The winds aloft are absolutely, combined with satellite and a "model" using buoys used. And it this method has provided a false measure for quite some time.
This is just a matter of technicality, but there are no ATLANTIC recent storms where the SUSTAINED winds on the ground matched the category when it was declared a 4 or 5. Gusts, yes. Sustained, no. And category is supposed to be based on sustained wind. But hype/hysteria/budgeting is based on the biggest number you can claim.
This storm devastated Barbuda and caused great damage to SXM so far but there were absolutely no sustained Cat 5 readings let alone the "strongest ever". Cat 3 can devastate poorly constructed structures. Further, despite being close to the eye, Antigua wasn't impacted much. The suE and claimed strength of the storm should have devastated islands that were "brushed" by the edge of the eye wall, but this did not happen.
My heart goes out to those whose lives are wrecked or who lost loved ones. This doesn't attempt to diminish that. But there is an easy to document inflation of storm strength that can't be ignored.
Of course we are talking about sustained wind here.
And for Irma, if you are considering the Altlantic outside caribbean and outside the gulf, I believe it is not just the strongest ever, but also strongest ever by a wide margin. All the recording wind speed meter on islands along its path have been broken before eye wall is reached, how do you think those reading could reflect the cyclone's maximum intensity? Plus, some of those countries probably use 10-minutes average value for sustained wind which is likely give out a lesser value than the US standard of 1-minutes average
Antigua was at the weaker quarter of the storm when the storm passed through the eye and is also in the navigable semicircle.
And even if you think the value is over-reported, the exact same method have been in use for quite a few decades and is being used to measure all those storms out there. At least it would be the strongest over past four or five decades when the method is used?
Personaly I am not too sure about the Atlantic side, and I don't have reading from Irma here, but over the Pacific, it is still pretty common that after a typhoon passed through an offshore drill platform, the actually measured wind speed have exceed approximations based on satellite images, and as a result they need to upgrade the typhoon accordingly.
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