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Typhoon Yolanda One Year On

November 18, 2014

By Paul Homewood




Philip Eden has a largely sensible piece on Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as the Philippines named it, just over a year after it hit.



He describes well how the storm surge did so much damage, although he fails to mention the shallow waters where this occurred, and which made matters much worse.

He also has the sense to distinguish between storms that have come ashore, and ones, such as Tip, which did not, and also happened to be the largest tropical cyclone on record and the most intense Pacific typhoon.

However, there are dangers in comparing the likes of Typhoon Tip, which hit in 1979, with storms these days, such as Yolanda. Back in 1979, measurements of wind speeds relied on aircraft flying into the storm, whereas nowadays we can rely on satellites. It has been well established that aircraft in the past were reluctant to fly into the centre of the more powerful cyclones, and as a result there may have been underestimation of wind speeds.


There is also a question mark over the wind speed as Yolanda made landfall. The Philippines Met Agency, PAGASA, recorded 10-minute sustained wind speeds of 235 kph, or 147 mph, which was well below the claim of 195 mph, based on 1-minute readings.

There is an established method of converting from 1-minute readings, which are used in Atlantic hurricanes, to 10-minute ones, which tend to be used elsewhere. Based on work by Simiu and Scanlon, a factor of 0.871 is applied.




As this study for the Philippine Working Group on Yolanda shows, the theoretical 1-minute wind speed would be no more than 275 kph ( the calculation actually works out at 270 kph). This is well short of the claim of 315 kph. The satellite reading may be right, but this would simply indicate that earlier storms, not measured from satellites, had been similarly underestimated.

Based on these figures, there have been several other typhoons as strong or stronger in recent decades.

Either way, Yolanda cannot be compared with Hurricane Camille, which hit the Mississippi and Louisiana with 200 mph plus sustained winds in 1969.


Fortunately most super typhoons never hit land at anywhere near maximum strength. Last year, sadly, this was not the case.

  1. A C Osborn permalink
    November 18, 2014 12:47 pm

    It has become apparent that the Sattelites are really over estimating the wind speeds of all the storm centres, The last 3 were all classed as “Hurricane/Typhoon” strength when in actual fact their ground wind speeds were no where near that.
    Could it have to do with what Height the measurements are taken?

    The big problem of course is that as far as the record nad MSM are concerned the highest value is always used.

  2. UKjohn permalink
    November 18, 2014 12:48 pm

    Best not mention the Typhoon of 1898 which destroyed Tacloban with 7000 dead or the one of 1912 which left 15000 dead.

  3. Retired Dave permalink
    November 18, 2014 2:22 pm

    I am surprised, and a little disappointed, to see Philip Eden trawl out the exaggerated wind speeds attributed to early satellite estimates of Yolanda. It was quite apparent at the time when you viewed the reality as it hit the Philippines that it was not as high as suggested, as Paul says above. I also see your link above Paul to your coverage at the time, which was also at WUWT I think. It is sloppy of Mr Eden not to make clear that a lot of comparing of apples and oranges goes on in such reporting – measured 10 metre wind speeds against satellite derived and 1 minute means against 10 minute means. Most meteorological wind speeds are 10 minute means with the highest gust in that 10 minutes.

    Yolanda was a very severe event and devastating but its ranking was exaggerated to fit an agenda – now there is a surprise.

    Interestingly (I think) the century that reportedly had the most frequent severe typhoons in SE Asia was the 17th – according to research on Chinese sedimentary records. Not that typhoons are aware what century it is. Similar records for the eastern seaboard of the USA show much the same. Given that the 17th century was probably one of the coldest of the last 10,000 years, it is perhaps further evidence that it is a cooling world that produces bigger effects. Remember also that one of the biggest storms to affect Southern England was thought to have taken place in 1703.

    The idea that a warming Arctic (watch this space) reducing temperature contrast between pole and equator leads to more energetic winds (as suggested by CAGW proponents) doesn’t hold water IMHO. The total cyclone energy for the Northern Hemisphere has been below average for a while, and the USA has seen the longest period (8 years) without a severe hurricane (cat 3,4 or 5) making landfall, since the Civil War – that is their Civil War not ours in the UK though. We have also seen two years of very quiet hurricane activity in the Atlantic with 2013 being the quietest for 50 years.

    Arctic sea ice tweeted recently that “news of my death has been greatly exaggerated”

    h/t to Mark Twain

  4. Bloke down the pub permalink
    November 18, 2014 2:30 pm

    The death toll from Yolanda would have been much lower if there was anything like a reasonable building code, if there had been an evacuation of low lying areas, and were it not for an armed insurrection in the region. I’ve seen it reported elsewhere that Yolanda’s reputation was in part due to the BBC reporting the 235kph wind speed as 235mph. I’ll try and dig out a ref if you want.

  5. Don permalink
    November 18, 2014 6:08 pm

    The immediate area inland surrounding Tacloban is very hilly. Residents living there were very concerned about mudslides from the rain. They were advised to relocate into evacuation centers (churches, schools) in the city of Tacloban. The storm surge was very severe and inundated these buildings. A Philippine neighbor of my sister living in suburban Seattle lost several family members who had travelled into Tacloban to seek shelter. Additionally, poorly built homes extended virtually to the edge of the bay, and they took a direct hit.

  6. mkelly permalink
    November 18, 2014 9:12 pm

    it is disingenuous to leave out that the local weather people showed a much lower wind speed. But that would not fit the narrative.

  7. November 18, 2014 10:30 pm

    Try it for yourself

    The earthschool realtime global wind map is pretty accurate (I’ve tried in in north and southern hemispheres in some quite remote locations. Change the height of the model for some surprises….

  8. November 19, 2014 9:01 pm

    Thanks again Paul for you careful conscientious work getting the facts out there.


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