Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda – another overhyped storm that didn't match early reports

NOTE: readers of this thread may be interested in this:

An ethical challenge for Greg Laden – put your money where your mouth is


Here is the sort of headlines we had Friday, for example this one from Huffington Post where they got all excited about some early reports from Andrew Freedman:


Super Typhoon Haiyan — which is one of the strongest storms in world history based on maximum windspeed — is about to plow through the Central Philippines, producing a potentially deadly storm surge and dumping heavy rainfall that could cause widespread flooding. As of Thursday afternoon Eastern time, Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Yolanda, had estimated maximum sustained winds of 195 mph with gusts above 220 mph, which puts the storm in extraordinarily rare territory.

UPDATE 5: from this NYT article:

Before the typhoon made landfall, some international forecasters were estimating wind speeds at 195 m.p.h., which would have meant the storm would hit with winds among the strongest recorded. But local forecasters later disputed those estimates. “Some of the reports of wind speeds were exaggerated,” Mr. Paciente said.

The Philippine weather agency measured winds on the eastern edge of the country at about 150 m.p.h., he said, with some tracking stations recording speeds as low as 100 m.p.h.

Ah those wind speed estimates, they don’t always meet up with reality later – Anthony


By Paul Homewood

Sadly it appears that at least 1000 1200 1774* lives have been lost in Typhoon Yolanda (or Haiyan), that has just hit the Philippines. There appear to have been many unsubstantiated claims about its size, though these now appear to start being replaced by accurate information.

Nevertheless the BBC are still reporting today

Typhoon Haiyan – one of the most powerful storms on record to make landfall …….The storm made landfall shortly before dawn on Friday, bringing gusts that reached 379km/h (235 mph).

Unfortunately we cannot always trust the BBC to give the facts these days, so let’s see what the Philippine Met Agency, PAGASA, have to say. Here are the surface wind reports:




So at landfall the sustained wind was 235 kmh or 147 mph, with gusts upto 275 kmh or 171 mph. This is 60 mph less than the BBC have quoted.

The maximum strength reached by the typhoon appears to have been around landfall, as the reported windspeeds three hours earlier were 225 kmh (140mph).

Terrible though this storm was, it only ranks as a Category 4 storm, and it is clear nonsense to suggest that it is “one of the most powerful storms on record to make landfall


Given the geography of the Pacific, most typhoons stay out at sea, or only hit land once they have weakened. But in total terms, the busiest typhoon season in recent decades was 1964, whilst the following year logged the highest number of super typhoons (which equate to Cat 3 +). Of the eleven super typhoons that year, eight were Category 5’s.


So far this year, before Yolanda there have been just three Category 5’s, none of which hit land at that strength.

Personally I don’t like to comment on events such as these until long after the dust has settled. Unfortunately though, somebody has to set the record if we cannot rely on the BBC and others to get the basic facts right.


In case anyone thinks I am overreacting, take a look at the Daily Mail headlines.


Just looking at it again, is it possible the MSM are confusing mph with kmh? It seems a coincidence that PAGASA report 235 kmh.


I have just registered a complaint at the Press Complaints Commission against the Mail article. If anyone spots similar articles elsewhere, and I will add them to my complaint.


I seem to have been right about the kmh/mph confusion!

I’ve just scanned down the Mail article and seen this:


Unless they think “gusts” are less than “winds”, it looks like someone has boobed.


UPDATE4: Kent Noonan writes in with this addition –

CNN has had several articles stating the same numbers for wind speed as BBC and Mail. I saw these numbers first last night at 10PM Pacific time.

Today’s story: “Powered by 195-mph winds and gusts up to 235 mph, it then struck near Tacloban and Dulag on the island of Leyte, flooding the coastal communities.”

If these “news” agencies don’t issue a correction, we will be forever battling the new meme of “most powerful storm in world history”.

Look at today’s google search for “most powerful storm”

stories run by Independent, NBC, dailymail, NPR, Foxnews, CNBC, WND, Business Insider, PBS, BBC, CNN, FirstPost, Bloomberg

“All you need to know Typhoon Haiyan, world’s most powerful storm” by FP Staff Nov 8, 2013

Read more at:

Then they go on to correctly state gusts to 170mph  !!

UPDATE 6: (update 5 is at the head of the post)

BBC now reporting reduced wind speeds that would make it a Cat4 storm:

Typhoon Haiyan – one of the most powerful storms on record to make landfall – swept through six central Philippine islands on Friday.

It brought sustained winds of 235km/h (147mph), with gusts of 275 km/h (170 mph), with waves as high as 15m (45ft), bringing up to 400mm (15.75 inches) of rain in places.

Source:  (h/t David S)

UPDATE7:  While hit and run haters like Greg laden deplore us pointing out the measurements of wind speeds, labeling us with all sorts of derogatory names, they conveniently ignore purposely created propaganda like this:

The juxtaposition in Tenney Naumer’s Twitter Feed says it all:


Rules for Radicals: “We are always moral and our enemies always immoral.” The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the immorality of the opposition,”

UPDATE 8: here is another number you are likely to see bandied about as supposed proof of this storm being historically unprecedented, courtesy Tenney Naumer who pointed it out in comments:

NOAA recorded Haiyan’s lowest central pressure at 858, quite possibly a record in the instrumental era:

Those aren’t measurements Tenney, they are ESTIMATES. Done from satellite. They are called DVORAK fixes.

And note, the estimates stay the same for several hours without any fluctuation, then repeat values in bracketing outside that period, a sure sign of a model doing rounding.

Here is the source page:

The technique is new, and has issues and acknowledged biases, it is a work in progress. One of the issues is that verification has only been done for near US Atlantic Basin storms within the range of hurricane hunter aircraft.

Paper on the technique is here: ]

UPDATE9: (h/t to WUWT reader StewGreen)

From the Government of the Philippines sitrep report, a screencap:


UPDATE 10: Laden’s claims in his tirade aren’t supported by actual science and data, he writes:

But Watts and Homewood don’t want storms to be important for the simple reason that the best models strongly suggest that there will be more storms … especially in the Pacific, where Haiyan struck, over coming decades because of the changes to climate that humans are carrying out and that Anthony Watts and Paul Homewood deny to be real.

This paper shows the reality:

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.



* Reports are varying wildly

The Red Cross in the Philipines says 1200 in this report:

But now Reuters is claiming and estimate of 10,000 based on a late night meeting of officials at the Governors Office.

About the same time as the Reuters 10K report, television News in the Philipines says the death toll is 151.

Early reports often vary widely, and it will be some time before accurate numbers are produced.

Our hearts and prayers go to the Philippine people. For those that wish to help, here is the website of the Philippine Red Cross:

Monday in the WSJ:

Philippines Typhoon Death Count Rises to 1,774

Toll Exceeds Red Cross Estimates of 1,200; Likely to Rise Much Higher

Source of the number:

UPDATE: 11/12 7AM Philippine president Aquino says to CNN: Typhoon Haiyan deaths likely 2,000 to 2,500 — not 10,000



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…the stupid, it burns like a flare!
Thanks, Anthony, I had a feeling that the strength of this storm, tragic though it may be, was messed with during reporting.


The quality of the staff at the Daily Mail leave a lot to be desired – factual errors apart there seems to be no proof reading and most certainly no-one with any science knowledge, let alone general knowledge…… then again, the DM are pretty typical of the British MSM (main stream media) as a whole.

Tim Walker

Trying to correct (mistakes – SARC) after the MSM informs the public will make very little difference. The public’s perception is made by the first news articles. It is a very sad situation we are in. The deaths and trouble in the Philippines are sad, but this kind of thing happens each year in different places of the world. What the MSM does in creating false perceptions is worse, because the clowns the public elect based on the false perceptions are causing worse problems. The future is very grim. Good luck to one and all.


Thanks for the updates. Does anyone know the actual pressure? Not estimated.
When the comparison to Typhoon Tip was made, it caught my attention. There really was no real comparison in the end.


Thanks for the information – I used your info to correct two newspapers in Canada – The National Post,m and the CBC – which of course wen crazy as usual with hopes of the Philippines themselves being wiped off the face of the earth as THE global warming event they all desperately needed to be that destructive. It never ceases to amaze me how excited the global warming ghouls are with something like this – they really cheer for death and destruction.


But what about the past? [H/t Steven Goddard]

Oct 22, 1882
“Observatory says lowest barometer at 11.40 a. m., 727.60 ; highest velocity wind registered, 144.4 miles an hour. Unable to measure greatest velocity of typhoon as anemometer damaged.”

more typhoons from the past in the Philippines.

Karl W. Braun

The majority of the damage from this storm appear to be centred about the Tacloban area of Leyte Island, where landfall was first encountered. The configuration of the coastline apparently enhanced the severity of the resulting storm surge, which was at least a story high, creating a tsunami like condition. Much of the population were still in their homes at the time, resulting in major casualties. It is difficult to estimate the number since virtually all communications and infrastructure were compromised, but initial reports place the known death toll at about a hundred. There is some question as to why no comprehensive evacuations took place, despite the ample warning given.

Gunga Din

I can understand, and forgive, the “plebe” who typed that getting confused between a scale they are familiar with and one they are not. I don’t understand how it made past the editors.


You say potatos, I say potatoes. Miles, Kilos, it’s all the same if your error bars are large enough.

David Riser

Very few anemometers survive sustained winds over 200kts, misreporting is common as the winds are typically measured in nautical miles per hour and converted to metric and Statue miles per hour. There are pretty substantial differences between the different standards, and it seems like most reporting agencies like to round up in favor higher wind speeds. The misrepresentation by the main stream media is commonplace and they rarely do retractions. kind of disheartening.

The “mistake” of the Mail seems apparent, but I wonder if it is their source of information that is to blame?
The BBC are well known for attempting to convert everything into metrics to make us “more European”.
Their “379 kmh” seems strangely exact. Have they also seen the “235” figure and assumed it is mph (just as the Mail did) and then decided to convert it to kmh to get to 379kmh?
Indeed, it suggests the original source, whatever it may be, is where the original error crept in.

I’ve sent a msg via the form at the end of the BBC page prompting them to check the 235 figure’s units.
You can also use the following feedback forms.
General feedback on news –
Error corrections about news –

Gary Hladik

I don’t understand why PAGASA actually bothered to measure wind speed. Surely the number of typhoon photos uploaded to Flickr is a better indicator?

Stuart Lynne

As always this disaster is based on the poverty of the area. Populations living in areas that are inadequately prepared for whatever natural events that may occur where they live because they do not have adequate financial resources to do so (or like Katrina) where the resources are misapplied.


Is it just me, or is Yolanda looking a bit ragged as she makes a jog to the north?

Gary Hladik @ 3:25…..hilarious !!


The Daily Mail science dept is responsible for this little gem which says that Virgin Galactic can be pulled to Australia by gravity (orange box at bottom of page)
It’s almost quaint except that the 2 million plus DM readers are in dire need of an education already.

Jeff Masters
“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.”


CBC radio in Vancouver this morning also converted the 235 mph back to Km/hr and breathlessly reported “wind speeds up to 379 Kph”.
Wishful thinking? I am reminded of the reasoning behind the despondent posts over the failure of the Arctic summer melt at Arctic Sea Ice Blog:
“Thus it is only logical for an alarmist to hope that the sea ice extent keeps diminishing. In fact, an ice-free Arctic might be the perfect wake-up call for the whole world to seriously start discussing what to do about AGW. It might perhaps even point people toward the underlying root problem that threatens human society in more ways than just Global Warming. So, melt, baby, melt, yeah! Show those (pseudo-)skeptics who’s been right all along!”

One “ratty” new report I heard said something about a new eye wall.
I don’t have time to check better sources, but “eye wall replacement cycles” are an important feature of major hurricanes as they mature. In general, the smaller the eye the higher the winds, but also it’s harder for the wind to reach the center. A new eyewall forms further out and the old eye starves and dissipates. Over time the new eyewall may shrink and the wind increases again. Or the storm stays weaker, especially if the storm runs into challenges like land. Major hurricanes are remarkably delicate works of nature, many effects have to come together just right to keep them running well and fairly minor events can knock them down a notch or two.
Or so I recall, it’s been years since there’s been a najor Atlantic hurricane worth paying much attention to!

Physics Major

MPH, KPH, what, at this point in time, difference does it make?
Math is hard.

G P Hanner

Last time I looked at it through the USN portal it was in the South China Sea and forecast to roll over Hanoi as a TD. Worst typhoon I can recall hit Guam around 1965 and pretty much leveled Anderson AFB. Don’t know how accurate it was but I heard of winds gusting at 200 knots. In any case, when Anderson was rebuilt it was all in reinforced concrete.

The satellite presentation was basically perfect at landfall. There is little doubt this was the strongest possible storm given the physical limits of storms that size. Typhoon Tip in 1979 was much larger but did not have such good symmetry. Tip only brushed land and many similarly strong storms never hit land or weakened before landfall.
The point that will be lost on the alarmists is that the near-perfect symmetry of Haiyan is only possible with nearly perfect weather conditions surrounding the storm. If anything isn’t perfect then the storm becomes asymmetric and can’t achieve top strength. That kind of weather will have no correlation to warning. Furthermore the (theoretical) decrease in the lapse rate will work against any increase in SST’s The SST’s provide better evaporation but the lapse rate provides the condensation which releases latent heat and causes the convection.


Oh, and the BBC have a track record in mixing up their km and miles. I had to correct them on this article in which they had multiplied square mile areas by the linear multiplier (1.61instead of 2.59).
The article is now ‘corrected’ but there’s more: they were talking about 61.8 ‘square km’ and converting them (inaccurately) to square miles. I suggested that they probably meant a square measuring 61.8 km on a side because this was about the hunting ranges of megafauna and 61.8 sq km meant a very small square for large animals. But when they corrected the multiple they just dispensed with the idea of squares of any kind and just left it as a distance, 61.8 km. What’s that, a radius? A narrow corridor they run up and down?
I think they just lost all confidence over basic school maths and realised they didn’t have a clue what square km were.
I wonder if the Typhoon article was by the same author?

Super. Not Supe. Supe isn’t a word.


I think “boobed” might also not be a word.

Roger Dodd

Guuardian website home page: “Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the strongest storm ever to hit land, has devastated several Philippine islands”.

Robert Menzies of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The Age (Melbourne, Australia) aka SKS the Newspaper, is perpetuating the same confusion between KMPH and MPH.

David Ball

Who is Greg Laden?

If the gusts are less than the sustained winds, does that mean it is sucking air?


While you are busy updating how many miles an hour the storm’s winds were please also be respectful and update the death toll. Check reuters for the latest numbers, you’re off by an order of magnitude.
REPLY: Latest report from red Cross says 1200, which I updated. This came in with the hour. Hardly an order of magnitude.
As usual, you don’t cite your source, you just claim others are wrong – Anthony

Rob Honeycutt

This is a particularly callous post, even for WUWT. Fatality numbers are just starting to come in and the latest are now saying over 10,000 have perished.
You people are playing silly number games in the face of real human suffering. You should be ashamed.

Rob Honeycutt
Karl W. Braun

I tracked this on the BBC website for 24 hours before it made landfall; they were consistently quoting 235km/hr forecasts. At the same time, CNN was hyping it as 235 mph winds (sustained or gusts not stated). In this case I suspect the BBC not at fault unless they later reconverted CNN wind speeds to km/h, which is certainly feasible but I haven’t sen it on their web site.

Earlier today I made a comment about the predictable media coverage of Haiyan on the other WUWT post echoing Ryan’s sentiment regarding “garbage articles.” My favorite excerpt was the one I quoted first (from a garbage article by co-founder Jamie Henn):
Climate change is loading the dice for extreme weather events like Haiyan. The storms strength and rapid development have been aided by unusually warm ocean waters and warm, moist air (warm air holds more water vapor than cold). Global warming also causes sea level rise, increasing the risk of flooding from storm surges, especially in low-lying areas like much of the Philippines. Carbon dioxide is the steroids that leads to grand-slam storms like Haiyan. Haiyan should be a five-alarm wake up call for negotiators in Warsaw and the capitals that sent them here.
It leads me to conclude that AGW alarmism is the steroids that leads to zombie doomsday memes being given eternal life. While Haiyan is a human tragedy, it is not a human-caused tragedy, despite the wailing from AGW zombie prognosticators. Cheers!

At this point all electricity is down and will likely be that way for days or weeks. Fatality numbers always are slow to emerge.
My point is, why would this site be downplaying the strength of this storm right when we’re just learning the full extent of the tragedy?

Bob Turner

Greg Laden, Anthony Watts, nit-picking about mph and spelling mistakes while people are dying is sick. A plague on both your houses. is an interesting document. a photo caption says “The Philippine Red Cross is estimating that more than 1,200 people have died.” The main text says “”We had a meeting last night with the governor and the other officials. The governor said based on their estimate, 10,000 died,” Soria told Reuters.” It later says “Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said it was too early to know how many people had died in the storm.”
There is really no point in trying to keep track of fatality counts until some semblance of communications has been restored.

Richard of NZ

Physics Major says:
November 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm
MPH, KPH, what, at this point in time, difference does it make?
Math is hard.
However, simple arithmetic is , well, simple.
Conversion of metric to imperial and vice versa is a simple mental exercise with any of the common units (metres/yards including kilometres/miles, kilogrammes/pounds, Celsius/Fahrenheit etc.).

Karl W. Braun

Just in: Latest official fatality count (in Filipino):

Curious George

Only BBC and Jeff Masters have the right to play silly number games in the face of real human suffering? Rob, reserve your righteous ire for them.
Adding to the confusion, Jeff Masters’s numbers supposedly came from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, but their warnings state wind speed in knots. I could not find a warning before the landfall in the Philippines.

King of Cool

It seems like it was not just the BBC:
Times of India
Haiyan had maximum sustained winds as it approached the Philippines on Friday morning of 315 kilometres an hour, and gusts of 379 kilometres an hour, according to the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.
Sky News:
The US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii shortly before landfall said Typhoon Haiyan’s maximum sustained winds were 314km/h, with gusts up to 379km/h.
And even:
The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center noted that just before Super-Typhoon Haiyan made landfall its maximum sustained winds were 314 kph/195 mph, with gusts up to 379 kph/235 mph. PAGASA, the Philippines Weather organization noted that Haiyan’s maximum sustained winds at landfall were near 234 kph/145 mph.
It may be prudent to first check what the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center DID say and if it was correctly converted why the discrepancy?
(Note Bay News says “The local weather bureau makes estimates based on longer periods of time than others, such as the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which said shortly before the typhoon made landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 314 km/hr (195 mph), with gusts up to 379 km/h (235 mph).)
However this all seems rather academic in the big picture of devastation and loss of life in what is undoubtedly a massive natural disaster which maybe both alarmists AND sceptics should leave until another day to justify or repudiate a cause.

John F. Hultquist

I don’t wish to show disrespect for the dead and injured but another aspect is to appreciate what amazing shows one can see by just watching the atmosphere.
Jimbo at 2:33 provides a link to “more typhoons from the past” but check the dates. Sorry no satellite views available.
There is also this: “People sometimes make errors,” said Edward Weiler, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Science


“Check reuters for the latest numbers,” is a citation of a source. Please do not add stupidity to your callousness. One locality is now citing 10,000 via the governer’s office.
Let me ask you this but you better answer quick because the ground is sliding from underneath you as I type this. How important is 1,200 vs. tens of thousands? If it turns out to be tens of thousands instead of 1,200 will you STFU forever? Please?
Let me know right away, I want to watch.
REPLY: its an estimate from a meeting last night. Since it was too hard for you to make a link, I searched. See here:

“We had a meeting last night with the governor and the other officials. The governor said based on their estimate, 10,000 died,” Soria told Reuters. “

The problem with early estimates is what this post is about. We’ll wait until something more concrete than an estimate from a late night meeting is given.
The Red Cross in the Phillipines says 1200, I trust them more than government officials making estimates. If it turns out the number is higher, I’ll report it. In the mean time feel free to be as upset as you wish.- Anthony


Meanwhile, someone competent ought to get into Wikipedia and fix things…Currently they’re saying this in first sentence:
“Typhoon Haiyan of November 2013, which is known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, is one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.”

David Ball

Thank goodness we have fossil fuels to aid in the rescue, recovery, and rebuild of the area devastated.

gregladen says:
“…you better answer quick… Let me know right away…”
No one seems to care about your demands. How does it feel to be impotent on the internet’s “Best Science” site?

Thanks Karl W. Braun for that link.