Reliability and climatological impacts of convective wind estimations

Roger Edwards, John T. Allen, Gregory W. Carbin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Convective surface winds in the contiguous United States are classified as severe at 50 kt (58 mi h-1, or 26 m s-1), whether measured or estimated. In 2006, NCDC (now NCEI) Storm Data, from which analyzed data are directly derived, began explicit categorization of such reports as measured gusts (MGs) or estimated gusts (EGs). Because of the documented tendency of human observers to overestimate winds, the quality and reliability of EGs (especially in comparison with MGs) has been challenged, mostly for nonconvective winds and controlled-testing situations, but only speculatively for bulk convective data. For the 10-yr period of 2006-15, 150 423 filtered convective-wind gust magnitudes are compared and analyzed, including 15 183 MGs and 135 240 EGs, both nationally and by state. Nonmeteorological artifacts include marked geographic discontinuities and pronounced "spikes" of an order of magnitude in which EG values (in both miles per hour and knots) end in the digits 0 or 5. Sources such as NWS employees, storm chasers, and the general public overestimate EGs, whereas trained spotters are relatively accurate. Analysis of the ratio of EG to MG and their sources also reveals an apparent warning-verification-influence bias in the climatological distribution of wind gusts imparted by EG reliance in the Southeast. Results from prior wind-tunnel testing of human subjects are applied to 1) illustrate the difference between measured and perceived winds for the database and 2) show the impact on the severe-wind dataset if EGs were bias-corrected for the human overestimation factor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1825-1845
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Climatology
  • Convective storms
  • Risk assessment
  • Thunderstorms
  • Wind effects
  • Wind gusts


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