National Geographic News
Photo showing detailed imagery of Super Typhoon Haiyan's Eye.

The Suomi NPP satellite captured an incredibly detailed infrared image of Super Typhoon Haiyan's eye as it orbited over the storm.

Photograph by NASA/NOAA

Jane J. Lee

National Geographic

Published November 8, 2013

A fairly normal typhoon season in the western Pacific has spawned a real monster—supertyphoon Haiyan—which made landfall in the Philippines at around 5 a.m. local time.

The storm, described by some as "tropical cyclone perfection" and "off the charts," packed sustained winds of 195 miles (315 kilometers per hour), with gusts as strong as 235 miles (380 kilometers per hour). Experts predict the typhoon—also known as Yolanda in the Philippines—could end up being the strongest storm to ever make landfall since modern record-keeping began, according to The Washington Post.

"It's knocking our socks off," said Jim Kossin, an atmospheric scientist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climatic Data Center. (Related: "What's a Typhoon, Anyway?")

But what happens to create such a megastorm?

There are several environmental factors that play into how strong a storm can get, Kossin explained. The storms thrive on warm water that goes deep into the ocean and consistent wind speeds in the atmosphere, he said.

"When all those things align in a certain way, then you're going to get something like [Haiyan]," Kossin added.

More Storms on the Horizon

Haiyan is a strange storm in both its strength and because it comes very late in the typhoon season, which officially ended November 1, said Colin Price, head of the geophysical, atmospheric, and planetary sciences department at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Although the overall number of hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons—all the same weather phenomenon—hasn't increased over the past decades, the proportion of more intense storms has, Price explained. (See "Typhoon, Hurricane, Cyclone: What's the Difference?")

"All typhoons feed off the warm ocean waters," he said. The moisture-laden air above these regions is the fuel that fires the engines in these storms.

"We've seen in the past decades the oceans are warming up, likely due to climate change," said Price. "So warmer oceans will give us more energy for these storms, likely resulting in more intense storms."

Haiyan dipped down near the Equator, where it likely picked up some more steam, before heading to the Philippines, he said.

It's similar to what happened when Hurricane Katrina picked up steam as it passed over the warm pool of water in the Gulf of Mexico in August 2005.

98 comments
Brandon Li
Brandon Li

Typhoon Haiyan was a true super typhoon, I mean, it was a Category 5 typhoon and had a low pressure area of 890 millibars, that's is off the charts!!! I'm a Canadian student in Thailand and we have made a charity fund to help the Filipinos. I hope The Filipinos do make it through this disaster. But as many people say, 'The Filipino Spirit is Waterproof' I have no doubt Filipinos are one of the strongest people in our world.

God Bless them All of Them

LaVerne McLeod
LaVerne McLeod

When I first heard about this Typhoon Haiyan, I instantly thought that it was global warming that caused it. After reading the article, I feel that my thoughts were confirmed.  Its time that we do something about Global Warming.

Taylor Chung
Taylor Chung

I hope Hong Kong (where I live) will not pose sanctions against the Philippines.

Chun Simon
Chun Simon

God prey the diseaster of Philippines

Inés Ferreyra
Inés Ferreyra

Muy interesante. Después de todo el incremento de la potencia de los huracanes está relacionado con el calentamiento global.

Weera Bumrungsee
Weera Bumrungsee

Our neighbor is suffering by Super Typhoon Haiyan Headed toward Phillippines. Know more details from National Geographic.  

Smile Kadin
Smile Kadin

I survive both earthquake and haiyan... i have no doubt my kababyans will also survive this human tragedy

Isza Pagaduan
Isza Pagaduan

the cyclone is gone and need to move on with our lives but learn from the experience... it's man-made as i see it....

Rod Martin
Rod Martin

Messed up my weekend! Even though the winds were brisk in Central Cebu, I didn't experience any damage. But power keeps going out almost every day as they repair the infrastructure.

Family in Northern Cebu lost their homes, though. They're staying with us.

Phi Nguyen
Phi Nguyen

No god in here. We destroy ourselves

Tom Wang
Tom Wang

Please help people there!

Jeramy Sanon
Jeramy Sanon

the world is going to be destroyed in the future by these storm

A. Brandao
A. Brandao

this is just beginning...what the future holds!!!


Chander Kumar Bhagirath
Chander Kumar Bhagirath

It is high time the world top leaders should take all measures to stop further warming of the oceans.

Macky Tmac
Macky Tmac

In my own perspective, i think information such as what creates these kinds of environmental ravages of catastrophic proportions has been disseminated to us for like, almost 3 decades now? and we put all the blame on our government for not preparing for times like this, or not pursuing enough the awareness of the general population of our country for incoming calamities alike. i think we, as i'm a Filipino myself, should do our part in avoiding such tragic outcomes. whenever we are told to leave our homes to transfer to a safe shelter, i think we should do so the soonest possible time. and whenever we are given briefing or communications as to what we need to do on the worst possible scenarios, we should give our fullest attention because it's intentions is for our well-being only. I sympathize anyone who would say it's difficult to leave our homes and our belongings because anyone may come and loot around, or it's just simply hard for you to leave what you have invested your whole life..but what's more expensive than life itself? you may think that this is coming from someone who has never experienced such misfortune but my city, Cagayan de Oro City, has had its fair share of such ordeal. And i was there.. 

You may ask where i'm going with this, i just want to send a message to my fellow countrymen.. Let's start the CHANGE within ourselves. From now on, let's start thinking about what will happen in the future from the actions we take today. Reflect on what is happening to us now. Let's do whatever it is that's rightful to do. Let's put everything in our perspective now.. from keeping peace starting in our families, disposing of our garbage properly, protecting and preserving the world we live in, even in choosing the right individuals to lead our country - and not what's convenient for our pockets during elections. You may say i'm blabbing too much, but this will all account in the future. The coming times of our children. And most of all, believing in God and respecting what he has created for us. And not only heeding His presence when we are facing adversities such as what happened to our dear country now. 


I may have LOST my hopes in our government now, but i haven't lost HOPE in the resilient spirit we Filipinos possess. The will to fight for what's right, and the will to make a change not just for ourselves and our family, but for our fellowmen in general. 

To my Filipino brothers and sisters who are at loss from this recent tragedy, i pray to God that He may console your weary hearts and give you strength to withstand His test and be able to stand again. My condolences and prayers are with you.

Mark Morff
Mark Morff

I think everyone needs to be careful discussing global warming and Yolanda.  Typhoons Ida and Kit had higher winds than Yolanda, and there were back in the late 50's and 60's.  

I see too many news reports that are not based in fact.  There are many factors when assessing a large storm, including relationship to high tide, surrounding weather systems just prior and during the storm, the barometric pressure.  They also discuss 1 minute and 10 minute sustained winds, but a bigger driver is the speed when it makes landfall. 

Global warming may be true, with recent reports that the warming trend has halted, and that some data was falsified or ignored makes it seem like a political agenda, and I want the truth before drawing conclusions.

Aga Floyd Terados
Aga Floyd Terados

I am a Filipino and I would like to thank everyone who share our burden and gave their encouragement. It really helps uplift our spirit. In times of tragedies, it helps to be reminded of our courage and ability to stand up, to pick up the broken pieces and start all over again. With your aid and prayers, we will rise. Thank you.

Alec Sevins
Alec Sevins

This typhoon will further entrench GOP troglodytes who insist that the species causing widespread smog, water pollution, deforestation and species extinctions can't possibly be altering the Earth's heat balance. The more the evidence piles up, the less they accept it. It's ideological insanity.

Ericson Aquino
Ericson Aquino

With the present meteorological technology in the Pacific region and the current level of connectivity in the Philippines, the tragic loss of life could have been minimized by proper education and more accurate information dissemination immediately prior to the event. This is not the first time that storm surges have claimed lives in the Philippines, and storm surge height estimates are already readily available. Local governments should simply invest more in disaster preparedness, involving not only the emergency response teams but all members of the local population as well.

Josette Cordero
Josette Cordero

so this is the way how it developed into a super storm. global warming has really brought a big contribution to make typhoon yolanda a monster ....many of many countrymen were left homeless and lost their lives..

Mercedes Pepito
Mercedes Pepito

yes...super typhoon Yolanda really scared me last Friday because she was so strong, and what's really scary is the sound of the wind..it sounds like an airplane..but thank GOD we're safe..

Jayden Blake Ackermann
Jayden Blake Ackermann

Its more Extreme in the Philippines.....


We face disasters, and then start again...

Shane Mosi
Shane Mosi

The world is keeping its balance, the more populated it is the more earth becomes heat as in return many unusual typhoon will goes out to minus the cause

Romeo Caoili
Romeo Caoili

so called the perfect storm of the century

brian sali
brian sali

give all your nannys an extra tip they will need to send back home.

Romalliv Ykztilot
Romalliv Ykztilot

@Taylor Chung Thank you for your kind thoughts. Unfortunately, your politicians are bullies like their masters in the mainland.

Anthony Max Azore
Anthony Max Azore

@Tom Wang Help is on the way and thank you all. I'm just hoping all the help my country receives will be put into good use.

Romalliv Ykztilot
Romalliv Ykztilot

@Macky Tmac Don't lost hope in our government Macky. Not all people who serves in the government are corrupt. President Aquino is doing his best to get rid of those corrupt officials in the government that's why there's so many paid trolls, puppets and black propagandists who make fake accounts to spreads lies in every websites, especially social media sites they find to post negative comments and bash the government to make people hate President Aquino and the people he trusted. They're making it sure that whomever he supports in the coming 2016 presidential elections will have a bad image to the minds of the voters so that they can continue their plundering of people's money.

Eman Milante
Eman Milante

@Macky Tmac I am Filipino too and I work for our government. I think our government had warned us enough through our own weather bureau and the media. The President also addressed us on national TV the night before the typhoon hit Eastern Visayas. It's just that the typhoon is incredibly strong and the shelters that housed the evacuees did not withstand the strong winds. Let's just take our part on helping the victims and keep our heads up.

Anthony Max Azore
Anthony Max Azore

@Macky Tmac Well said, Macky. Filipino here. You know, government and its people are one. People makes government. Government makes the people. Both makes the nation.

My point is with this tragedy, we should all learn something and develop. To be better.

Mark Morff
Mark Morff

@Macky Tmac Awesome post Macky.  So much truth!

 I'm American, and my dreams are to build a storm proof concrete home, and store sustainable seeds and tools.  I look at the debris, and ask how our governments, all around the world, allow codes that do not meet known naturals storms.  

Look at our Katrina.  We build trillions of dollars of investment 13 feet below sea level, and are surprised when once in a century storms hits, and we have altered the land that would have been a buffer for the storm surge.

Ericson Aquino
Ericson Aquino

@Mark Morff With thousands feared dead and frantic relief operations underway to bring badly needed resources to the survivors in the worst hit areas where nothing is left standing, it is clear that more preparation is needed for future disasters, (whether or not caused by global warming), not only investment in emergency response teams and infrastructure but in terms of educating everyone and making sure the local populations understand the magnitude of the threat and what the proper options are to safeguard the lives of people. With local topographical information and storm surge height estimates already available, we could have avoided reports of children drowning in establishments tagged as "evacuation shelters" and people going back to seaside homes to guard their belongings immediately before the typhoon hit. According to UN estimates, the Philippines contributes less than 1/3 of a percent of the total carbon emissions in the world, but if the global warming theory pushes governments to act to prevent this unnecessary loss of life then it is indeed something worth discussing. 

Alan Luchetti
Alan Luchetti

@Mark Morff The political agenda is to be found in "recent reports that the warming trend has halted, and that some data was falsified or ignored". On the whole, scientists don't have political agendas while politicians and fossil energy companies do.

Rob Finnick
Rob Finnick

@Alec Sevins Pathetic.  Just absolutely pathetic.  All of the outpouring of grief for the loss of life from this storm and the top comment?  A partisan idiot refusing to let a good crisis going to waste.  What a shame.

sisi a.
sisi a.

@brian sali I hope you did not mean what you said in the way that I took it (you sounded racist), if you did, I feel very sorry for you.

My deepest sympathy to the people in the Philippines.

Aurea Kim
Aurea Kim

@brian sali ,   or your nurses, the doctors, the computer programmers, the scientists at boeing, Lockheed, etc.

Romalliv Ykztilot
Romalliv Ykztilot

@Eman Milante @Macky Tmac That's true. The government did their best to warn the people along the path of the typhoon to evacuate as early as possible. But most of them didn't obey thinking maybe that their homes can withstand the force of the typhoon. Unfortunately, the typhoon is so strong that even the evacuation centers that were steel-framed are not spared. But what caused much of the loss of many lives is the storm surge that ravaged homes and infrastructures and carried and drowned the victims.

Mark Morff
Mark Morff

@Rob Finnick @Alec Sevins   I agree, less name calling, and more facts.  They are still assessing this typhoon.  It does not have the highest winds in history, but it has a large diameter.  

Romalliv Ykztilot
Romalliv Ykztilot

@sisi a. @brian sali I can't find any racist tone on his comment. It's generally intended for those who have filipina helpers and caregivers in their household. 

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