6 September 2017
I've been trying to figure out where the "OMG 185MPH!!WINDS!!!11!" all started.
At about 10:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time on 5 September 2017, the Mirror newspaper website in the United Kingdom published a story that seems to include the 185MPH figure reported from one (1) reporting station (anemometer?) on the island of St. Martin. I include the link strictly for archival interest; the site itself is slow loading chum bait. Since then it's been all Biggest Hurricane EVAH!!! from every mainstream legacy news source. From -- as far as I can tell -- one report.
I am skeptical.
For one thing, "sustained" wind speed, in the hurricane business, is defined as "measured for one minute or more." That filters out instrument static. But somehow "sustained" reported wind speed has turned into reports that basically the wind speed everywhere within Hurricane Irma has been 185 Miles Per Hour for more than sixteen hours as of this writing.
For another thing, One. Reporting. Station. Even if a St. Martin anemometer read 185 MPH for one minute or more, and even if it was an accurate instrument, it might have been based on location -- a canyon, a rise in ground, or urban architecture can funnel air to cause an increase in velocity.
Another thing. I've been looking at the beautiful and mesmerizing wind earth at https://earth.nullschool.net/ and I have only been able to see wind speeds up to around 160 KILOMETERS per hour -- or a hundred miles an hour. That's still strong wind. But not historic, breaking all the records strong. Irma is probably a normal hurricane. You would expect a hundred miles an hour out of a cyclonic weather system of that size and pressure gradient.
I am not a meteorologist, and do not play one on television. No, don't click that link. Let's just say that I could never compete in today's broadcast media. Leave it at that.
But still. One Report. One Instrument reporting. Possibly for One Minute. And MPH vs. KPH. And it looks like that's how fake news turns into something everybody knows (but that just ain't so).