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Super Typhoon Haiyan: Strongest Landfalling Tropical Cyclone on Record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 10:58 PM GMT on November 07, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan has made landfall. According to PAGASA, Haiyan came ashore at 4:40 am local time (20:40 UTC) November 7, 2013 near Guiuan, on the Philippine island of Samar. Fourty minutes before landfall, Guiuan reported sustained 10-minute average winds of 96 mph, with a pressure of 977 mb. Contact has since been lost with the city. Three hours before landfall, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) assessed Haiyan’s sustained winds at 195 mph, gusting to 235 mph, making it the 4th strongest tropical cyclone in world history. Satellite loops show that Haiyan weakened only slightly, if at all, in the two hours after JTWC’s advisory, so the super typhoon likely made landfall with winds near 195 mph. The next JTWC intensity estimate, for 00Z UTC November 8, about three hours after landfall, put the top winds at 185 mph. Averaging together these estimates gives a strength of 190 mph an hour after landfall. Thus, Haiyan had winds of 190 - 195 mph at landfall, making it the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall in world history. The previous record was held by the Atlantic's Hurricane Camille of 1969, which made landfall in Mississippi with 190 mph winds.

Figure 3. Radar image of Super Typhoon Haiyan shortly after landfall, at 6:14 am local time on November 8, 2013. Image credit: http://climatex.ph.

Officially, here are the strongest tropical cyclones in world history:

Super Typhoon Nancy (1961), 215 mph winds, 882 mb. Made landfall as a Cat 2 in Japan, killing 191 people.
Super Typhoon Violet (1961), 205 mph winds, 886 mb pressure. Made landfall in Japan as a tropical storm, killing 2 people.
Super Typhoon Ida (1958), 200 mph winds, 877 mb pressure. Made landfall as a Cat 1 in Japan, killing 1269 people.
Super Typhoon Haiyan (2013), 195 mph winds, 895 mb pressure. Made landfall in the Philippines at peak strength.
Super Typhoon Kit (1966), 195 mph winds, 880 mb. Did not make landfall.
Super Typhoon Sally (1964), 195 mph winds, 895 mb. Made landfall as a Cat 4 in the Philippines.

However, it is now recognized (Black 1992) that the maximum sustained winds estimated for typhoons during the 1940s to 1960s were too strong. The strongest reliably measured tropical cyclones were all 5 mph weaker than Haiyan, with 190 mph winds—the Western Pacific's Super Typhoon Tip of 1979, the Atlantic's Hurricane Camille of 1969, and the Atlantic's Hurricane Allen of 1980. All three of these storms had a hurricane hunter aircraft inside of them to measure their top winds. Haiyan's winds were estimated using only satellite images, making its intensity estimate of lower confidence. We don't have any measurements of Haiyan's central pressure, but it may be close to the all-time record of 870 mb set by Super Typhoon Tip. The Japan Meteorological Agency estimated Haiyan's central pressure at 895 mb at 18 UTC (1 pm EST) November 7, 2013. This would make Haiyan the 12th strongest tropical cyclone on record globally, as far as lowest pressure goes.

Extreme damage likely in the Philippines
Wind damage in Guiuan (population 47,000) must have been catastrophic, perhaps the greatest wind damage any city on Earth has endured from a tropical cyclone in the past century. A massive storm surge must have also caused great destruction along a 20-mile swath to the north of where the eye hit, where Project NOAH was predicting a 17’ (5.3 meter) storm tide. Wind damage will also be extreme in Tacloban, population 221,000, the capital of the province of Leyte. Much of Tacloban is at elevations less than ten feet, and the most recent storm surge forecast made by the Philippines' Project NOAH calls for a storm tide (the combined height of the surge plus the tide) of 12’ (3.6 meters) in Tacloban. The northern (strong) part of Haiyan’s eyewall is now battering the southern part of the city. Haiyan’s winds, rains, and storm surge will cause widespread devastation throughout the Central Philippines during the day, though the storm’s fast forward speed of 25 mph will cut down on the total rainfall amounts, compared to typical typhoons that affect the Philippines. Hopefully, this will substantially recede the death toll due to flash flooding, which is usually the biggest killer in Philippine typhoons. Once Haiyan exits into the South China Sea, it will steadily decay, due to colder waters and higher wind shear. However, it will still be a formidable Category 1 or 2 typhoon when it hits Vietnam and Laos, and I expect that the 12+ inches of rain that the storm will dump on those nations will make it a top-five most expensive natural disaster in their history. Early on Thursday, Haiyan hit the island of Kayangel, 24 kilometres north of Palau's capital, Koror. Damage was heavy, with many homes damaged or destroyed, but there were no injuries among the island’s 69 inhabitants.

Visible satellite landfall loop from the Korean COMS-1 satellite, courtesy of Scott Bachmeier of the University of Wisconsin CIMSS group.
Impressive videos from Tacloban from Marcjan Maloon
Twitter updates from Japan meteorologist Robert Speta.
Storm Chaser James Reynolds on Twitter, from Tacloban, Leyte.
Storm Chaser Jim Edds on Twitter, from Tacloban, Leyte.
Webcam in Malay, Philippines
Webcam in Boracay, Philippines

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.