Why Storms Like Yolanda Are So Rare
By Paul Homewood
It is a geographic, and fortunate, fact that most typhoons either don’t make landfall at all, or only do after considerable weakening. The reason for this is that the Pacific Ocean is simply so large, and it is this very size that enables typhoons to become so strong in many cases. By contrast, in the Atlantic most hurricanes either hit land or quickly move into cooler waters.
[Note – Tropical cyclones are called “typhoons” in the Western Pacific, and “hurricanes” in the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic]
This pattern can be seen on the map below of 2012 typhoon tracks.
According to the Japanese Met Agency, Yolanda atmospheric hit a low of 895 mb. Altogether, there have been 35 typhoons in the Western Pacific basin that have been as low or lower since reasonably reliable records began to be kept in the 1950’s. The lowest on record was Typhoon Tip in 1979, which registered 870 mb.
In other words, typhoons of Yolanda’s intensity come along on average every couple of years, but how many hit land?
Let’s start by looking at the tracks of the top 5. (The strongest, Category 5 winds are marked in red).
So we see that none of these five typhoons hit land at anything like maximum strength. Out of the 35 most intense typhoons mentioned above, the stats are:
|Number of typhoons|
|Made landfall at max strength||4|
|Made landfall at reduced strength||18|
|Did not make landfall||13|
So although storms of 895 mb and lower occur every year or two on average, only four have hit land at maximum or near maximum strength, an average of once every 15 years. These are the four:
|Name||Year||Country of Landfall|
We can only pray that such landfalls remain so rare.