Meteorologists observe more than just rainfall and temperatures. Weather records dating all the way back to the 19th century show measurements that don’t even seem possible, like the world’s largest snowflake. Others, like the world’s biggest hail, are mind-blowing just for their sheer size. Here are 15 weather records you might not know about:
1. EARLIEST HURRICANE
An unnamed hurricane in 1938 formed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on January 1, making it the earliest-ever hurricane in the calendar year. In 2016, Hurricane Alex nabbed the second-place spot, reaching hurricane strength on January 14.
2. WIDEST TORNADO
In 2004, a tornado in Hallam, Nebraska reached almost 2.5 miles in diameter at its widest.
3. LARGEST HAILSTONE
The largest recorded hailstone to fall in the United States dropped on Vivian, South Dakota in 2010. It was 8 inches in diameter. Because it melted a little before authorities could measure it, it was likely even bigger when it initially hit the ground. The previous record for largest hailstone belonged to a 7-inch monster in Aurora, Nebraska in 2003.
4. HEAVIEST HAILSTONE
The heaviest hailstones in the world fell in 1986 in Bangladesh. The deadly, grapefruit-sized ice balls weighed in at 2.25 pounds. By contrast, the 8-inch hailstone that fell in South Dakota in 2010 weighed 1.94 pounds.
5. HEAVIEST SNOWFALL IN LOS ANGELES
On January 10 and 11, 1949, Los Angeles saw its most intense blanketing of snow on record: a whopping 0.3 inches near the city’s center. While the amount sounds tiny, the sun-soaked city wasn’t prepared for even a small downfall, and Los Angeles briefly ground to a halt.
6. LARGEST SNOWFLAKE
The world’s biggest snowflake was reportedly observed in Montana in January 1887, when a rancher described seeing a 15-inch-wide flake. This record is hard to verify since there wasn’t anyone else there to see it, and you can’t really stick a snowflake in the freezer (especially not in 19th century Montana).
7. FIRST TWIN SNOW CRYSTALS
As it happens, two snowflakes can be alike. The first recorded identical snow crystals were discovered at an atmospheric research center in Colorado in 1988. The twin crystals, examined under a microscope, came from a Wisconsin storm.
8. FOGGIEST PLACE ON EARTH
Enjoy the mystery and romance of fog? Head to Grand Banks of Newfoundland. When the warm waters of the Gulf Stream collide with the chilly waters of the Labrador Current, they create a stunning amount of fog. The area sees fog for more than 200 days a year.
9. MOST RAINFALL IN ONE MINUTE
The 4th of July, 1956 in Unionville, Maryland was a wet one. An estimated 1.23 inches of rain fell in just a minute.
10. FARTHEST-TRAVELING TORNADO
In 1925, the “Tri-State Tornado” traveled 219 miles from Ellington, Missouri to Princeton, Indiana over the course of 3.5 hours.
11. LONGEST DISTANCE A TORNADO HAS CARRIED AN OBJECT
In April 1991, a tornado carried a cancelled personal check from Stockton, Kansas to Winnetoon, Nebraska, a total of 223 miles.
12. HIGHEST WAVE
The highest wave ever observed by a ship was 60.7 feet tall. It was spotted by a British research vessel in the North Atlantic west of Scotland in 2000.
13. SMALLEST HURRICANE EYE
When it reached Darwin, Australia during Christmas of 1974, Cyclone Tracy had an eye 4 miles across. Tropical storm eyes are typically between 20 and 40 miles across.
14. LONGEST-LASTING TROPICAL STORM
Hurricane John (1994) formed during an El Niño year and lasted from August 11 to September 10. It traveled 7165 miles across the Pacific, making it also the farthest-traveling tropical cyclone that has ever been observed. Because it formed in the eastern Pacific and traveled to the western Pacific and then returned to the east, it was both a hurricane and a typhoon. Though it was a Category 5 hurricane at its peak, it caused little damage because it barely brushed land.
15. FIERCEST WIND
In 1996, Barrow Island in Australia experienced a 253-mile-per-hour gust. Guessing that that kind of breeze might require stronger measures than just holding onto your hat.