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Typhoon Haiyan Kills 1,200 in the Philippines, Heads for Vietnam

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 6:46 PM GMT on November 09, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan is headed across the South China Sea towards Vietnam as a much-weakened Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds after devastating the Philippines on Thursday and Friday as an extreme Category 5 storm with winds of 195 mph. With a preliminary death toll of 1,200, Haiyan already ranks as the 8th deadliest typhoon in Philippines history. Bloomberg Industries is estimating insured damages of $2 billion and total economic damages of $14 billion, making Haiyan the most expensive natural disaster in Philippines history. This is the third time in the past 12 months the Philippines have set a new record for their most expensive natural disaster in history. The record was initially set by Typhoon Bopha of December 2012, with $1.7 billion in damage; that record was beaten by the $2.2 billion in damage done by the August 2013 floods on Luzon caused by moisture associated with Typhoon Trami.

Figure 1. Typhoon Haiyan leaving the Philippines on November 9, 2013, as photographed by astronaut Karen Nyberg on the International Space Station.

Massive damage in the Philippines
It is still early in the rescue and recovery effort, and the death toll will undoubtedly rise significantly. Rescuers have not yet reached the south shore of Samar Island and the city of Guiuan (population 47,000), where Haiyan initially made landfall with winds estimated at 195 mph. Typhoon and hurricane maximum wind speed estimates are only valid for over water exposure, and winds over land are typically reduced by about 15%, due to friction. This would put Haiyan's winds at 165 mph over land areas on the south shore of Guiuan Island. This is equivalent to a high end EF-3 or low end EF-4 tornado, so the wind damage there must have been catastrophic--perhaps the greatest wind damage any place on Earth has endured from a tropical cyclone in the past century.

Figure 2. Damage from Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines on November 9, 2013. Image credit: NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images.

Figure 3. Radar image of Super Typhoon Haiyan over Tacloban, on November 8, 2013. Tacloban was in the north (strongest) portion of Haiyan's eyewall, at a time when the typhoon's top sustained winds over water were estimated at 185 mph. Image credit: http://climatex.ph.

Haiyan's place in history
Haiyan hit Guiuan, on the Philippine island of Samar, at 4:40 am local time (20:40 UTC) November 8, 2013. 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 4. Predicted rainfall from the 06Z November 9, 2013 run of the HWRF model, for the 66-hour period ending at 00Z November 12, 2013. A 100-mile wide swath of 8 - 16 inches of rain (medium dark red colors) is predicted to affect northern Vietnam. Rains of this magnitude are likely to cause a top-five most expensive natural disaster in Vietnamese history. Image credit: NOAA/NCEP/EMC.

Haiyan an extremely dangerous storm for Vietnam
Satellite loops show that Haiyan no longer has a well-defined eye, but the typhoon still has a huge area of intense thunderstorms which are already bringing heavy rains to Vietnam. Haiyan will continue to weaken until landfall, due to colder waters and higher wind shear, and will likely be a large and very wet tropical storm when it makes landfall in Vietnam on Sunday. Haiyan is expected to begin recurving to the northwest as it makes landfall, which means that a long 100+ mile stretch of the Vietnam coast will be receiving the punishing winds and peak storm surge of the strong northern portion of the storm. With part of its circulation still over water, Haiyan will be able to pull in a huge amount of moisture that will create prodigious rains over Vietnam. With the latest forecast track now expected take Haiyan farther north before landfall than previously expected, the extreme rainfall danger for Laos has diminished, but I expect that the 8+ inches of rain that the storm will dump on Vietnam will make it a top-five most expensive natural disaster in their history.

According to reliefweb.int, in the first two weeks of October, Central Vietnam was hit by two Category 1 storms, Typhoons Wutip and Nari, leaving behind significant damages in nine provinces. The total economic loss due to Nari was $71 million. Typhoon Wutip's damages were estimated at $663 million. According to EM-DAT, this makes Wutip the second most expensive natural disaster in Vietnamese history, behind the $785 million in damages caused by 2009's Typhoon Ketsana, which also killed 192 people in Vietnam.

Video 1. Storm chasers James Reynolds, Josh Morgerman and Mark Thomas of iCyclone.com were in the capital of Leyte Province, Tacloban, which received a direct hit from Super Typhoon Haiyan. Video includes the remarkable winds and storm surge of Haiyan, and the rescue of injured people from flood waters.

More heavy rain coming to the Philippines
A tropical disturbance located east of the Philippines near 3°N 141°E, (Invest 90W), has developed a modest amount of spin and heavy thunderstorm activity as it heads west towards the Philippines. With moderate wind shear and a location too close to the Equator to leverage Earth's spin, the disturbance will be slow to develop, according to the latest Western Pacific Tropical Weather Discussion by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The GFS model has been predicting for several days now that this disturbance will organize into a tropical depression by Monday and pass through the southern or central Philippines on Tuesday as a tropical storm. However, the latest 12Z run of the model no longer shows development, and keeps 90W as a tropical disturbance as it passes through the Philippines on Tuesday and Wednesday. I expect 90W will be organized enough to bring heavy rains of 2 - 4" to the area devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan.

The Red Cross is appealing for donations.

Portlight disaster relief charity is reaching out to disability organizations in the Philippines to provide durable medical equipment. and welcomes donations.

New "Tipping Points" episode, "Africa Alarmed", airs Saturday at 9 pm EDT/8 pm CDT
“Tipping Points”, a landmark 6-part climate change TV series that began airing in October on The Weather Channel, airs for the fourth time on Saturday night, November 9, at 9 pm EDT. The new episode, "Africa Alarmed", goes on an expedition from the far north of the Sahara to the far south of the continent, in Cape Town, to explore the climate changes affecting Africa’s vital weather systems. The series is hosted by polar explorer and climate journalist Bernice Notenboom, the first woman to perform the remarkable triple feat of climbing Mt. Everest and walking to the North and South Poles. In each episode, Notenboom heads off to a far corner of the world to find scientists in the field undertaking vital climate research to try to understand how the climate system is changing and how long we have to make significant changes before we reach a tipping point--a point of no return when our climate system will be changed irreversibly.

Figure 5. "Tipping Points" host Bernice Notenboom visits the Gobabeb Research and Training Center in Africa's Namib Desert.

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.