressure tube anemometer mounted on the roof of the weather office. According to Jose M. Rubiera Torres of Cuba's Instituto de Meteorologia, "The graph is neat and the instrument was in perfect technical working condition. The wind peaked up to 340 km/h and then the anemometer mast fell over the concrete roof of the station's building, sharply interrupting the measurement. The graph [Figure 2], shows that wind gusts were increasing at a regular pace with time, until the instrument broke down when it got to the 340 km/h mark." Dines anemometers have a proven track record of reliability, and have been used in Cuba for over 60 years. A formal committee under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) certified the record in 2009.


Figure 2. Trace of the Dines anemometer used to measure the record 211 mph gust in Hurricane Gustav. Image credit: Jose M. Rubiera Torres, Instituto de Meteorologia of Cuba.

How did such a strong gust occur?
At the time Hurricane Gustav moved over the Paso Real de San Diego meteorological station, the storm was rated a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 mph, gusting to 185 mph. When the peak wind gust of 211 mph was measured at 22:35 GMT, the western eyewall of Gustav was over the anemometer site, as seen on Cuban radar (Figure 3). The town of Paso Real de San Diego is at an elevation of about 40 meters, and lies 25 km inland, about 12 km south of a rugged line of mountains up to 700 meters high. The counter-clockwise flow of air around Gustav's eyewall meant that the winds arriving at Paso Real de San Diego were forced to pass over these mountains first. The mountains probably focused and accelerated the winds through gaps between the peaks, and the air accelerated further as it rushed downhill under the force of gravity. Strong downbursts due to collapsing precipitation cores inside Gustav's eyewall probably contributed to the extreme gusts. When hurricanes make landfall, the intense thunderstorm cells that comprise the eyewall sometimes collapse suddenly, sending a downward cascade of intense winds to the surface. When this rush of wind hits the ground, it spreads out in all directions, forming a strong surface wind event known as a downburst. It has been theorized that some of the extreme damage noted in Florida during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 may have been associated with downbursts from collapsing eyewall thunderstorm cells. This behavior may also be responsible for some of the extreme damage in Mississippi from Hurricane Katrina. Animations of infrared satellite imagery available from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS Satellite Blog show that the eyewall of Gustav collapsed during passage over the high mountains to the north of Paso Real de San Diego, but this occurred after the world record wind gust was measured.


Figure 3. Radar image of Hurricane Gustav (top) at 22:25 GMT on August 30 2008, five minutes before the world record 211 mph hurricane wind gust was measured. The site of the Paso Real de San Diego meteorological station where the record was set is marked with a red dot. A topographic map (bottom) shows the line of mountains up to 1200 meters high that lies just north of the town. The counter-clockwise flow of air around the eye of Gustav brought the strongest winds of Gustav across the mountain range then downhill to Paso Real de San Diego. Radar image credit: Instituto de Meteorologia of Cuba. Topographic map image credit: Wikipedia.

Note: this post was updated in 2010 to reflect the official WMO review of Gustav's wind gust, plus the addition of the new World Record wind gust set in TC Olivia in 1996.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 34 - 1

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 — Blog Index

This behavior may also be responsible for some of the extreme damage in Mississippi from Hurricane Katrina.


Glad to see the word "extreme damage" associated with Katrina next to "Mississippi" for a change. Thanks, Doc, the media totally underplayed what cumulatively crushed the whole state. NOLA's damage was serious, but paled in comparison to Mississippi. Yet, it stole all the media-hype and attention.

A very nice, informative read on Gustav which could have been considerably worse.

Happy New Year to you, too!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Yellowstone National Park was jostled by a host of small earthquakes for a third straight day Monday, and scientists watched closely to see whether the more than 250 tremors were a sign of something bigger to come. Swarms of small earthquakes happen frequently in Yellowstone, but it's very unusual for so many earthquakes to happen over several days, said Robert Smith, a professor of geophysics at the University of Utah.

"They're certainly not normal," Smith said. "We haven't had earthquakes in this energy or extent in many years."

Smith directs the Yellowstone Seismic Network, which operates seismic stations around the park. He said the quakes have ranged in strength from barely detectable to one of magnitude 3.8 that happened Saturday. A magnitude 4 quake is capable of producing moderate damage.

"This is an active volcanic and tectonic area, and these are the kinds of things we have to pay attention to," Smith said. "We might be seeing something precursory.

"Could it develop into a bigger fault or something related to hydrothermal activity? We don't know. That's what we're there to do, to monitor it for public safety."

The strongest of dozens of tremors Monday was a magnitude 3.3 quake shortly after noon. All the quakes were centered beneath the northwest end of Yellowstone Lake.

A park ranger based at the north end of the lake reported feeling nine quakes over a 24-hour period over the weekend, according to park spokeswoman Stacy Vallie. No damage was reported.

"There doesn't seem to be anything to be alarmed about," Vallie said.

Smith said it's difficult to say what might be causing the tremors. He pointed out that Yellowstone is the caldera of a volcano that last erupted 70,000 years ago.

He said Yellowstone remains very geologically active — and its famous geysers and hot springs are a reminder that a pool of magma still exists five to 10 miles underground.

"That's just the surface manifestation of the enormous amount of heat that's being released through the system," he said.

Yellowstone has had significant earthquakes as well as minor ones in recent decades. In 1959, a magnitude 7.5 quake near Hebgen Lake just west of the park triggered a landslide that killed 28 people


Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The very fact that it's common to say we "believe in GW", or ask "do you believe in GW" makes it debatable. Think about it. I almost never post. Just my 2 cents...back to lurking.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
IKE, could not agree more with you, trying to make it month to month is a great task.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NEwxguy:


I hear you,people think that a bad economy,just means layoffs,but it also has a huge impact on self-employed also,its a mess right now.

Times are so bad that even those who don't pay are not buying.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
29. IKE
Quoting NEwxguy:


I hear you,people think that a bad economy,just means layoffs,but it also has a huge impact on self-employed also,its a mess right now.


Agree...when you're dreaming about your job....nightly...I need a vacation.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting IKE:


I'm self-employed. It's just a struggle to get paid on what I've sold.


I hear you,people think that a bad economy,just means layoffs,but it also has a huge impact on self-employed also,its a mess right now.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 877 Comments: 15706
At one time gustav was predicted to reach cat5 status in the gulf which as we all know never took shape.One of the main reasons in my view Gustav struggled once it came of cuba was due to the thermodynamic environment it was in which at that time undercutting southerly mid-level flow was entraining dry air into the circulation in the gulf.Heat content may have had something to do with that also as it was moving into an area of less oceanic heat content.

As far as the 212mph reading i will have to agree with masters on very strong down bursts due to collapsing precip being the probable cause.I remember seeing extreme damage in florida city back in 92 and was wondering what could have caused it.As Sullivanweather stated a few posts above any quadrent of a tropical cyclone carries the potential to produce events such as these.

Never let your guard down.

HERE is a visible loop i saved of gustav prior to its landfall in cuba.Stadium affect.

Also wanted to wish everyone in the WU community the best in 2009 hope you had a great holiday season. Adrian
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
26. IKE
Quoting NEwxguy:
GM,all,hope everyones doing well as the year comes to an end,Ike, I think a lot of people are thinking like you,hoping 2009 sees things improve,but right now I'm scrambling to hang on to my job,that other subject is far from my thoughts.


I'm self-employed. It's just a struggle to get paid on what I've sold.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
GM,all,hope everyones doing well as the year comes to an end,Ike, I think a lot of people are thinking like you,hoping 2009 sees things improve,but right now I'm scrambling to hang on to my job,that other subject is far from my thoughts.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 877 Comments: 15706
So true Ike -- all I could do was look at him all day

I'm off - slightly late for work -- have a good day all
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Don't get me wrong 'cause I am VERY concerned for the planet and have been since the 70's.....

and I don't care to fight about the cause.... what I care about is finding a way to have energy without hurting/polluting the earth period.

it's just becomes more clear to me, that it will only happen when it benefits the BANKSTERS & CORPORATE-ACY.......cause they clearly seem to be in charge of the present programming
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
22. IKE
aspectre...I'm not trying to be a smart-ass with my comments...just how I feel....I'm serious...I believe in GW.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
21. IKE
Quoting surfmom:
He's doing extraordinarily well. Still got quite a road ahead -- but I think I'm looking at a walking miracle to be honest. It's amazing that his head came through totally aok......now we've begun the physical re-build... I see the Gulf is tugging at his heart, and his desire to return to work and the ocean is a great motivator.


Glad he's doing better. I knew he would....best Christmas present a mom could ask for...her son to get his health back.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting IKE:
I don't need to read anything about global warming. I believe it exists. I believe the planet is warming up.

Contingency plan for 10,000 year flood protection? I doubt I'll be around to witness it. Actually I doubt anyone on planet earth now will be around to witness it.

I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to make enough money to survive through January of 2009.


BINGO
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
He's doing extraordinarily well. Still got quite a road ahead -- but I think I'm looking at a walking miracle to be honest. It's amazing that his head came through totally aok......now we've begun the physical re-build... I see the Gulf is tugging at his heart, and his desire to return to work and the ocean is a great motivator.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
18. IKE
I don't need to read anything about global warming. I believe it exists. I believe the planet is warming up.

Contingency plan for 10,000 year flood protection? I doubt I'll be around to witness it. Actually I doubt anyone on planet earth now will be around to witness it.

I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to make enough money to survive through January of 2009.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
13. IKE "Jeez....global warming took 12 posts to be mentioned? Incredible!"

Ifn ya bothered to read it, ya woulda noticed the article had a LOT more to do with the Netherlands' attitude toward flooding versus America's attitude.
eg The Netherlands is considering the possibility of coastal flooding due to sea-level rise in making its contingency plans for 10,000year-flood protection. Meanwhile, the US didn't even bother to factor in the HIGH probability that NewOrleans will*sink ~3feet/~1metre before 2100 even if the projected sea-level rise fails to occur when engineering&building the new "100year-flood protection"system.

* Due to everything south of the Michoud*Fault -- roughly approximated by a mildly northward-bulging line between Beaumont,Texas and Biloxi,Mississippi -- sliding downward into the Gulf of Mexico subduction zone.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
16. IKE
Quoting surfmom:
Morning Ike -- your up and at it early today !!


Good morning....how's you son doing?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Morning Ike -- your up and at it early today !!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
13. IKE
Jeez....global warming took 12 posts to be mentioned? Incredible!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good Morning - waiting on a bit more light - before I walk the dog -- warm temps already this morning 65 degree's here in SWFL. Yesterday afternoon we saw 80 degrees!

Got one Mango tree way mixed up -- went into bloom mode -- not good if we get a frost down the road
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
thanks doc! very intresting taz about yellow stone it makes me nervous because its over due for an erruption according to national geographic. :/
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
And I'm reminded that Wikipedia is written by the public...
...Hurricane Gilma was the second most-intense Pacific at the time...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Tazmanian:
here some in too keep a eye on for 2009



is Yellowstone wakeing up???



YELLOWSTONE VOLCANO OBSERVATORY INFORMATION RELEASE
Monday, December 29, 2008 19:07 MST (Tuesday, December 30, 2008 02:07 UTC)


YELLOWSTONE VOLCANO (CAVW#1205-01-)
44.43°N 110.67°W, Summit Elevation 9203 ft (2805 m)
Volcano Alert Level: NORMAL
Aviation Color Code: GREEN

Earthquake swarm beneath Yellowstone Lake continues.

PRESS RELEASE FROM YVO PARTNER UNIVERSITY OF UTAH SEISMOGRAPH STATIONS

Released: December 29, 2008 05:00 PM MST


The University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that a notable swarm of earthquakes has been underway since December 26 beneath Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, three to six miles south-southeast of Fishing Bridge, Wyoming. This energetic sequence of events was most intense on December 27, when the largest number of events of magnitude 3 and larger occurred.

The largest of the earthquakes was a magnitude 3.9 (revised from magnitude 3.8) at 10:15 pm MST on Dec. 27. The sequence has included nine events of magnitude 3 to 3.9 and approximately 24 of magnitude 2 to 3 at the time of this release. A total of more than 250 events large enough to be located have occurred in this swarm.
Reliable depths of the larger events are up to a few miles. Visitors and National Park Service (NPS) employees in the Yellowstone Lake area reported feeling the largest of these earthquakes.

Earthquakes are a common occurrence in the Yellowstone National Park area, an active volcanic-tectonic area averaging 1,000 to 2,000 earthquakes a year. Yellowstone's 10,000 geysers and hot springs are the result of this geologic activity. A summary of Yellowstone's volcanic history is available on the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory web site (listed below). This December 2008 earthquake sequence is the most intense in this area for some years and is centered on the east side of the Yellowstone caldera. Scientists cannot identify any causative fault or other feature without further analysis. Seismologists continue to monitor and analyze the data and will issue new information if the situation warrants it


While this is worth watching, these earthquakes are very small. Once they get larger, Wyoming better watch out.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
nice end of the year update see ya next year doc

taz if yellowstone is awakening we will know soon that is if they even get any warning themselves

......KOTG..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
here some in too keep a eye on for 2009



is Yellowstone wakeing up???



YELLOWSTONE VOLCANO OBSERVATORY INFORMATION RELEASE
Monday, December 29, 2008 19:07 MST (Tuesday, December 30, 2008 02:07 UTC)


YELLOWSTONE VOLCANO (CAVW#1205-01-)
44.43°N 110.67°W, Summit Elevation 9203 ft (2805 m)
Volcano Alert Level: NORMAL
Aviation Color Code: GREEN

Earthquake swarm beneath Yellowstone Lake continues.

PRESS RELEASE FROM YVO PARTNER UNIVERSITY OF UTAH SEISMOGRAPH STATIONS

Released: December 29, 2008 05:00 PM MST


The University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that a notable swarm of earthquakes has been underway since December 26 beneath Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, three to six miles south-southeast of Fishing Bridge, Wyoming. This energetic sequence of events was most intense on December 27, when the largest number of events of magnitude 3 and larger occurred.

The largest of the earthquakes was a magnitude 3.9 (revised from magnitude 3.8) at 10:15 pm MST on Dec. 27. The sequence has included nine events of magnitude 3 to 3.9 and approximately 24 of magnitude 2 to 3 at the time of this release. A total of more than 250 events large enough to be located have occurred in this swarm.
Reliable depths of the larger events are up to a few miles. Visitors and National Park Service (NPS) employees in the Yellowstone Lake area reported feeling the largest of these earthquakes.

Earthquakes are a common occurrence in the Yellowstone National Park area, an active volcanic-tectonic area averaging 1,000 to 2,000 earthquakes a year. Yellowstone's 10,000 geysers and hot springs are the result of this geologic activity. A summary of Yellowstone's volcanic history is available on the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory web site (listed below). This December 2008 earthquake sequence is the most intense in this area for some years and is centered on the east side of the Yellowstone caldera. Scientists cannot identify any causative fault or other feature without further analysis. Seismologists continue to monitor and analyze the data and will issue new information if the situation warrants it
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Either that Dr or Gustav was a Category 5.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
What's the wind load at 212 mph?
Ask awsome Bill from Dawsonville.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Snowfire:
As for records, what about the 319 mph gust at Moore, OK in 1999, or the 286 mph gust near Wichita Falls in 1958? Why do we act as though these measurements do not count and instead insist on the old 231 mph number from Mount Washington as the official record?

Because those were measured with DOW units, they are estimated, instead of handheld devices or automated devices
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
If anything is to be taken from this, it is that folks living on the west side (often cited as the weaker semi-circle) of a hurricane shouldn't let their guard down. Microscale events, such as the one explained here, can and do happen.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
As for records, what about the 319 mph gust at Moore, OK in 1999, or the 286 mph gust near Wichita Falls in 1958? Why do we act as though these measurements do not count and instead insist on the old 231 mph number from Mount Washington as the official record?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 34 - 1

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 — Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy
82 °F
Plerumque Nubila