Super Typhoon Haiyan's Intensification and Unusually Warm Sub-Surface Waters

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:25 PM GMT on November 13, 2013

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A remarkable warming of the sub-surface Pacific waters east of the Philippines in recent decades, due to a shift in atmospheric circulation patterns and ocean currents that began in the early 1990s, could be responsible for the rapid intensification of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Hurricanes are heat engines, which means they take heat energy out of the ocean, and convert it to kinetic energy in the form of wind. It's well-known that tropical cyclones need surface water temperatures of at least 26.5°C (80°F) to maintain themselves, and that the warmer the water, and the deeper the warm water is, the stronger the storm can get. Deep warm water is important, since as a tropical cyclone tracks over the ocean, it stirs up cooler water from the depths, potentially reducing the intensity of the storm. When both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita exploded into Category 5 hurricanes as they crossed over a warm eddy in the Gulf of Mexico with a lot of deep, warm water, the concept of the total heat energy available to fuel a hurricane--the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential (TCHP)--became one that gained wide recognition. The Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines has the largest area of deep, warm water of anywhere on Earth, and these waters have historically fueled the highest incidence of Category 5 storms of anywhere on the planet. Super Typhoon Haiyan tracked over surface waters that were of near-average warmth, 29.5 - 30.5°C (85 - 87°F.) However, the waters at a depth of 100 meters (328 feet) beneath Haiyan during its rapid intensification phase were a huge 3°C above average, according to Professor I-I Lin of the Department of Atmospheric Science at the National Taiwan University. An analysis by the Japan Meteorological Agency for October showed ocean temperatures 4 - 5°C (7 - 9°F) above average during October (Figure 1). This analysis was from a model. When looking at actual measurements made by the Argo float data in early November, the temperatures in the layer 100 meters below the surface under Haiyan were about 3°C above average, not 4 - 5°C, according to Dr. Lin. As the typhoon stirred this unusually warm water to the surface, the storm was likely able to feed off the heat, allowing Haiyan to intensify into one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever observed.


Figure 1. Modeled departure of temperature from average at a depth of 100 meters in the West Pacific Ocean during October 2013, compared to a 1986 - 2008 average. The track and intensity of Super Typhoon Haiyan are overlaid. Haiyan passed directly over large areas of sub-surface water that were much above average in temperature, which likely contributed to the storm's explosive deepening. While this model showed 4 - 5°C departures from average in October, the actual values were closer to 3°C in early November, according to Argo float data. Image credit: Japan Meteorological Agency.

Why was there such unusually warm sub-surface water?
The sub-surface waters east of the Philippines have warmed dramatically over the past twenty years. According to Pun et al. (2013), "Recent increase in high tropical cyclone heat potential area in the Western North Pacific Ocean", the depth to where ocean temperatures of at least 26°C (79°F) penetrates has increased by 17% since the early 1990s, and the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential has increased by 13%. The warm-up is due to an increase in the surface winds blowing across the region--the trade winds--which have caused a southward migration and strengthening of the North Equatorial Current (NEC) and the North Equatorial Counter Current (NECC). The strong trade winds have pushed a large amount of water up against the east coast of the Philippines in the past twenty years, resulting in a rate of sea level rise of 10 mm per year--more than triple the global average of 3.1 mm/yr (Figure 2.) This extra sea level rise contributed to the storm surge damage from Super Typhoon Haiyan. Sea level rise data from Legaspi in the Eastern Philippines shows a rise of about 305 mm (12 inches) since 1949. For comparison, global average sea level rose 7.5" (190 mm) since 1901. Part of the rise along the eastern Philippine coast is from tectonic processes--the subsidence of the Philippine plate under the Eurasian plate--but most of it is due to the stronger trade winds piling up warm water along the coast, and the fact that warmer waters expand, raising sea level.


Figure 2. Trend in sea level from satellite altimeter measurements in 1993 - 2010. Black lines are the Sea Surface Height (SSH) in cm from Rio et al. (2009.) Image credit: Qiu, B., and S. Chen, 2012, "Multidecadal sea level and gyre circulation variability in the northwestern tropical Pacific Ocean", Journal of Physical Oceanography 42.1 (2012): 193-206.

Why have the trade winds sped up?
The surface trade winds in the equatorial Pacific are part of the Walker Circulation--a pattern of rising and sinking air along the Equator that the El Nino/La Nina cycle influences. A strong Walker circulation means there is lower pressure over Indonesia, which pulls in more air at the surface along the Equator from the east, increasing the easterly trade winds. As these trade winds strengthen, they pull surface ocean waters away from South America, allowing cold water to upwell to the surface. This is a La Niña-like situation, which takes heat energy out of the atmosphere, putting it into the ocean, keeping global surface temperatures cooler than they would otherwise be. A weakened Walker circulation is the reverse, resulting in weaker trade winds, and a more El Niño-like situation with higher global surface temperatures. As long as the stronger Walker circulation that has been in place since the early 1990s holds, global surface temperatures should stay cooler than they otherwise would be, prolonging the slow-down in global surface warming that has received much attention this year. There may also be a greater chance of super typhoons and higher storm surges affecting the Philippines, due to the warmer sub-surface waters and re-arranged ocean currents. A 2013 paper by L’Heureux et al. notes that the climate models predict that the Walker circulation should weaken (a more El Niño-like situation)--the reverse of what has been observed the past twenty years. The researchers took the observed pressure patterns over the Pacific in recent decades and removed the atmospheric response to the El Niño/La Niña cycle. The resulting pattern they found showed a steady strengthening of the Walker circulation, in concert with global rising temperatures. So, are we seeing a failure of the climate models? Or is the recent speed-up of the Walker circulation a decades-long temporary "speed bump" in the climate system? Time will tell. It is worth pointing out that a just-released paper by British and Canadian researchers shows that the global surface temperature rise of the past 15 years has been greatly underestimated. As discussed at realclimate.org, "The reason is the data gaps in the weather station network, especially in the Arctic. If you fill these data gaps using satellite measurements, the warming trend is more than doubled in the widely-used HadCRUT4 data, and the much-discussed “warming pause” has virtually disappeared."

I appeared on PBS Newshour last night to discuss the linkages between stronger tropical cyclones and climate change, video here.

References
L’Heureux, Michelle L., Sukyoung Lee, and Bradfield Lyon, 2013, "Recent multidecadal strengthening of the Walker circulation across the tropical Pacific", Nature Climate Change 3.6 (2013): 571-576.

Pun, Iam‐Fei, I‐I. Lin, and Min‐Hui Lo, 2013, "Recent increase in high tropical cyclone heat potential area in the Western North Pacific Ocean", Geophysical Research Letters (2013).

Qiu, B., and S. Chen, 2012, "Multidecadal sea level and gyre circulation variability in the northwestern tropical Pacific Ocean", Journal of Physical Oceanography 42.1 (2012): 193-206.

Jeff Masters

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736. CJ5
Quoting 695. trunkmonkey:


The Obama scheme was to put up a puppet Government in Syria, failed. Putin out smarted Obama!
With that said, Saudi Arabia's plan was to have this Government OK a plan for Katar and Saudi Arabia to build a pipeline from their Countries, to the Coast of Syria, to provide oil for Europe.
Currently Iran and Russia provide oil to Europe, this pipeline would cut into the profits of these two countries.
Saudi Arabia is giving Billions of dollars to stop the Keystone pipeline, if installed it will cut into their profits, America is in their back pockets, and will give into their demands!


Partly true. Russia has a deal with SA that gas exports would not traverse Syria and into Europe. Russia has a deal with Iran and Iraq for the transportation of gas to Europe. Currently they control the distribution to Europe. Russia also wants to secure influence with Syria to build there distribution. It is pretty complicated and intertwined.

I have no doubt SA would prefer not to have the Keystone but even without major portions of the Keystone the US is not near as dependent on OPEC as it once was and that continues to diminish. It top production from Canada is achieved and additional production from the US is added, OPEC will have little no no influence on North America oil. That is a excellent position for the US to be in and one we have all wanted for a long time.
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Quoting 716. DonnieBwkGA:
Ugh. I was a B student and turned out fine. After college no one cares about your grades, just that you produce.
I actually knew a guy who was a c to a D average student in high school.He's a lawyer now.You see he improved where it mattered the most..in college and law school...
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Quoting 675. Neapolitan:
There are reports today that people vacating Tacloban--by foot, mostly--are covering their noses and mouths out of necessity to protect them from the stench of uncountable numbers of the dead lying among the ruins of their city. It's pretty clear, then, that despite the Philippine governor's assertion that there are no more than a few hundred more missing people unaccounted for, a final tally of the deceased that's even close to accurate is still a long ways off...

Source of those reports?
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Quoting 707. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Sorry Largo I have to clarify something to people when you guys say strongest storm ever, well that may or may not be true. Who knows the strongest storm ever to strike Tampa Bay could have been before 1848. Of course finding any reliable records before the 1850s are hard to come by. I hope you guys understand what I'm trying to say, so just be careful in saying strongest storm ever because we just don't know for sure.




We just need to apply the weather translator to what looks like English. Here are a few entries

"ALL TIME" a period ranging from 30 to several hundred years defining the period of record.

"Century" About two to four years defining the return period for "storms of the century"

"Millennium" Three or four "centuries"

"Unprecedented" Precedents exist beyond period of experience, perhaps "Centuries" beyond.


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Quoting 731. GrandCaymanMed:
Very windy outside! It really looks like a tropical storm at times!
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Very windy outside! It really looks like a tropical storm at times!
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Quoting 713. DonnieBwkGA:


True. My gut is warning me the UN is probably right in this case.


The UN is most likely correct. The Philippino president has one eye on the well being of his citizens and one eye on his own well being. The lower the death toll, the lower the pressure on him. Since the rest of the Philippines has about the same knowledge as we do, any downward estimate is more likely to take their eyes off the response of the government, as sad as this is.
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Quoting 688. StormTrackerScott:


Maybe you guys can catch dinner together. LOL
Hey you still coming for the presentation?
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Quoting 708. DonnieBwkGA:


Inland at Alma GA it went from 29 to 65!


37 to 61 here.
Dry air folks. Dir air.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
Those who may want to get away from the cold weather can come to Puerto Rico where is warm all year long going to the beaches.





See more cams at my blog.
That's right, friends from the north, best surfing, waves,in Rincon, Isabela,with the most beautiful beaches, a wonderful rain forest, luscious small islands, all around the main land, Wild life, in the Island of Mona,P.R. consider the Galapagos of the Caribbean, Idyllic temperatures' and weather, plus "beautiful people"....so Welcome to paradise !!!
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Quoting 723. yoboi:



Will ya chill it with some artic ice????? ;)
We need to keep cool...I can see a "MASS" banning coming...
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I prefer bourbon. Knob Creek will be just fine.
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I freekin' stubbed my little toe yesterday.... Hurt like hell... My doctor being the comedian he is said" On a 1 to stepping on a LEGO" what is the pain level... I did not find that too funny, well , maybe a little
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723. yoboi
Quoting 720. GTstormChaserCaleb:
LOL I guess I can play the butler and come serve you all some wine. :P



Will ya chill it with some artic ice????? ;)
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Quoting 720. GTstormChaserCaleb:
LOL I guess I can play the butler and come serve you all some wine. :P
Would you like a little whine with that cheese?
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Link
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Quoting 718. PalmBeachWeather:
I will let you know... I guess I will be looking for someone with a picture of Al Gore on his shirt....
LOL I guess I can play the butler and come serve you all some wine. :P
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719. yoboi
Quoting 713. DonnieBwkGA:


True. My gut is warning me the UN is probably right in this case.


If they are using mass graves they will take a body count......this many days out they have to bury quick for safety reasons.....
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Quoting 712. yoboi:


On a serious note if nea treats ya to dinner I will pay for it....if he don't congrats with your retirement I hope you enjoy the break.......
I will let you know... I guess I will be looking for someone with a picture of Al Gore on his shirt....
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Quoting 715. Bluestorm5:
Same here. Parents quit being strict about Cs and Ds when you're in 11th or 12th year of high school and encourage you to not be hard on yourself if you get a C or D for a class. Classes just turn into survival once you get to upper level of high school and college. Right now, I'm doing very well with GPA about to end around 3.25-3.50, but Calculus is survival for me now.
WolframAlpha
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Ugh. I was a B student and turned out fine. After college no one cares about your grades, just that you produce.
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Quoting 694. TropicalAnalystwx13:

My mom would kill me (maybe literally?).
Same here. Parents quit being strict about Cs and Ds when you're in 11th or 12th year of high school and encourage you to not be hard on yourself if you get a C or D for a class. Classes just turn into survival once you get to upper level of high school and college. Right now, I'm doing very well with GPA about to end around 3.25-3.50, but Calculus is survival for me now.
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Quoting 710. DonnieBwkGA:


He said may, not that it was.
I know I'm just trying to make a point.
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Quoting 706. ncstorm:


If the President is right, then the UN will have some serious "splaining to do..


True. My gut is warning me the UN is probably right in this case.
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712. yoboi
Quoting 709. PalmBeachWeather:
Not me yoboi.... The internet can, and sometimes does make the meek bigshots...


On a serious note if nea treats ya to dinner I will pay for it....if he don't congrats with your retirement I hope you enjoy the break.......
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Quoting 685. Articuno:

I'm in 9th and I'm only in Geometry, shouldn't even be in geometry because I got C's all year long in the class last year.
C's aren't part of my dictionary, it's either A's or get out of the house.
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Quoting 707. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Sorry Largo I have to clarify something to people when you guys say strongest storm ever, well that may or may not be true. Who knows the strongest storm ever to strike Tampa Bay could have been before 1848. Of course finding any reliable records before the 1850s are hard to come by. I hope you guys understand what I'm trying to say, so just be careful in saying strongest storm ever because we just don't know for sure.


Largo said may, not that it was.
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Quoting 704. yoboi:



Some people are shy in person.......
Not me yoboi.... The internet can, and sometimes does make the meek bigshots...
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Quoting 698. ncstorm:
Meteorologist Tim Buckley
Wilmington has gone from 26 this morning to 61 this afternoon. HUGE jump!


Inland at Alma GA it went from 29 to 65!


37 to 61 here.
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Quoting 696. LargoFl:
Tampa was a small village when a major hurricane blew through in September 1848, pushing a massive storm surge into Tampa Bay and flooding the entire city.

The tide rose 15 feet above normal. Water covered all the islands in Tampa Bay and Tampa's Interbay Peninsula. Only the tops of trees could be seen near the flooded Hillsborough River. Most structures were swept away and huge oak trees were blown down. The massive change in topography the storm wrought rendered navigation charts almost useless.

It may have been the strongest storm ever to strike Tampa Bay.
Sorry Largo I have to clarify something to people when you guys say strongest storm ever, well that may or may not be true. Who knows the strongest storm ever to strike Tampa Bay could have been before 1848. Of course finding any reliable records before the 1850s are hard to come by. I hope you guys understand what I'm trying to say, so just be careful in saying strongest storm ever because we just don't know for sure.
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Quoting 705. DonnieBwkGA:


Neither do I. If the UN is right the President will have some serious 'splaining to do.


If the President is right, then the UN will have some serious "splaining to do..
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Quoting 702. ncstorm:
so the UN says its a higher death toll but the President of the Phillipines says its not..I would think the President wouldnt downplay the situation due to all the aid that is trying to come in..

I personally dont want to see the numbers go up..


Neither do I. If the UN is right the President will have some serious 'splaining to do.
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704. yoboi
Quoting 701. PalmBeachWeather:
Actually I talke my current "THESAURUS" with me everytime I go to Naples....Never know whom you may run into...Competition thing I guess...



Some people are shy in person.......
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A cool day here, barely 60. Wind fresh out of NE. Weekend will be mild and damp. Stronger cold front next week?
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so the UN says its a higher death toll but the President of the Phillipines says its not..I would think the President wouldnt downplay the situation due to all the aid that is trying to come in..

I personally dont want to see the numbers go up..
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Quoting 693. PalmBeachWeather:
Scott..Actually I did invite Nea to meet me a few years ago at Pelican Larry's in Naples when I was there... Not really sure what he said but it was similar to""A chance in Hell" or maybe "When Pigs Fly"... I was so sad and dissapointed for days... But I did try.
Actually I take my current "THESAURUS" with me everytime I go to Naples....Never know whom you may run into...Competition thing I guess...
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700. yoboi
Quoting 679. PalmBeachWeather:
4 more working days and I'm retired... Will be going to Naples , Fl to visit all my relatives... Maybe, Just maybe, I will run into Nea...



Let Nea know to send me the dinner bill if he treats ya... I will pay for it....NO reason now for him not to entertain you now.... NO cost to him...congrats with your retirement....
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Quoting 694. TropicalAnalystwx13:

My mom would kill me (maybe literally?).

My parents kill me when I get a D or below.
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Meteorologist Tim Buckley
Wilmington has gone from 26 this morning to 61 this afternoon. HUGE jump!
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Riverside, California (Airport)
Updated: 12:53 PM PST on November 14, 2013
Clear
90 °F
Clear
Humidity: 8%
Dew Point: 21 °F

86.2F here

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Tampa was a small village when a major hurricane blew through in September 1848, pushing a massive storm surge into Tampa Bay and flooding the entire city.

The tide rose 15 feet above normal. Water covered all the islands in Tampa Bay and Tampa's Interbay Peninsula. Only the tops of trees could be seen near the flooded Hillsborough River. Most structures were swept away and huge oak trees were blown down. The massive change in topography the storm wrought rendered navigation charts almost useless.

It may have been the strongest storm ever to strike Tampa Bay.
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Quoting 601. Greg01:
Crude oil will move from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The question becomes - do you want it to be transported via railroad tankers and over the road tanker trucks or via pipeline? The oil will flow.




The Obama scheme was to put up a puppet Government in Syria, failed. Putin out smarted Obama!
With that said, Saudi Arabia's plan was to have this Government OK a plan for Katar and Saudi Arabia to build a pipeline from their Countries, to the Coast of Syria, to provide oil for Europe.
Currently Iran and Russia provide oil to Europe, this pipeline would cut into the profits of these two countries.
Saudi Arabia is giving Billions of dollars to stop the Keystone pipeline, if installed it will cut into their profits, America is in their back pockets, and will give into their demands!
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Quoting 685. Articuno:

I'm in 9th and I'm only in Geometry, shouldn't even be in geometry because I got C's all year long in the class last year.

My mom would kill me (maybe literally?).
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31592
Quoting 688. StormTrackerScott:


Maybe you guys can catch dinner together. LOL
Scott..Actually I did invite Nea to meet me a few years ago at Pelican Larry's in Naples when I was there... Not really sure what he said but it was similar to""A chance in Hell" or maybe "When Pigs Fly"... I was so sad and dissapointed for days... But I did try.
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02:30 pm: 'Prez downplaying death toll to avoid panic'

Tacloban City administrator Philippines City administrator Tecson John Lim, who had earlier estimated the number of dead may run into 10, 000, said that the President might have downplayed the death toll in order to avoid too much panic, Reuters reported.

President Benigno Aquino had told the CNN that the number of dead might be around 2200-2500, far lower than the figure of 10,000.

"Of course he doesn't want to create too much panic. Perhaps he is grappling with whether he wants to reduce the panic so that life goes on," Lim said.


Seems to be some dissent between local and central government over ther.
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Quoting 679. PalmBeachWeather:
4 more working days and I'm retired... Will be going to Naples , Fl to visit all my relatives... Maybe, Just maybe, I will run into Nea...

Yay! Congrats, PBW! Enjoy your retirement! :D
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Quoting 681. Dakster:


Congrats on retirement!!!

Don't hurt Nea when you run into him/her.
LOL....
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Quoting 678. StormTrackerScott:


I saw a pic of mass graves being dug on TWC. Death Toll likely over 10,000 as many people have still not been accounted for.

we will never know the exact toll..never
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20569
Quoting 679. PalmBeachWeather:
4 more working days and I'm retired... Will be going to Naples , Fl to visit all my relatives... Maybe, Just maybe, I will run into Nea...


Maybe you guys can catch dinner together. LOL
Member Since: February 28, 2013 Posts: 4 Comments: 2385
SO WE DO GET STORMS LIKE THAT,JUST NOT LATELY...................Another measure of the power of the 1935 storm is its wind strength. To be classified as a category five storm, its winds had to exceed 155 miles per hour. One estimate indicated that the storm’s wind speed may have reached 200 miles per hour with gusts of even higher speeds. Such winds would and did produce effects normally only associated with the intense winds of a tornado. Sandy’s winds reached only 115 miles per hour.
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Quoting 683. Articuno:

Congrats :)
Thank you Art.It's been a long time coming...
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.