Scientists confirmed this week that the highest recorded wind ever recorded was Cyclone Olivia in April, 1996, at Barrow Island, Australia. The team at the World Meteorological Organization "came to its conclusion after an extensive review and evaluation of instrumental, phenomenological and statistical data." The wind was clocked at 253.5 mph.
It broke the previous world record held by the Mount Washington Observatory in April 1934. Mount Washington is New Hampshire’s highest peak at 6,288 feet. It’s the highest mountain in the northern Appalachians. It is famous for having the worst weather in the region. It’s had some of the most extreme weather on the planet- even in the summer! The only time I ever went to the top, I could barely see four feet in front of me because of fog and mist (in August).
The Mount Washington wind speed record of 231 mph remains the highest in the Northern and Western Hemispheres. Not a world record. Boo hoo… It was bound to happen someday!
Giovanni da Verrazano first saw Mount Washington from the Atlantic Ocean in 1524. The first white man to climb it was Darby Field in 1642. It’s not particularly high, being just 6,288 feet, but the weather is atrocious, being at the epicenter of three major weather systems. The average temperature is below freezing, at 27.2 degrees Fahrenheit. It is within one days drive of nearly 70 million people, so it is tempting for many novice climbers. However, it is also the deadliest mountain in the United States. Over 135 people have lost their lives on Mount Washington since 1849. More deaths than Denali (Mount McKinley) the tallest mountain in North America.
The best book I read about Mount Washington was “Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire” by Nicolas Howe. It profiles 22 of the 135 unlucky hikers who found tragedy on Mount Washington. It is more chilling than John Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” (about the illfated trek up Mount Everest) because any of these deaths could be you or your neighbor. The last person who died on Mount Washington was Manchester’s Dr. Wieslaw Walczak, and educated man who was a very experienced hiker.
It’s been a tough year for Mount Washington. Nin the cat, mascot of the scientists at the Mount Washington Weather Observatory and unofficial greeter to all the hikers and tourists to the summit, passed away on July 14, 2009. He was immortalized in post cards, and in a children’s book “Cat in the Clouds”, written by a former weather observer at Mount Washington.
This photo of Nin is from the Mt. Washington website (see below)
For more information:
NH.com “Say It Ain’t So- Mount Washington Wind Speed Record Broken” by Ernest Burden, January 26, 2010 http://www.nh.com/nhbloggers/579798-180/story.html
http://www.mountwashington.org/ The website of the weather observatory on Mount Washington. Click on Multimedia, then Photos, then “creatures of comfort” to see the cats of the Mount Washington Weather Observatory.
“Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire” by Nicolas Howe, Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2009
“Among the Clouds: Work, Wit & Wild Weather at the Mount Washington Weather Observatory” by Eric Pinder, Alpine Books, 2008
“Cat in the Clouds” by Eric Pinder, The History Press, 2009
Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo