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:
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.
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: http://ushare.redcross.org.ph/