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Subject: G16) What is the average forward speed of a hurricane?

Contributed by Neal Dorst (HRD)

The forward speed of hurricanes is very latitude dependent. Typically, Atlantic hurricanes track along the western side of the subtropical ridge in the western Atlantic. As they recurve (turn more northerly) from their westward track they usually slow down. If they reach the midlatitudes, they can interact with upper-level troughs and pick up speed.

In the table below, the forward speed of hurricanes in the HURDAT database have been averaged in 5 degree latitude bins :

Forward speed of Atlantic hurricanes
averaged by 5 degree latitude bins
Speed No.
km/hr knt mph
0°- 5°N25.914.016.1 186
15°-20°N17.4 9.410.87501
20°-25°N17.5 9.410.88602
40°-45°N49.326.630.6 264
45°-50°N51.527.832.0 34
50°-55°N51.427.832.0 15
55°-60°N55.830.134.7 1

While there are many cases where the forward speed over the 6 hour interval in the hurricane database is zero, such as Mitch in 1998, the highest speed in the database is for unnamed Tropical Storm #6 in 1961. As it got caught up by a midlatitude trough over the midatlantic states, it went speeding off northeastward over Maine and New Brunswick at a maximum speed of 112.25 km/hr (60.57 kt or 69.75 mph). The fastest hurricane in the record was Emily in 1987, whose maximum speed reached 110.48 km/hr (59.61 kt or 68.65 mph) as it raced over the North Atlantic, before it turned extratropical.

Last updated May 29, 2014

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