Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researcher Fears Backlash Over Inflated Wind Speeds

Date:
October 5, 1998
Source:
Clemson University
Summary:
Wind speeds in Hurricanes Bonnie, Earl and Georges were often overstated by the National Hurricane Center, according to a Clemson University researcher, who worries that bad science will lead to future disasters.

CLEMSON -- Wind speeds in Hurricanes Bonnie, Earl and Georges were often overstated by the National Hurricane Center, according to a Clemson University researcher, who worries that bad science will lead to future disasters.

Related Articles


"People may not take proper precautions because they've been misled into thinking they've been through far worse storms than they actually have," said Clemson wind engineering professor Peter Sparks. "If winds in Hurricane Georges had blown as hard as stated by official sources, then the whole of the Gulf Coast would be torn apart like South Florida after Hurricane Andrew."

Sparks has studied wind conditions in hurricanes for the past 15 years and has testified on wind-safety issues before a Congressional subcommittee. He is part of a research effort at Clemson that focuses on finding ways to strengthen homes and schools against the ravages of high-wind events such as hurricanes.

"Bonnie, Earl and Georges were three of the most heavily researched storms in history. Aircraft measurement, dropsondes and data buoys, as well as coastal and inland wind-recording sites, gave researchers a clear picture of what was going on - and the data simply didn't support the claims of the National Hurricane Center," Sparks said.

In the most recent example of Hurricane Georges, the National Hurricane Center reported maximum sustained winds of 100 mph as it made landfall.

But Sparks said an analysis of information from data buoys and land stations by the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration put the figure at only 84 mph for ocean exposures - which would mean overland speeds would be even lower.

The situation in Georges was complicated by some instrumentation problems, Sparks said. Valuable data from automatic weather stations in Gulfport and Pascagoula were lost because neither station had emergency-power capability, a common failing among the more than 900 automatic weather stations deployed by the National Weather Service, FAA and the military in recent years. Data from those stations would have helped to determine the validity of gusts of 175 mph reported at the nearby Keesler Airforce Base in Biloxi, which uses a type of wind-speed measuring device that's been proven to give erroneously high results when wet, Sparks said.

He added that erroneous reports also went out after Hurricane Bonnie, with the National Hurricane Center issuing reports that a Category -- hurricane with sustained winds of 115 mph had swept over Wilmington, N.C., even as the National Weather Service at Wilmington measured and reported a maximum of only 56 mph.

"The scientific information is there, but the National Hurricane Center is not using it properly. Even when we have good data - such as in Wilmington during Bonnie - nobody takes any notice of it. Despite great improvements in instrumentation, data transmission and significant improvements in track forecasts, the National Hurricane Center's reports of prevailing wind conditions have got worse, not better, over the years," Sparks said.

The problem has been long-standing, said Sparks. In 1985, he led a National Academy of Sciences team that investigated Hurricane Elena, which made landfall in almost exactly the same place as Georges. Having spent months recovering wind-data from the area, the team concluded that there was no justification for the wind speeds claimed by the National Hurricane Center.

"Government officials reported sustained winds of 100 mph and gusts of 175 mph for Georges, yet it's virtually impossible to find any wind damage. We got more accurate reports from the meteorological services in the tiny Caribbean islands than we got from the United States."

Wind speeds, as currently reported, are too easily open for misinterpretation by the public and press, Sparks said. For example, the National Hurricane Center uses the term "maximum sustained wind" to describe wind speed averaged over one minute at 33 feet above the surface - a quantity not measured directly by any meteorological station in the world and at odds with the World Meteorological Organization's sustained-wind standard that requires measuring wind over at least a 10-minute period.

Since gust speeds are widely reported by weather stations and often quoted by the media, it may make more sense for the National Hurricane Center, in its public advisories, to give wind speeds in terms of gusts instead of the more difficult-to-understand sustained wind speeds, Sparks said.

WRITER: Sandy Dees-Baker


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Clemson University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Clemson University. "Researcher Fears Backlash Over Inflated Wind Speeds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 October 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981005074051.htm>.
Clemson University. (1998, October 5). Researcher Fears Backlash Over Inflated Wind Speeds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981005074051.htm
Clemson University. "Researcher Fears Backlash Over Inflated Wind Speeds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981005074051.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins