The World Records of Weather

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  • Brighton Beach on the 10th August 2010, when UK temperatures were at their highest. Photo: Matthew Fearn/PA Archives

    Heavy rainfall causes flooding around the world. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

    Lightening can be one of the most dangerous weather events. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Archives

  • The World Records of Weather
    28.01.2012 16:09

    It is believed that today is the 125th anniversary of the largest snowflake on record. According to records on 28th January 1887 the biggest snowflake ever observed was witnessed in Montana, USA. It is believed to have had a diameter of 38 centimetres. An article in the New York Times, explains that ranchers described the snowflakes as “larger than milk pans” suggesting that there were definitely very large snowflakes at this time. Since 1887, methods of recording weather data have improved and so we now have a better understanding of the world records of weather.

    The highest recorded temperature on record is currently 57.8C, which was recorded in Libya on 13th September 1922, although this is not accepted universally. This UK maximum temperature is 38.5C, which was recorded at Faversham, Kent on 10th August 2003. In contrast the lowest temperatures on record make the UK sound like a warm place to live. In 1895, 1982 and 1995, a record low of -27.2C was recorded in the UK. The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was at Vostok station, an Antarctic research station in Antarctica, which was -89.2C. The fastest ever temperature drop was recorded in 1911, at Rapid City, South Dakota, where the temperature dropped by 27.2 degC in 15 minutes. 

    When it comes to precipitation there are many different records, depending on the time period, the size of a snow flake or hailstone, or the quantity falling. As mentioned previously the largest snowflake to ever fall is believed to be 38 centimetres in diameter. In contrast the largest hailstone diameter is only 20.3cm, which fell on 23rd January 2010 in Vivian, South Dakota, and weighed 0.89kg. In contrast the heaviest hailstone was found in the Gopalganj District, Bangladesh on 14th April 1986, weighing 1.0kg. As for rainfall, the most rainfall believed to have fallen in one minute, was an impressive 31.2mm at Unionville, Maryland in 1956. For, the highest rainfall in 24 hours, the record is currently at 1,825mm which fell over Foc-Foc, Réunion on 8th January 1966, when Tropical Cyclone Denise passed over. 

    As for the more dangerous weather hazards, the highest wind gust ever recorded was 484km/h during a tornado near Oklahoma City on 3rd May 1999. The most severe tornado on record is believed to have occurred on 26th April, 1989, in the Manikganj District, Bangladesh, killing approximately 1,300 people. The most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded was in the eye of Super Typhoon Tip in the Pacific Ocean in 1979, which reached a low of 870mb. In contrast the highest air pressure to be recorded is 1085.6mb on 19th December 2011 in Mongolia.

    Luckily there have been plenty of weather enthusiasts in the past ready to record unusual weather events in their diaries, which date back to the 1300s, and now we have extensive databases of records. However, there may be more remarkable records that we do not have documented. It is important to remember that if there is no one to witness the weather then it will not be recorded. 

    By: Sally-Jean Webb