Weather Observers Misread Wind Speeds, Skewing a Major Hazards Database

Weather spotters who report storm measurements and observations to a U.S. national compendium of storm data often exaggerate winds speeds—by about one third, on average.



People may think they know how hard the wind is blowing, but science shows that they usually get it wrong. Researchers have known this for years, but a recent study seeks to quantify just how bad humans are at figuring out the speed of wind gusts without the aid of meteorological instruments.

The authors of the study seek to make other researchers more aware of human bias when using Storm Data, one of the largest publicly available storm databases. The study, published in a recent issue of Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, uses a large-scale statistical analysis of information from the database to investigate how much storm reporters’ estimates of wind speeds differ from measurements.

Potential for Bias?

Storm Data is an enormous set of measurements characterizing more than 50 years’ worth of geophysical events, from tidal waves to tornadoes, compiled by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) in Silver Spring, Md. People from blizzard climatologists to insurance company adjustors make use of the data—and, thanks to a thorough collection and vetting process, the storm reports the database generates are generally considered reliable.

However, because Storm Data aims to collect as many data as possible, not all of the information comes from weather stations with calibrated instruments. Many of the entries in the database come from trained—or even untrained—storm reporters. These reporters must rely on environmental cues to make estimates of wind speeds and other measurements.

“When you’re estimating it, there has to be some sort of basis for that estimate…whether a tree limb snapped, or whether there was siding ripped off a house,’” said Brenton MacAloney, the Storm Data program manager at NCEI. “There has to be something other than, ‘uh, I thought it was something around 50 knots.’” The database asks its reporters to make narrative accounts of the events, to check that their numbers are within the realms of probability.Still, many researchers have long doubted the accuracy of Storm Data’s human reporters. “Everyone had assumed that [Storm Data was unreliable], but nobody had actually shown it,” said Peter Miller, the lead author on the study and a meteorologist at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.

Testing Storm Reporters’ Accuracy

To test the accuracy of human-generated wind gust reports, the researchers compared Storm Data wind speed entries from storm reporters who didn’t use anemometers with wind data from automated weather stations. In the study, which appeared online on 19 April, the authors also used instrumental data from the Global Historical Climatology Network as a comparison for the human-reported gusts.

The researchers focused on windstorms without rain, lightning, or other phenomena that could frighten observers, accidentally inflating their estimates of the storm’s intensity. They also eliminated news media reports from consideration as human observer data, because news reporters might have relied upon instrumental data from local weather stations.

Even with those potential biases removed, the comparisons revealed that storm reporters overestimated the speeds of wind gusts—on average, by about one third of the gusts’ actual speeds.

These inflated estimates could have introduced inaccuracies into any study that relied on Storm Data for climatological or storm modeling information, Miller said.

Overestimation: Consequences and Cures

Inflated estimates can have real consequences for society. If people hear that winds are stronger than they actually are, they may alter their behavior—for example, evacuating their homes unnecessarily during a hurricane.

That leads to another sort of trouble. “People who choose to evacuate eat up resources for people who truly need to evacuate,” said Gregory Webster, a psychologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who was not involved with the study. “It causes extra traffic congestion, and can sometimes result in even more severe food hoarding,” when frightened residents buy out all the water and nonperishable food they can find, leaving less for those who might truly need it.

Fixing the problem may prove difficult, said Miller. Many different factors contribute to overestimations—for instance, outdated storm reporter training, he noted.Storm reporters learn, in training, to use the Beaufort Wind Force Scale, which relies on environmental cues to determine how fast the wind is blowing. According to Miller, the Beaufort Scale is flawed. As an example, the scale indicates that trees blow over at wind speeds of 58 miles per hour and above. However, Miller said his research shows that trees can fall over at much lower speeds, in the low 40-mph range.

“Wind speeds are hard to estimate, especially when you’re talking about trees,” said Storm Data’s MacAloney. “We’re meteorologists, not arborists.”

The value of Storm Data lies in its scope, which includes remote areas without on-the-ground weather stations, MacAloney maintained. Despite their potential biases, human reports from such locations provide vital information such as narratives about highly localized events—for example, tornadoes and hail—that weather stations miss.

The authors of the new study agree, saying that Storm Data remains a valuable resource but needs a better system for flagging wind reports generated from people’s observations alone.

Citation: Deatrick, E. (2016), Humans misread wind speeds, skewing a major hazards database, Eos, 97,doi:10.1029/2016EO053709. Published on 06 June 2016.

I’ve often wondered if volunteer weather observers might potentially and purposely skew high and low temperature records. For example, let’s say you are within a degree of breaking a 100 year old temperature record at your NOAA COOP station. Only you know the real high or low reading on that thermometer, and after you reset it, all evidence of it is erased, forever. You can write down the number you want in the B91 form, or phone it in using the weathercoder, and nobody can prove you wrong, unless of course your exaggeration is quite large and doesn’t fit into a regional pattern, inviting scrutiny.

Meanwhile, you get some notice in the press for “breaking a record”, which is some recognition for a mostly thankless volunteer job done 24/7/365.

Exaggeration in temperature records seems quite plausible to me, because the human element can easily be skewed, whether it is wind or temperature.


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Paul Coppin
June 8, 2016 1:07 pm

Apparently these same spotters were contracted to provide the wind data for the windmill subsidy industry…

george e. smith
Reply to  Paul Coppin
June 8, 2016 1:24 pm

They simply couldn’t help themselves. Last night (Tues) on the ‘news’ they reported on the named rain storm down in Florida, and informed us that it had been downgraded from a tropical storm (rain storm) to a somethingorotherelse storm. So now they have an unbeaufort scale of unsuperlatives, where they keep adding three dollar words, to make a rain storm less and less, but sounding more and more threatening.
Yes I know it rains in Florida. I have been driving Highway one down to the Keys, in bright sunshine, and been suddenly engulfed in a downpour, where I could see nothing beyond the windshield; not even the wipers, which I had going full bore flat to the boards.
I could do nothing but pull to the side of the road and stop. Hey I have to wait longer at a red light, every couple of hundred yards in Silicon Valley.
We don’t need pet names for our favorite occasional dampness.
PS Yes OK Hurricanes deserve to have names.

Reply to  george e. smith
June 8, 2016 1:42 pm

We don’t need pet names for our favorite occasional dampness.

I, for one, am looking forward to breathlessly reporting on afternoon sunshower Myrtle and bloviating over morning drizzle Fred.

Bryan A
Reply to  george e. smith
June 8, 2016 2:37 pm

Lets not forget
Fog Fallout Flo
and Kite Breeze Kellie

Reply to  george e. smith
June 8, 2016 3:14 pm

“We don’t need pet names for our favorite occasional dampness.”
That swirly you mention got the Governor to declare a “state of emergency” no less. My family moved to central Florida just in time to experience a major hurricane named Donna. I think it is still the only cane to hit the USA 3 times as a hurricane.
I was also in the path of the tiny named swirly you mention. Sticking your hand out of the car window on the interstate is more dangerous than that rainstorm was, and yet, the media went hog wild will glee and joy at having a “killer storm” to report. They have really missed the hurricanes these last ten years in Florida.
By the way, my wife saw a reporter on TV reporting in ankle deep water. The horror!

Reply to  george e. smith
June 8, 2016 6:27 pm

Not Ankle Deep Angela? She has a lot to answer for!!

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
June 8, 2016 8:24 pm

Let not anyone think I would minimize the potential threat of severe weather.
I don’t encourage anyone to go out in weather that they would better let go by and stay indoors (if that’s the safest place.)
As for cars in heavy rain, and flooded roads, don’t forget that modern cars are semi water proof in being well sealed to keep out noise and weather. So it is not surprising that such cars can suddenly decide to be boats, and start floating. Remember that the tires are supposed to be down on the road so that you can make the car go where you want to. But once it gets floaty, it is going to go where the water wants it to, and often that is into deeper water.
Hurricane parties are not a great idea, and those who test the elements, often place others at risk who have to come and try to rescue them.
I have actually driven a car on a very short stretch of road that was being flooded over by a blocked irrigation ditch on a central California valley road. The water was no more than an inch deep on the high spot in the center of the road, and the velocity was a couple of feet per second at the most, not a raging torrent. And I could easily see the totally dry road less than 100 yds ahead; maybe half of that. I could easily have turned around and taken another road. They come at least eight to the mile in both grid directions, but I decided (after stopping, to drive on through, very slowly.
Not a big problem, but I could readily sense the lack of solid connection between tar and tire. Next time I would take the detour.
By the way, the flooded blocked irrigation ditch was some distance away from where I was, so that water was running off a level field onto the road, and off onto another level field, so there was no ditch to get swept into.
Never point your middle finger up at a cloud and say, “Go ahead !”

Reply to  george e. smith
June 8, 2016 8:30 pm

george e. smith wrote: “We don’t need pet names for our favorite occasional dampness.”
Yes, it is getting rather ridiculous on the Weather Channel. Happily, my local forecasters don’t give names to thunderstorms.

Margaret Smith
Reply to  george e. smith
June 9, 2016 2:29 am

Here in the UK we now name storms and since then there seem to have been no gales of any strength – only storms. We used to have quite a few gales but some areas have been surprisingly calm recently.

Reply to  george e. smith
June 9, 2016 7:57 am

I wish I could find the clip I saw a few years ago.
A reporterette was sitting in a canoe breathlessly reporting on the “flood”.
Then, unexpectedly, someone walked by in the background, and the water only came up to mid calf.

Reply to  george e. smith
June 9, 2016 7:59 am

I knew a Gail in high school. She was almost never calm.

June 8, 2016 1:25 pm

“Exaggeration in temperature records seems quite plausible to me, because the human element can easily be skewed, whether it is wind or temperature.”
Or you can operate NOAA who invents temperature records out of whole cloth.

June 8, 2016 1:26 pm

Fish stories?

June 8, 2016 1:35 pm

Cool…just “observed” my backyard and got Beaufort 4 (13-18 mph) with periods of 6 (25-31). According to the weather channel its 18 mph with gusts of 29 mph.

June 8, 2016 1:48 pm

storm reporters overestimated the speeds of wind gusts…..
….past thermometer readers overestimated the temperature

Reply to  Latitude
June 8, 2016 2:36 pm

past thermometer readers overestimated the temperature

Of course. That’s why GISS needs to adjust the past down.

June 8, 2016 2:15 pm

I wonder if they checked if experienced sailors were better or worse at estimating wind speed. I could imagine a historic bias being created when the age of steam came around.

Reply to  tomcourt
June 8, 2016 3:04 pm

I have had the good fortune to have sailed since I was 6 in a number of places around the globe. Experienced blue water sailors will tend to somewhat over estimate wind speeds – not order to brag as some think, but as a built-in safety mechanism.
Anyone who has ever experienced the effects on sea state and the vessel of winds quickly increasing from 15-20 kts to 30-35 kts knows that the time to reef the mainsail is earlier rather than later.
Blue water sailing in 20-25 kts is exciting – in 30-35 kts any given situation aboard can quickly become borderline dangerous and in anything the other side of 40 kts you’re in the danger zone. I’ve experienced 55 + kts on the open ocean twice in my life – an experience I will never forget and hope not to repeat any time soon again.
Somewhat over estimating wind speed at sea is prudence born from experience.

Reply to  tetris
June 8, 2016 3:14 pm

I imagine there is quite a bit of difference between recreational sailing(modern) and sailing for money(historic for fishing or transport). 100+ years ago, the chance of loss of life was built into the paychecks of many professions, not that the jobs paid that well, but they knew they could find someone else to take chances.

John W. Garrett
Reply to  tetris
June 8, 2016 3:47 pm

A piece of nautical wisdom handed down to me:
Q: When is it time to reef sails?
A: The first time you think about it.

Reply to  tetris
June 8, 2016 4:08 pm

John W.
I tell my Masters to leave anchorages – especially anchorages on lee shores – the first time they start thinking ‘Should I put to sea?’

Reply to  tetris
June 8, 2016 4:28 pm

“Hens’ scratches, mares tails, tall ships shorten sails”. Unless of course the master decided his schooner / clipper was going to make port first to fetch the premium. At that point to the wind with prudence and many a ship was lost because driven too hard and over canvassed in heavy seas. Schooners broaching on a hard run and 300ft clippers pitch poling [“pooped” = ass over bows] driven into the preceding wave train.
You’re right, sailors were expendable -part of the operating costs as it were- except for the really good ones who were not sent aloft. That’s why most sailors wore a golden ear ring – to pay for a burial in case their body washed up on the beach.
Professional sailors today shun prudence and take even greater risks, also for prize money and glory, but in monster machines unimaginable only 25 years ago. A couple of years ago a 130 x 90 ft trimaran weighing in at only 20,000 lbs [carbon fiber anyone?] sailed around the world non-stop in some 40 days -average speed 34 kts with maxima over 50 kts in the Southern Ocean. Max sail area at all times and looking for [not avoiding] the deep low pressure areas to ride. Little known but telling detail: one condition accepted by all 14 crew members was that should someone be lost overboard, there would be no one coming looking for them., something that would remind anyone to be prudent.

Reply to  tetris
June 9, 2016 5:16 am

tomcourt says: June 8, 2016 at 3:14 pm
I imagine there is quite a bit of difference between recreational sailing(modern) and sailing for money(historic for fishing or transport). …

Nope … I live by the following quote:

“Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.” – Samuel Johnson

Reply to  tetris
June 9, 2016 7:19 am

I crossed the Atlantic on a 43 ft sailboat 8 years ago, and we suffered thru 5 severe gales, with sustained winds above 50 kts for several days at a time, and the highest observed speed at the masthead of 59 kts. The seas would get to about 20 ft. The boat took it quite well, because we just reefed down to almost nothing, and ran the engine to maintain steerage. The most difficult part was getting some sleep because when the boat came off of one of those 20 ft waves, everyone inside went airborne for a second, and then landed.
What bothers me about this wind exaggeration is that once the hurricane center “names the storm”, that triggers all sorts of insurance related activities that are obligatory to a boat owner in order to be in compliance with your insurance policy. Many policies now require boats to be hauled out of the water in the face of a “named storm”, or else there is no insurance coverage. Some even require that masts be taken down. It is very difficult to arrange for this on short notice when everyone else has the same need. And when the hurricane people do it to inflate their “named storm” numbers, for political purposes, it inflicts considerable stress and costs on the public. They just think they are being prudent, but they are really just stirring up unnecessary trouble and worry.

John W. Garrett
June 8, 2016 2:16 pm

Sir Francis Beaufort’s scale emerged in recognition that “one man’s ‘stiff breeze’ might be another’s ‘soft breeze’. Beaufort succeeded in standardizing the scale.” The quote is from Wikipedia.
“The initial scale of thirteen classes (zero to twelve) did not reference wind speed numbers but related qualitative wind conditions to effects on the sails of a frigate, then the main ship of the Royal Navy, from ‘just sufficient to give steerage’ to ‘that which no canvas sails could withstand.” (also Wikipedia)
In the absence of anemometer close to hand, a great many sea stories invariably (whether unconsciously or consciously) involve inflation of Beaufort Scale winds, e.g., “It was blowing at least Force 7 out there…”

D. J. Hawkins
June 8, 2016 2:26 pm

The Beaufort scale at 10 says “trees broken” not “trees blown over”. I live in an area of NJ that is covered by glacial till. Most trees that have gone over have done so more or less intact. You’ll see a large disk (not ball) of root, dirt, and small rocks at the end of the trunk and little or no tap root. To survive in the very stony soil trees send roots out laterally for dozens of feet. This doesn’t provide much resistance to a tipping force like a high wind, so over they go. I can see that happening at 40 MPH or so.

Myron Mesecke
June 8, 2016 2:38 pm

I have attended Skywarn sessions many times. I’m an amateur radio operator. While I don’t go out storm spotting I have made reports from my house. Listening in on weather nets I have heard wind reports that I knew were exaggerated.

June 8, 2016 3:19 pm

With reference to my earlier comment based blue water sailing, for those interested in an indication of the forces involved:
@windspeed 10m/s [22mph] equals 60N/m2. 15m/s [33mph] equals 135N/m2 and 20m/s [44mph] equals 240N/m2. At 60mph the loads are in 550N/m range.

June 8, 2016 3:28 pm

Back in the late 60’s Boulder Colorado, where I attended the university, experienced winds of 128 mph. My apartment in a brick high rise dorm was swaying. Went outside, as that’s what 19 year olds do, and I as was blown over and rolled down the lawn for many yards. Another year it was 133 mph.
They’re called Katabatic winds (from memory so don’t gig me if that’s wrong). Always in winter and always warn. Something about the jet stream coming down to earth. No rain and rarefied pressure so not as dangerous as hurricanes. Memorable though.

Richard Keen
Reply to  expat
June 8, 2016 7:06 pm

Chinook winds they were. Katabatic winds are cold downslope winds, and can be quite impressive in the Antarctic. In Boulder you see them as cool breezes exiting the valleys in the evening after sunset. Chinook winds are warm downslope winds associated with mountain waves.
Those 128 and 133 mph chinooks were quite impressive; I was a CU student at the time, too. The 133 mph wind caught me unawares on my bike as I headed south on Broadway, cruising by the dimly lit ruins of construction sites, a gas station, and downed power lines (scary). My rental house lost all N and W facing windows, and I measured a gust of 70 mph in my bedroom. Tree damage was minimal, but structual damage inspired a re-writing of Boulder’s constuction code.

June 8, 2016 3:54 pm

Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Winds may share a common cause with Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming which shares a common cause with Catastrophic Anthropogenic Government Whoring.

Reply to  n.n
June 8, 2016 4:14 pm

May I say the pictogram for the Beaufort Scale differs from that Scale I know and have worked with for forty-some years?
7 – Near Gale
8 – Gale
9 – Severe Gale
10 – Storm
11 – Violent Storm
12 – Hurricane – ‘that which no canvas can withstand’.
I echo and applaud Tetris’s comments above – it is only prudent seamanship to be wary of the weather.
It can blow up within an hour – or less.
And, if not prudent – will you be dented?

June 8, 2016 4:20 pm

I lost a damn good hat in a blow a few years ago. Still sore about it.

June 8, 2016 4:21 pm

BTW… Where is Willis?

June 8, 2016 5:05 pm

Human error? Don’t we have computer models to avoid just that problem?
When I lived in Japan I was told that the estimates of the force of earthquakes in the more rural areas came from such sources. After the quake, the village postman, the policeman, Mr Mori from the hardware shop, and Mrs Ikeda would get together in Mrs Ikeda’s bar and swap opinions and drink beer until they arrived at a figure they all agreed on. Then the policeman would report that to the local government. It was 100% consensus, so it must have been correct.

June 8, 2016 5:21 pm

I’ve got an 80-pound rock chained 10 feet up on a, piece of 8″ drain pipe. The rock is just a few inches off the ground.
When the rock is at a 45 degree angle, it’s a “stiff breeze.”
When the rock and chain are at 90 degrees, I turn my John Deere ball cap around backwards.
When the pole starts to bend, I walk over to the next county to look for my car and my house.
Typically, I under-report wind speed ’cause the dang rock never moves!
Anyhow, that’s the Modified Beaufort Scale I use.

June 8, 2016 5:33 pm

I have a high-tension tower that is nearly in my backyard.
One night just after dark, the radar was indicating a nasty thunderstorm bearing down on my location.
So, of course I was outside waiting for it.
The sounds made by the gust front rushing thru the wires and tower (it was dark out), made me wish I was in my crawlspace.
60-70 MPH ??
It was an unnatural howling, f’n scary, especially at night.
I’ll never forget it.

June 8, 2016 6:02 pm

Do wind speed indicators measure downdraft wind speed?
I don’t think T.S. Colin really qualified as a tropical storm, but at my house in Sarasota we had a brief very strong downdraft with some of the heaviest rain I ‘ve ever seen. Our cars were swaying even though they were parked, and a large barn type door was blown off its hinges. I think the vast amount of wind was blowing downward, it might have been a microburst . I am wondering if a wind speed instrument would measure tha accurately, because they are designed to measure horizontal wind speeds.

Reality Observer
Reply to  Tom Trevor
June 8, 2016 8:50 pm

As soon as it hits the ground, that microburst goes horizontal. So unless your anemometer just happens to be right under it…
There should be a note about the scale, too – it means “general wind conditions.” Microbursts are not “rare” – there are usually at least two or three involved in any monsoonal thunderstorm out here in SE Arizona. They are “rare” only for your location (I’ve had three at my house over 15+ years – the first, alas, after we just moved in, and had not really checked the condition of the wood fences around the lot. Flying planks, nice rusty nails all over the the place; fun…)

June 8, 2016 6:11 pm

I used to sail Force 5 sailboats. I was told they were named after the beaufort scale that they sail best in. I loved sailing in strong breezes.

michael hart
June 8, 2016 6:36 pm

Like some trees, I fell over once in just a light breeze. I didn’t even have two sheets to the wind.

Richard Keen
June 8, 2016 7:17 pm

AW: I’ve often wondered if volunteer weather observers might potentially and purposely skew high and low temperature records. For example, let’s say you are within a degree of breaking a 100 year old temperature record at your NOAA COOP station.
Frankly I don’t think so. I’ve been a co-op observer for 32 years, and have recorded well over 20,000 max and min temperatures. No way would I compromise the integrity of all that work by cheating a degree on temperaturue one day (or an inch on snowfall, for that matter). I guess there could be a few miscreant observers, but most don’t do co-op observing for fame or fortune (it is volunteer), but for love of weather and of good data.

June 8, 2016 7:32 pm

“the human element can easily be skewed” yep!

June 8, 2016 7:36 pm

“Exaggeration in temperature records seems quite plausible to me, because the human element can easily be skewed, whether it is wind or temperature.”
Last time I suggested this the raw data worshippers had a fit.

Steve S
Reply to  Anthony Watts
June 9, 2016 1:19 am

“Sometimes”….your being kind.

Reply to  Anthony Watts
June 10, 2016 8:47 am

Sometimes ??
Ya gotta luv him though 🙂

Reply to  Steven Mosher
June 9, 2016 6:02 am

Steven Mosher June 8, 2016 at 7:36 pm wrote:
““Exaggeration in temperature records seems quite plausible to me, because the human element can easily be skewed, whether it is wind or temperature.””
“Last time I suggested this the raw data worshippers had a fit.”
Well, there is “skewing it” the right way, and then there is “skewing it” the wrong way.
The data skewers at NOAA and NASA ought to turn over their raw data to some independent scientists and then we would have a better idea of whether the temperature data was skewed properly, or improperly.
It seems kind of strange that every time NOAA and NASA skew the temperature data, the temperatures always increase. Every time.

Sid White K4ARM
June 8, 2016 8:51 pm

I grew up in the Florida Keys and evacuated for two hurricanes. After moving to the the mainland in 1953, I experiences several more hurricanes, including September, 1960’s Donna which obliterated two of the three houses in which I had lived in while on Plantation Key. Interestingly, the frame house I lived in in Homestead, Florida is still standing after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
For the past 15 or so years, I’ve been a trained weather spotter and a NWS CO-OP station as well as the primary net control station for the local SKYWARN nets for two counties in Eastern Colorado as well as a recording and reporting station for the Colorado Amateur Radio Weather Net and a long time but currently inactive reporting location for CoCoRAS.
Whenever reports of weather phenomena are reported by our spotters, they are clearly identified as either measured or estimated…and the measuring criteria are also accurately specified (no “marble” sized hail reports taken but rather stone measurements stated to the fraction of an inch; wind speeds measured by permanently installed or hand-held anemometers, etc.).
My air temperature readings are taken from several different instruments, both liquid and electronic located inside a Standard Stevenson screen, installed to NWS specifications, and an electronic recording thermometer located about fifteen feet away in a makeshift solar shield. On most cloudy (overcast) days, all of these instruments read within about a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit of each other. However, during days with at least partial incident sunlight striking the shelters, there can be deltas of several full degrees F. For the past several years I have kept records (high, low, and reset readings) of three of these instruments. My official NWS observations are reported from the NWS glass liquid thermometers.
The point of this diatribe is to say that there are many of us who strive for accuracy in our measurements and reports and eschew the “if it bleeds, it leads” hyperbole seen in many of the media reports.

June 8, 2016 10:08 pm

Good post!

Chris Wright
June 9, 2016 1:54 am

Just change kilometers per hour into miles per hour and it’s job done.
Several years ago, during a hurricane, the BBC and most of the UK media changed a wind speed of 270 kilometers per hour into 270 miles per hour.

June 9, 2016 5:56 am

I really hate wind speed measurements in New Hampshire. We have 2 meter (height) wind speeds, 10 meter height speeds, heights chosen because they were convenient, trees that massive impact 2 and 10 meter speeds due to their foliage, trees that do the same even after shedding their leaves in the fall, and most of the NWS readings are from airports where the nearest tree is hundreds of meters away. Something about trees and turbulence not playing nicely with airplanes.
Besides, I see the reports and forecasts for 30 mph winds – and I get sustained winds of about 5 mph. In the winter.

Reply to  Ric Werme
June 9, 2016 6:02 am

Oh – today’s forecast: Partly sunny, with a high near 66. Northwest wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph.
200 years ago today we were between killing freezes both nights adjacent to today, an event we still marvel at. 🙂

June 9, 2016 7:09 am

The descriptions of Effects at Sea are much easier to differentiate than those on land, especially once you get 20 or 30 miles or more away from land. The Beaufort Scale works wonderfully when wind blows over water, it’s all the same as opposed to trees and such. Still not a perfect way to report the wind speed though.
Force Wind(Knots) WMO Classification Appearance of Wind Effects On the Water
0 Less than 1 Calm Sea surface smooth and mirror-like
1 1-3 Light Air Scaly ripples, no foam crests
2 4-6 Light Breeze Small wavelets, crests glassy, no breaking
3 7-10 Gentle Breeze Large wavelets, crests begin to break, scattered whitecaps
4 11-16 Moderate Breeze Small waves 1-4 ft. becoming longer, numerous whitecaps
5 17-21 Fresh Breeze Moderate waves 4-8 ft taking longer form, many whitecaps,
some spray
6 22-27 Strong Breeze Larger waves 8-13 ft, whitecaps common, more spray
7 28-33 Near Gale Sea heaps up, waves 13-19 ft, white foam streaks off breakers
8 34-40 Gale Moderately high (18-25 ft) waves of greater length, edges of
crests begin to break into spindrift, foam blown in streaks
9 41-47 Strong Gale High waves (23-32 ft), sea begins to roll, dense streaks of foam,
spray may reduce visibility
10 48-55 Storm Very high waves (29-41 ft) with overhanging crests, sea white
with densely blown foam, heavy rolling, lowered visibility
11 56-63 Violent Storm Exceptionally high (37-52 ft) waves, foam patches cover sea,
visibility more reduced
12 64+ Hurricane Air filled with foam, waves over 45 ft, sea completely white with
driving spray, visibility greatly reduced

June 9, 2016 7:54 am

Back in the days of the old Soviet Union. Fuel subsidies were based on how cold the previous winter was.
The colder the winter, the more money your region got.
Unsurprisingly, when the Soviet Union ended and these subsidies stopped, the temperature being measured at these stations suddenly rose by several degrees.

June 9, 2016 9:14 am

Here in Texas on the High Plains if our weather reporters named every storm that had a gale force wind, we would run out of names.

June 9, 2016 10:02 am

“According to Miller, the Beaufort Scale is flawed. As an example, the scale indicates that trees blow over at wind speeds of 58 miles per hour and above. However, Miller said his research shows that trees can fall over at much lower speeds, in the low 40-mph range.” If that were true, there wouldn’t be a tree standing in Wyoming. (It does say “can” fall over so he has wiggle room.)
People do over-estimate wind speed, especially if they are not used to high winds. I have a wind gauge and I can’t consistently judge wind speeds, even with practice. Plus, where the gauge is sighted matters. I moved mine further out in the open and the speeds went up 5 mph or more.

Gunga Din
June 9, 2016 2:35 pm

Meanwhile, you get some notice in the press for “breaking a record”, which is some recognition for a mostly thankless volunteer job done 24/7/365.
Exaggeration in temperature records seems quite plausible to me, because the human element can easily be skewed, whether it is wind or temperature.

Very plausible. The exaggeration may also be no more than innocent human error. Understandable.
For me, Mr. Layman, the takeaway is that the further back the records go, the more scratched they are.
Modern computer adjustments to past records only add more scratches.
There’s no way in H a computer model can know what happened then.
Where does that leave us?
Admit we don’t know (and act accordingly) or get Professor Trelawny’s nephew to read our tree rings.

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