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The strength of Australia's record wind gust will blow you away

Anthony Sharwood, Tuesday June 15, 2021 - 16:52 EST

Today is Global Wind Day, and yes, that's really a thing. In truth, it appears to be a day invented by wind power  advocacy group WindEurope, but never mind because it got us thinking.

And what it got us thinking about here at WZ HQ was how many people know that Australia holds the record for the world's strongest recorded wind gust?

True story. The gust of 408 km/h was recorded in 1996 during Tropical Cyclone Olivia on Barrow Island, a 202 square kilometre uninhabited conservation reserve off WA's Pilbara coast.

That's right, 408 km/h. And for an idea of how fast that is...

Image: 408 km/h is definitely fast enough for a dog to blow off its chain. Source: Pixabay.

408 km/h is faster than:

  • The minimum takeoff speed of an Airbus A380 (315 km/h).
  • The fastest ever F1 speed under racing conditions (372.5 km/h).
  • And it's significantly faster than the world's previous high recorded gust at Mt Washington, New Hampshire, USA (372 km/h).

The Bureau of Meteorology has a page on Cyclone Olivia, during which the record gust was recorded. Because the cyclone struck in a relatively unpopulated area, only one town, the iron ore mining town of Pannawonica (population 650), was badly affected. Offshore oil industry infrastructure was also severely damaged.

Amazingly, the cyclone was only rated as a Category Four storm - mainly because cyclone ratings are based on mean wind speeds, not gusts. But for a brief period there, it got really, really windy. Pity the poor bandicoots and rock wallabies who inhabit Barrow Island.

Image: Barrow Island is where the little red pin is, and despite being so small, it's actually WA's second-largest isle. Source: Google maps.

But of course, it's just not tropical Australia which is subject to strong winds. As we wrote in April, Maatsuyker Island off Tasmania - at the diagonally opposite end of the country to Barrow Island - is one of our most consistently windswept locations.

And of course, last week parts of Victoria were buffeted by extremely wild winds.

There will be some cooler weather spreading across Australia's southeast this week, but thankfully, nothing that threatens to be too wild and windy at this stage.

We hope Global Wind Day has been nice and calm in your part of the world - unless of course you're running a wind farm!

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