Some historical perspectives on Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda

While we wait for wacky antagonist Greg Laden to make a decision on whether he’ll chip and and help the relief effort, here are some useful bits of information that help put this storm into the perspective of “worst ever” claims, and opportunistic claims about it being a product of global warming, like Greenpeace is doing:


Note to Greenpeace: CO2 and soot comes out of the stack on the right, water vapor comes out of the cooling tower you labeled as “storms start here”.

But, when you look at the science for tropical cyclones in the region, such claims don’t even begin to hold up. These two papers show the reality from data – no trend, either in landfall or in total frequency/intensity of storms:

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.

“Despite global warming during the 20th century the number of tropical cyclones annually making landfall in the Philippines did not experience any net change. All variability was merely oscillatory activity around a mean trend of zero slope”


This is also backed up in Weinkle et al., 2012:

From currently available historical TC records, we constructed a long-period global hurricane landfall dataset using a consistent methodology. We have identified considerable interannual variability in the frequency of global hurricane landfalls; but within the resolution of the available data, our evidence does not support the presence of significant long-period global or individual basin linear trends for minor, major, or total hurricanes within the period(s) covered by the available quality data.

Therefore, our long-period analysis does not support claims that increasing TC landfall frequency or landfall intensity has contributed to concomitantly increasing economic losses.

Weinkle et al. Figure 2 A and C show the lack of trend:



Note that the WPAC represents the area including the Philippines:


It seems abundantly clear then that any claim trying to tie Typhoon Haiyan to a pattern of increased frequency of storms supposedly driven by “global warming” is patently false.

The news of Typhoon Haiyan is being bandied about in COP18 When Seth Borenstein doesn’t write articles for AP, here is the sort of balanced reporting you get: (h/t to Ryan Maue)

Typhoon Haiyan overshadows UN climate talks


And, the Washington Post points out something that puts the tragedy of Haiyan in perspective:

Most weather experts expected reports of horrific damage and high loss of life given the intensity of the storm and geography of the affected areas, but not many were prepared when Philippine officials estimated that as many as 10,000 people may have died in Tacloban City alone when Haiyan struck.

If this death toll estimate holds up, however, it wouldn’t even put Haiyan in the top 35 deadliest tropical cyclones on record.

The most recent credible death toll report on Haiyan is 1,774:

Figures from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council showed the number of dead stood at 1,774, radio dzBB’s Paulo Santos reported.

Here is the top 35 list of Deadliest Cyclones from Weather Underground:


Better awareness, and better warnings thanks to technology combined with evacuations helped make Haiyan less of a tragedy than it could have been, though in the case of Tacloban, topography was the biggest factor in evacuations according to WaPo:

Mass evacuations of this sort are just not possible in some regions of the world, and this was certainly true of Tacloban and its surroundings. Many people in Tacloban were evacuated to sturdier buildings within the city itself, but due to the fact that the city lies on an island that is mostly mountainous, moving people out of the city and into other areas wasn’t possible.

For those that wish to help, see the Red Cross graphic on the WUWT sidebar, or follow this link:


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First, no increase in warming seen for 16 years and 11 months (and counting) means any claim of increasing storms from warming suffers from a distinct lack of warming.
Second, and obvious to anyone who uses brains (instead of just following the herd), if you have more people with more stuff in an area, then you can claim “worst ever” based on loss of life and property. However, this is not a measure of storm strenth, but of population growth, aquisition of stuff, and inflation. There is also modern cell phones in the picture, one can make it seem far worse than anything you have seen before not because it has not happened before, but because of the possibility of getting pictures and even video live from anywhere, you can see it this time whereas you could not before. This is especially true of remote, often poor locations where shantytowns and the like abound, or there is low lying ground, sides of mountains, or other such disasters waiting to happen.
I have seen descriptions of disasters going back at least 6000 years or so, trust me, this aint the “worst ever”, there have been plenty at least as bad, if not far worse.

The Cyclones in the top 35 list since 1970.
_1.Great Bhola Cyclone, Bangladesh 1970 Bay of Bengal 300,000 – 500,000
_8.Super Typhoon Nina, China 1975 West Pacific _ 171,000
_9. Cyclone 02B, Bangladesh 1991 Bay of Bengal _ 138,866
10. Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar 2008 Bay of Bengal _ 138,366
33. Urir_______ , Bangladesh 1985 Bay of Bengal __15,000
34. Devi Taluk___, SE India _ 1977 Bay of Bengal __14,204
If someone wanted to use hurricane data to make a conclusion about climate change and death tolls, a lower CO2 concentration has a tendency to greater deaths.
That conclusion is no more poppycock than is the claim that 400 ppm CO2 is responsible for the Class 4/5 Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda

What typhoons do, Kubota/Chan
Did state the measure by degree
Where winds of West Pacific ran
In pattern-fails when models ran
Down to a trendless sea
So twice more teams pulled fertile stat
In ivory towers of grant-fed fat
And toiled at desktops bright with fingerprint hopes
There blossomed many trend-stirring lines
But flattened or dropped depressing modeling dopes
Deflating their global warming hype designs
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


Rosenthal 2013:
Ocean heat content today near the very low end of the last 10000 years. Takes around 400 years just to recapture Medieval Warm Period temperatures, but only if warming continues.


300,000 deaths with the Hooghly River Cyclone in 1737 is quite something, and in the Little Ice Age.
I hope the Philippines death toll does not rise much and I hope their government thinks about better preparedness because such weather events are part of the region.

Pippen Kool

In your haste to show that the Haiyan is not the worse typhoon ever, you look at lost of life in the Bay of Bengali where a high population lives within a few meters of sea level. So you are looking at where the typhoon landed not how bad the typhoon was.
And then we look are the number of typhoons. zzzzz.
But, why do you ignore the relative power of the typhoon? or the fact that even with massive movements of people out of harms way—something they could not do in the 1800’s—thousands of people still die.
Your arguments seem embarrassingly weak because you miss, no, ignore the obvious.


Jimbo says:
November 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm
As skeptics of CACA would expect, & indeed anyone who knows what causes extreme WX events, storms are worse & more frequent in colder periods, including typhoons:


“Note to Greenpeace: CO2 and soot comes out of the stack on the right, water vapor comes out of the cooling tower you labeled as “storms start here”.”
If you think global warming causes more intense storms then Greenpeace has it right, water vapor is after all the most prevalent and the most potent of the greenhouse gases. 🙂

Dave N

Also bear in mind population differences between when the “deadliest” typhoons occurred, and and now. It might be interesting to have a comparison chart of death tolls against population density.


Fifty-year typhoon cycle found in paper from the Annals of the Association of American Geographers:
A 1,000-Year History of Typhoon Landfalls in Guangdong, Southern China, Reconstructed from Chinese Historical Documentary Records
Kam-biu Liu1,
Caiming Shen1,
Kin-sheun Louie2
Article first published online: 5 NOV 2004
DOI: 10.1111/0004-5608.00253
In China, the abundance of historical documentary records in the form of Fang Zhi (semiofficial local gazettes) offers an extraordinary opportunity for providing a high-resolution historical dataset for the frequency of typhoon strikes. We have reconstructed a 1,000-year time series of typhoon landfalls in the Guangdong Province of southern China since AD 975 based on data compiled from Fang Zhi. Even though the 571 typhoon strikes recorded in the historical documents probably underrepresent the total number of typhoon landfalls in Guangdong, calibration of the historical data against the observations during the instrumental period 1884–1909 suggests that the trends of the two datasets are significantly correlated (r= 0.71), confirming that the time series reconstructed from historical documentary evidence contains a reliable record of variability in typhoon landfalls. On a decadal timescale, the twenty-year interval from AD 1660 to 1680 is the most active period on record, with twenty-eight to thirty-seven typhoon landfalls per decade. The variability in typhoon landfalls in Guangdong mimics that observed in other paleoclimatic proxies (e.g., tree rings, ice cores) from China and the northern hemisphere. Remarkably, the two periods of most frequent typhoon strikes in Guangdong (AD 1660–1680, 1850–1880) coincide with two of the coldest and driest periods in northern and central China during the Little Ice Age. Conceivably, the predominant storm tracks shifted to the south during these cold periods, resulting in fewer landfalls in Japan and the east-central Chinese coast but more typhoons hitting Guangdong. Spectral analysis of the Guangdong time series reveals an approximately fifty-year cycle in typhoon landfall frequency. While the physical mechanism remains to be identified, it is tempting to relate this periodicity to the pentadecadal variability identified in the North Pacific Index (NPI) time series.


“Despite global warming during the 20th century the number of tropical cyclones annually making landfall in the Philippines did not experience any net change. All variability was merely oscillatory activity around a mean trend of zero slope”

Yep that’s right. A closer look reveals (my eyeballing) that during the recent warming since the late 1970s it’s been trending down! Or did I see it wrong?


Typhoon Nancy of 1961 had higher winds than Haiyan, if its measurements are to be credited:
Its death toll wasn’t vast because it struck Japan rather than the Philippines.

Tim Walker

Pippen cool have you been drinking the kool aid? In case you don’t remember the history. It was November 18, 1978, in Guyan. 909 people including 303 children were killed by a blind obedience to a nut. Your fanatical defense of AGW scare mongering brought this to mind. That really wasn’t a surprise to me after all the Jonestown followers, most of them, were fanatical believers.
Storms are not getting stronger. You really need to try and learn more before opening your mouth and inserting your foot, but then again fanaticism is not about learning it is about blindly following.


Here is something a little further south.

Could climatic change have had an influence on the Polynesian migrations?
A hypothesis is presented that a change in climate after 1250 AD from a period of optimal climate for long-distance voyaging (the Little Climatic Optimum, 750–1250 AD) to a period of less favourable and finally inhospitable climate for long-distance voyaging (the Little Ice Age, 1400–1850 AD) influenced the Polynesian migrations (300–1400 AD). The Little Climatic Optimum, with its persistent trade winds, clear skies, limited storminess, and consistent Walker Circulation may have been an ideal setting for migration. The Little Ice Age with its increased variability in trade winds, erratic Walker Circulation, increased storminess, and increased dust from volcanism may have helped [prevent migration. Such changes in climate would influence the migration pattern through physical perception and decision making by the Polynesians, rather than having a direct impact.

“…..Half a world away in the tropical Pacific Ocean a similar saga unfolded. During the Greco-Roman climatic optimum, the Polynesians migrated across the Pacific from island to island, with the last outpost of Easter Island being settled around A.D. 400 (35)….”


Pippen Kool says:
November 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm
Your arguments seem embarrassingly weak because you miss, no, ignore the obvious.
No, we do not ignore the fact that you are obviously delusional and overly enthralled with AGW. That makes your arguments embarrassingly weak.
But, to AW’s credit, he still allows you to troll here. Accepting all points of view, even lies and obfuscation, only allows TRUTH to shine that much brighter.
(You see, PK, some people actually seek TRUTH….)


IMO Typhoon Tip of 1979 remains the largest (diameter of ~1400 miles) on record, with the lowest recorded sea-level pressure in the world (870 mbar). It killed 13 Marines on Okinawa.


Poppen Kollar: “But, why do you ignore the relative power of the typhoon? ”
The average US family has 2.4 children. By this, as I am just a man, I know my brother is 40% more people than me. Which is just so, as he’s the better of us both.
Mind that statistics only give you statistical things, not instances of blame. Especially when you want to claim that man is 20 kmh. Out of 235, or whatever it is currently.


Jimbo says:
November 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm
The settlement of Hawaii occurred sometime between AD 300 & 800, ie during the Dark Ages Cold Period, but the islands appear to have become isolated from the rest of Polynesia by the climatic deterioration of the Little Ice Age, ie after AD 1200.
I like Little Climatic Optimum for the Medieval Warm Period, although the Greco-Roman & “Minoan” Warm Periods were even more optimal, although only the latter really compares favorably with the Big Climatic Optimum before 5000 years ago.


Here is some more history in the area.

Storm cycles in the last millennium recorded in Yongshu Reef, southern South China Sea
………U-series dating of the storm-relocated blocks as well as of in situ reef flat corals suggests that, during the last 1000 years, at least six strong storms occurred in 1064±30, 1210±5–1201±4, 1336±9, 1443±9, 1685±8–1680±6, 1872±15 AD, respectively, with an average 160-year cycle (110–240 years). The last storm, which occurred in 1872±15 AD, also led to mortality of the reef flat corals dated at ∼130 years ago……


Pippen Kool,
Strong cyclones have always been with us. Your mistake is to look at the present as if these things have never happened before. Strong cyclones over the area have happened before. Climate did not commence when you grew pubic hair.

Haiyan will make a very good poster for the CAGW crowd, there’s no doubt about that. Too bd none of the undiscerning will note that places like the Philipines, mired in poverty and corruption have never been able to provide their citizens with anything more than a miserable short nasty life even when the weather is fair.

Eustace Cranch

There’s no control knob for hurricanes and tornadoes. It’s an utter fantasy.

The top 12 storms all had over 100,00 dead!!
I cannot imagine that !


Regards to Greenpeace – Putin is the man. He knows how to deal with that lot of scum. Regards to the Cyclone, as others have pointed out this is not the first “super” typhoon to hit that part of the world, nor the last. Unfortunately, the death tolls for that region will be high mostly because of poor facilities and poor efforts to move citizens out of harms way. Vietnam may well do a lot better as the military was there moving their citizens out before the storm hit and forced them to move if necessary. There is no other way to save lives in that part of the world besides moving their citizens, better knowledge getting to the folks in the predicted areas before the storms hit, and providing better facilities for their citizens to travel to wait out storms.
It is disguising that the AGW community use this tragedy for their own political purposes. There is no end to the level of degradation that community will descend.

Tim Walker says:
“Pippen cool have you been drinking the kool aid?”
Yes, of course he has. Pippen also has no understanding of the climate Null Hypothesis.
The current climate is actualy quite benign. No climate parameters exceed past parameters. Extreme weather events are less extreme than in the past.
And the Null Hypothesis has never been falsified.


“Better awareness, and better warnings thanks to technology combined with evacuations helped make Haiyan less of a tragedy than it could have been.”
I would say dramatically less, so I don’t see how comparing fatalities indicates anything about storm strength. The government moved 800,000 people into storm shelters prior to Haiyan’s landfall. That kind of advance warning would have only been possible on a few of the storms listed in the top 35.

Richard M

To my amazement the Weather Channel even admitted there was no tie to global warming and all that could be said was this was one of worst typhoons in a segment I watched this afternoon.

Mike H.

milodonharlani 4:24,
The Marines died at Yokosuka not Okinawa. Other than that thanks, I didn’t know that.

But Greenpeace and Laden are not alone. Perhaps the “scientific” basis for their claims came from the indomitable gurus, whose expertise is now at such a level that they need no data at all to support their claims.
Yes, folks, the dynamic duo (aka Lewandowsky and Mann) have spoken from on high:

Subterranean War: Some Reasonable Questions and Answers
This week’s typhoon that is now estimated to have killed 10,000 people in the Philippines might have occurred in the absence of climate change, although global warming likely put it on steroids. [emphasis added -hro]

Isn’t it good to know that these “experts” (who need no data) are “reticent … [and] … overly conservative”** in their pronouncements, eh?!
** If evidence is still your preferred mode on which to base conclusions, my evidence for this somewhat abbreviated quote from Mann-in-more-modest-mode can be found at Reticent Mann skates onto melting ice, reinforces Stocker’s “choice”.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Given the wide range in estimated fatalities from the Great Bhola Cyclone in the Bay of Bengal in 1970, just how reliable are the fatality figures from earlier cyclones in the same area?

Hideki Motosua

According to IPCC2007 it should be less hurricanes but with greater intensity…….not sure how they arrive at that


Well,,,,,,,,, of all the very good info I absorbed from this post, the most important is not to live in ~The Bay Of Bengal~…..….
Just sayin!


My wife comes from the hardest-hit area of south-eastern Samar. It is now 11/11/13 (Monday night) here in the US and we’re still waiting to hear if her family is alive or not. In the meantime, the “Climate Change Commissioner” for the Philippines is saying things like, “To climate change doubters, visit PH”, and “We refuse to accept typhoons as way of life”. The mindlessness of these statements is breathtaking, truly Mannian, but to the semi-educated (i.e., college degreed) of the third world, this sort of thing resonates.


The problem with natural events like hurricanes is where they land. In a populated are then immense loss of life is inevitable otherwise nobody hears about them. It’s not possible to measure storms in the past simply on the number of people who died.
Sandy’s destruction in N. York was down to very poor flood defences it wasn’t that big in real terms. The same applies to the Philippines. Even rudimentary building of sand hills with stabilising plant life will mitigate most of the effects of storm surges. It’s sad that so many people have died because adequate flood defences weren’t in place. If they are unwilling or unable to build such defences then erecting anything close to the beach (high water mark + contingency) should not be allowed.
I read a complete history of Boulder’s incompetence over the last century in being ready for the next inevitable flood.
None of this stuff is attributable to AGW it’s been going on for billions of years. I still can’t get my head round the idea that there is a steady state for climate.

Keith Minto

This is not getting easier…..
Typhoon Haiyan: Philippines climate chief Yeb Sano makes emotional plea for climate change action

Richard Sharpe

Typhoon Haiyan: Philippines climate chief Yeb Sano makes emotional plea for climate change action
The last desperate stand of ratbags.


The frustrating thing when a high level insider like Yeb Sano makes a plea like this is that he is diverting attention from his failure to help prepare his nation for the inevitability of storms. This is not the worst storm to have ever hit the Philippines. It will not be the last.
If he is as educated as he claims, he should know this.
Why did he not help prepare people in vulnerable areas better?
Why is he pursuing this course instead of actually helping his nation?
Why is he making statements that are not supported by history or fact?

Legatus says November 11, 2013 at 3:27 pm
First, no increase in warming seen for 16 years and 11 months (and counting) …

And have ya seen the arctic cold front that literally pouring cold air down in the central US states? Hoo-Wee! We gonna have ourselves a good freeze! There is lake-effect snow pouring out of low clouds on the western shore and inland a little ways in Michigan already!
What was the conclusion of the (Old?) Farmers Almanac again for this winter?

John F. Hultquist

Matthew W says:
November 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm
The top 12 storms all had over 100,00 dead!!
I cannot imagine that !

Best, then, to not think about earthquakes.
For others, see:

Gad Levin

I just read at: that in 2006 there was a typhoon in the Philippines which reached wind speed of 320 kph compared to 275 of the current storm. The name was Reming (Durian).
A similar storm with wind speed of 275 kph hit the Philippines in 1970.
In my opinion the wind speed is what matters, less than the number of victims which depends on where the storm hits.


hunter says:
November 11, 2013 at 8:18 pm
The frustrating thing when a high level insider like Yeb Sano makes a plea like this is that he is diverting attention from his failure to help prepare his nation for the inevitability of storms.

Mayor Bloomberg did the same diversion act in the wake of Sandy. He’d ignored a 2006 report from Stony Brook college academics who’d recommended construction of a $6 billion storm surge barrier + highway (from NJ to LI). This was too technological-fixy and not green enough for him.

Well slightly off topic, but…
There is a comment forum on CNN regarding this storm. I was skimming though it, and was startled by how primitive the discussion of the science there actually is. I jumped into a couple of comments threads to rebut false information, providing references and quotes to back up my assertions….
Now that’s the behaviour I’ve come to expect from the likes of RealClimate and Skeptical Science. But CNN? The facts I pointed out weren’t all that controversial, and some of my references were the AR5 reports themselves, yet…poof, gone.
I never had much respect for CNN in the past, I have even less now.


Mike H. says:
November 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm
You’re right. Sorry about that. The Marines tragically killed by the after-effects of Typhoon Tip weren’t on Okinawa. But that was a monster storm.

As far as the “world record” for a land falling storm, I think this would be the record – from Wackapedia:
“The highest wind speed ever recorded of 253 MPH was during the passage of Tropical Cyclone Olivia on 10 April 1996, an automatic weather station on Barrow Island, Australia, registered a maximum wind gust of 408 km/h (220 kn; 253 mph; 113 m/s).[2] The wind gust was evaluated by the WMO Evaluation Panel who found that the anemometer was mechanically sound and the gust was within statistical probability and ratified the measurement in 2010…” Of course it was a recorded as a “gust”.
This surpassed the former wind speed record on Mt Washington, NH.

Werner Brozek

A news summary of the coverage

Werner Brozek says:
November 11, 2013 at 9:18 pm
You’re right that is hard to watch, even the part by Dr. Spencer as I don’t think the human fingerprint is even measurable, it is so small. The other guy thinks that every storm or weather event is caused by mankind…

Gad Levin

Mr. Peterson,
Dr. Spence, whom I admire, made four basic mistakes which every novice debater who has any experience of engaging with the “left” knows:
1. He should have refused to appear with an ignorant reporter, rather than a scientist.
2. If he had just discovered who is debating him, he should have said bluntly, Sir, you don’t know what you are talking about, here are the scientific facts: ..,
3. He shouldn’t have conceded 50% to the “left”, any concession you make with them, serves them as a new attack position.
4. He shouldn’t let the other guy (with the help of Pierce) filibuster the debate.

Werner Brozek says:
November 11, 2013 at 9:18 pm
What total and complete yellow journalism. CNN clearly has an agenda which I’ve noticed in their international reporting as well as their climate science reporting. They belong on Anthony’s blog roll, right up there with SkS.

Possibly even more terrifying than the suffering of the poor population of the Central Philippines is seeing the parade of clowns from the UN in Warsaw claiming that the typhoon was created by Global Warming and CO2. The fact that there is no Global Warming, and has not been for 15-17 years, does not impinge on their mindless enthusiasm to spread the propaganda. Most of them are working so hard on the propaganda that they are doing nothing to assist those in severe need in the Central Philippines. They have completely abandoned reason, science and compassion as well. There is a circle reserved in Dante’s Inferno for people of this sort.