Friday, November 8, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan May be the Strongest Storm in History

With sustained winds of 315 kph (195 mph) and gusts as strong as 380 kph (235 mph), Haiyan may be the strongest tropical cyclone to hit land anywhere in recorded history. Haiyan's strength is right around the theoretical upper limit that cyclones can reach. The storm ravaged the Philippines with deadly winds, storm surges, torrential rainfalls, and widespread flooding as high as 10 feet in some areas.

Haiyan is known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Yolanda, slammed into the country's eastern island of Samar at 4:30 a.m., before moving on to five other Philippine islands then, heading toward Vietnam. In addition to massive property damage the death toll now stands at 100 and is expected to rise

A superstorm is a powerful widespread storm, it usually connotes widespread devastation. The technical designation of a typhoon (or hurricane) involves wind speeds of over 74 mph. Meteorologists qualify storms into five classes using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (Category 5 being the fiercest).

Haiyan was so big that at one point it covered two thirds of the Philippines.Tropical storm-force winds extended 240 kilometers (149 miles) from the typhoon's center. Authorities warned of possible flash floods, landslides and a storm surge as high as 7 meters (23 feet).

There have been 9 years that have had more than three super typhoons in the Western Pacific Ocean (equivalent to Category 4 and 5 hurricanes) for the period from 2002-2012. One of the unique features of the storm is the fact that it reached Category 5 strength so quickly and at a very southern latitude.

Anthropogenic global warming is increasing sea surface temperatures and increasing the amount of moisture in the air, which may be altering tropical storm systems like Haiyan.

The most recent report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) found that “it is virtually certain that the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic has increased since the 1970s,” but that there is less evidence of changes being detected in other ocean basins.

In the absence of historical data in the Pacific it is hard for scientists to make predictions for long term storm frequency in that ares. However, it is believed that global warming will increase the number of the strongest storms, while making storms produce more rainfall.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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