Most Powerful Cyclone Ever Recorded Makes Landfall


Super Typhoon Haiyan has sustained winds of more than 190 mph, and is reported to have broken 235 mph. It is being called the most powerful cyclonic storm ever recorded by science. It is also the 24th serious tropical storm to strike the Philippines this year—which explains its being called Yolanda there. Viewed from outer space, the storm system is massive and also tightly organized—meaning it will bring sustained high-speed winds, and possibly record rains and storm surges.

Millions of people live in low-lying areas in the central region of the Philippines and have been subject to evacuations and intense emergency preparations. Power outages are happening across the affected region, both because the storm has knocked out power to the grid, but also because the government has shut down electric power to some areas, as a precaution, to prevent electrocution in cases of people stranded by floodwaters.

According to Reuters:

Authorities warned more than 12 million people were at risk, including residents of Cebu City, home to around 2.5 million people, and areas still reeling from a deadly 2011 storm and a 7.1-magnitude quake last month.

“The super typhoon likely made landfall with winds near 195 mph. This makes Haiyan the strongest tropical cyclone (typhoon) on record to make landfall,” said Jeff Masters, a hurricane expert and director of meteorology at U.S.-based Weather Underground.

The AP, through the New Orleans Times Picayune, reports:

Officials in Cebu province have shut down electric service to the northern part of the province to avoid electrocutions in case power pylons are toppled, said assistant regional civil defense chief Flor Gaviola.

President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.

Catastrophic storms have become a major threat to the 7,100 islands of the Philippines, and represent a rapidly escalating cost to government and business. The last few years have seen devastating loss of life, along with radical impacts to agriculture, tourism and other sectors.

Haiyan is not only an extraordinarily powerful storm; it is also a massive weather system, covering the entire nation of the Philippines as it passes over, and leading to emergency response planning and deployments in 29 provinces. Two thirds of the country are reported to have been directly impacted by the storm. Along with the record wind speeds, massive size, storm surge and torrential rains, Haiyan is reported to have brought waves as high as 6 meters—20 feet—to low-lying coastal areas.

Storms like Haiyan are the result of a destabilized global climate system: warmer seas and warmer air combine to produce more volatile climate patterns, given to more extreme conditions, more frequent and rapid fluctuations, and more intense storms. What we often call global warming refers to a process by which Earth’s atmosphere and oceans absorb massive amounts of excess energy, in the form of heat trapped by greenhouse gases; that energy is absorbed, and then released, intermittently, through the fabric of forces we call the climate system.

Haiyan and other “superstorms”—a new phenomenon of recent years—are manifestations of a destabilized climate system. Over-valuing, over-production and over-consumption of carbon-based fuels is building instability into the global climate system, making extreme storms more common. These storms are imposing unprecedented concentrated costs on governments, markets and individuals. They are dislocating massive quanities of water, further exacerbating extreme conditions that bring drought, floods, torrential rains and super-intense storms.

Those impacts are now affecting economic activity across all sectors, on all continents. Major business interests can no longer avoid being impacted by the fallout from a destabilized climate; estimated direct costs to businesses and governments around the world, for 2013, now exceed $200 billion.

A leaked draft report, building on the science of the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC, released in September, finds an escalating threat to the global food supply, resulting from climate destabilization. There is 99% consensus among scientists that an increase of more than 2ºC in global average temperatures could lead to so many converging compounded climate impacts that science will not be able to accurately project the extreme conditions that would ensue.

Since the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report set a scientifically grounded global lifetime carbon fuel budget, in September, major investors have homed in on the mounting carbon asset risk faced by corporations heavily invested in carbon-based fuels. They are demanding a plan from fossil fuel producers and purveyors to phase out overvalued carbon fuel assets and transition away from fossil fuels.

UPDATE, 10:19 am EST: A student from Surigao City, in the southern central Philippines, said this morning on the BBC World Service, “Philippines is a typhoon-prone country, and we’re kind of used to it, but this one is very different.” He said crowds of people were huddling in the local church, wondering if they would survive the unprecedented winds, gusting over 200 miles per hour.

UPDATE, 10:33 am EST: The news from southern Leyte is that all roads are impassable, due to storm damage, flooding and debris. Two barges are reported to have collided in rough and surging seas, near Bohol; there is a rescue effort underway to get all of the crew members out of the waters.

Meteorologists are now confirming Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall with sustained winds in excess of 195 miles per hour, and regular gusts reaching as high as 236 mph. The storm is now pushing on to the western Philippine island of Palawan and is expected to cross the South China Sea and continue on toward Vietnam. Sustained winds are now reported at 168 mph, high enough for Haiyan to maintain the super typhoon classification—meaning it carries maximum sustained winds of 250 km per hour.

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Published Nov. 8, 2013, at


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