Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Powerful Fact: Haiyan Three Times More Powerful Than Katrina With Tornado Strength Winds

Tropical storms are increasing in strength. And Haiyan may well have been the strongest storm since modern measurements of storm strength have been made.  Here are some of the stunning facts about the strength of Haiyan that are emerging.

Haiyan was at the top of the Category 5 storm classification system, while Katrina was a Category 3.  Yet, Haiyan was three times more powerful than Katrina that devastated New Orleans!

Katrina was a strong storm but not unusually so. It caused devastation mainly because of the topography of New Orleans, erosion of natural protection by development over decades, and completely inadequate storm barriers around the city.

Compared to Katrina, Haiyan is off the charts. Haiyan had sustained winds of at least 175 mph, with the US military saying its sustained maximum winds were up to 195 mph. Haiyan's gusts were over 200 mph. The winds themselves were like a tornado and destroyed strong structures.

While Haiyan's winds were catastrophic, Haiyan also produced a 20 foot storm surge that acted like a tsunami. This wall of water swept away all before it and killed probably many thousands. Haiyan was like no storm before now. But it may be an example of what lies ahead.

Why are tropical storms on average increasing in strength? Seas are warming!


  1. Can you show us the research that demonstrates tropical storms on average increasing in strength? And can you show us the science on what warmer water is expected to do to storms?

  2. As best as I can find, the evidence from the IPCC scientists suggests that cyclones may slightly increase in intensity, but become less frequent.

    And here is a link to how much energy, over time, is accumulating in cylcones: http://models.weatherbell.com/global_running_ace.png

    And here is research from the US Government on the global warming footprint in cyclones: http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes

    And here are two recent papers discussing the trends in frequency in tropical cyclones:

    Kubota, H. and Chan, J.C.L. 2009. Interdecadal variability of tropical cyclone landfall in the Philippines from 1902 to 2005. Geophysical Research Letters 36: 10.1029/2009GL038108.


    Our best wishes for the victims in the Philippines.

    1. Here is another link that cites two papers finding raising storm strength: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/impacts/hurricanes-and-climate-change.html

  3. This is exactly why we need to stop the continued extraction of fossil fuels... and taxing it isn't the answer, because creating a tax will only encourage more of it as the state becomes more dependent on the tax revenue, and why "regulating" it is not enough to impact climate instability.