National Geographic News
Photo of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Pacific.

Super Typhoon Haiyan is one of the strongest, most dangerous typhoons in recent history and is expected to remain a super typhoon over the next 24 hours.

Handout photo by NOAA/AFP/Getty Images

Ker Than

for National Geographic

Published November 7, 2013

A super typhoon expected to slam into the Philippines on Friday appears on track to become the strongest such storm to develop this year, meteorologists warn.

With wind speeds exceeding 190 miles an hour (305 kilometers an hour), super typhoon Haiyan—known as Yolanda in the Philippines—is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons are all the same rotating ocean storm phenomenon; scientists just call them different names depending on where they occur. [See "Typhoon, Hurricane, Cyclone: What's the Difference?"]

Forecasters predict Haiyan will  make landfall on Friday morning in the archipelago's central islands, many of which are still recovering from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the region last month.

"If Haiyan holds its strength and makes landfall in the Philippines, it would definitely be the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year, and that's saying a lot," said Chris Velden, a hurricane expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Our advanced satellite algorithms that estimate intensity are hitting values rarely seen.”

Typhoon Season

In the northwestern Pacific, typhoons most commonly develop from late June through December. After a slow start this season, typhoon formation began to pick up in October.

"It's gotten very active again, and now it's back to where it should be, with several typhoons being spawned a month," said Velden, whose team uses satellites to track developing storms around the globe.

Officials in the Philippines have already begun evacuating people from coastal and landslide-prone regions of the country’s central islands and put emergency workers on alert in preparation for Haiyan's landfall, according to Reuters.

'Oversized Tornadoes'

On average 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year. According to the aid agency Plan International, Haiyan is the 25th typhoon to enter the Philippines Area of Responsibility (PAR) this year.

The country happens to be located in a region of the Pacific that, like Hurricane Alley in the Atlantic, is particularly prone to typhoon formation, said Hans Graber, a professor of marine physics at Florida’s University of Miami.

"The waters [in that part of the Pacific] are extremely warm, so with the right atmospheric conditions and steering currents, you have the ideal making of a storm that can eventually develop into a super typhoon," Graber said.

Graber, whose group has studied more than a dozen super typhoons, has noted they possess a curious difference from their Atlantic counterparts.

Large hurricanes, or "superstorms," typically have an inner core that is about 6 to 12 miles (10 to 12 kilometers) wide and generate gale-force winds that extend for hundreds of miles.

Super typhoons, in contrast, appear to be much more compact. "These super typhoons seem to be more like oversized tornadoes," Graber explained.

"Their inner cores are often just a few kilometers wide, and all their high winds are concentrated within a radius of a few tens of kilometers. Beyond that, the wind drops off significantly."

Eyes Beneath the Clouds

Why super typhoons should have more intense inner wind cores than hurricanes is still not known, since the basic physics that drive a typhoon and a hurricane are the same, Velden said.

“Fundamentally, in terms of internal dynamics, acting physics, intensification principles, and decay stages, typhoons and hurricanes are of the same family,” he added.

Velden’s team is working with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop new tools that could provide a clearer glimpse of the eyes and inner dynamics of hurricanes and typhoons.

One project that the group is working on will use satellites with improved imaging capabilities to pierce through the storms' enshrouding cloud layers.

"It's not just visible and infrared imagery anymore. We're looking at microwaves and short waves and using combinations of different image channels to deduce some of the properties of these storms," Velden said.

"That gives us eyes beneath the cloud canopy and allows us to see what's going on in terms of organization, structure, and intensity."

Follow Ker Than on Twitter.

41 comments
Prakash Menon
Prakash Menon

While it is important to develop emergency response program, it is an immediate need to pay attention to the increasing hydrocarbon,  chemical and mineral imbalances that is happening in these region to quote few location that has seen increasing activities: New York city, Indonesia, Philippines, China, and many more ...where the surface heat of these locations over the period of time have gone up. One of the contributor to such heat is the increased % of hydrocarbon in water (one good example). What I am amazed is the All Gore's of the world are talking about the melting of the iceberg, which a common man cannot understand  , while if we can pay attention to waste water, oil spills, chemical and mineral waste into our water and ground resource...we would have addressed the major issue of increase heat leading to depression and cold air from sea finding its way to hit the land..... 

Weera Bumrungsee
Weera Bumrungsee

น่าเห็นใจเพื่อนมนุษย์ เพื่อนบ้าน Philippines ได้รับสิ่งที่ไม่ต้องการ Super Typhoon 

Haiyan  ช่วยกันครับ

Knut Skreden
Knut Skreden

The Philippines need help to reebuild stronger houses and concrete shelters  that can withstand extreme weather conditions like this terrible cyclone. To do the job, the country needs international help, otherwise the situation will be the same next time we have a new cyclone comming their way.

Up to lately, the worlds political leaders have not been willing to except the weather change doe to increased CO2 in the athmosphere. At present it is 400ppm, and have not been so high the last 10 million years. We can only imagine what will happen when the permafrost in Sibiria and North America starts to give away their Metan gas, which is much more dangeroues when it comes to temp. increase.

More Extreme weather, increased hunger, Death, global war, and milllions of people on the moove trying to get away from their night mare.

My be this will be the faith and end of the human rase if Our politicians are not setting New standards rather quickly. The time is 2359 global time!.

Ericson Aquino
Ericson Aquino

With global warming expected to spawn more intense tropical cyclones year after year, and with the Philippines being the "port of entry" of most of the typhoons headed towards East and Southeast Asia, emergency response systems should be developed and local populations educated to cope with the increasing threat. It is ironic how a country with such an insignificant contribution to the carbon footprint of the planet compared with the industrialized nations should bear the brunt of this global warming phenomenon.

Elias g awari
Elias g awari

The world is fighting back we real have to take care and pray to God

Leland Prejean
Leland Prejean

May God watch over those in the region and protect those in the direct path of the storm so that the may protect the children, Amen

David C.
David C.

The Earth is a living entity. We mistreat it and it will fight back. Respect the Earth and all its life forms. They all possess intelligence, it is just different from one life form to another.


El Gabilon
El Gabilon

Why are we moaning about this superstorm!  After all isn't it what we deserve? For years scientists have been warning about global warming and its effect upon the climate.  We have been warned about reducing reducing the pollution that is causing it.  We have allowed business to continue with its pollution from coal, oil, etc. while we sat back and did nothing to stop it. It was business as usual, greed winning by a long shot. We have sat back as diseases such as asthama have increased causing our children to suffer long time suffering while we fiddled with our ipods, kindles, booze, drugs, avoiding our responsibilities as humans to the planet we live on and the only home we have.  We have defacated all over it and now have the audacity to call upon "God" to save us.  Well, its not about to happen.  The earth is fighting back scratching its back to get rid of the pollution we are still dumping in the atmosphere, and getting rid of the human flea that is causing it.  Every human being should be demanding an end to the pollution and if they cannot do it SHUT THEM DOWN. The survival of this planet is more important than the MONEY these scumbags are greedily hoarding.

Lucio Fontana
Lucio Fontana

Impressionante! sembra la Via Lattea in piccolo.


Cary R Burke
Cary R Burke

An Earthquake last month then This !!

Tragic.

Betsy Alexander
Betsy Alexander

God protect everyone in the path of this super typhoon. Prayers for all 

Donna G
Donna G

Pray those folks can get out ahead of it...

Miguel Oquendo
Miguel Oquendo

I'd like some information on Oman. I have a friend who lives there with 3 kids. If any one knows whether it is in the path of this storm please give me some info. I can only contact them through fb.

Prakash Menon
Prakash Menon

@Ericson Aquino As it is important to develop emergency response , it is an immediate need to pay some attention to the increasing hydrocarbon,  chemical and mineral imbalances that is happening in these regions. New York city, Indonesia, Philippines, China, and many more the surface heat of these countries over the period of time have gone up. One of the contributor to such heat is the increased % of hydrocarbon in water (one good example). What I am amazed is the All Gore's of the world are talking about the melting of the iceberg , while if we can pay attention to oil spills, chemical and mineral waste into our water and ground resource...we would have addressed the major issue of increase heat leading to depression and cold air from sea finding its way to hit the land.....  contact pmenon0305@yahoo.com

John Chimon
John Chimon

@David C. Natural disasters been happening for millions of years BEFORE any life existed on earth. 

We are contributing to global warming and that is just a small percent. 

Maximilian Zim
Maximilian Zim

@David C. ehh more or less.  Typhoons, storms, tsunamis, even floods are all a product of the natural order of the earth.  However, our building of dams and levees does make our own situation riskier should these atypical but expected events should occur

Shane C.
Shane C.

@El Gabilon  God in the Bible says I am coming to destroy them that destroy the earth. And if the days had not been shortened no flesh would be saved. More signs of the times seem to point to this. But prayer can at times move the hands of God. Lets keep praying that God will show mercy on the Philippines.

Mieke Merckx
Mieke Merckx

@Darwin Lucena   God Jehovah , zal voor een nieuwe mooie wereld zorgen !  zonder haat ,pijn ,verdriet en zo veel andere pijnlijke dingen . een wereld vol van vrede ,liefde en verdraagzaamheid !  dat is de belofte van God .  en daar zal ik geduldig op wachten , en  ik ook meer leren om God beter te leren kennen .  PSALM: 55:22 < werp u last op Jehovah , en hij zelf zal u schragen. nooit zal hij toelaten dat de rechtvaardige wankelt .

Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones

@Miguel Oquendo It would be unlikely for the storm to reach the northern Arabian Sea close to Oman. The typhoon will decay before leaving the northwest Pacific, irrespective of its trajectory. 

Postgrad climatologist. 

Liz Schultz
Liz Schultz

@Miguel Oquendo Oman nowhere near the Philippines so don't worry

Antonio Ursal Jr.
Antonio Ursal Jr.

@Miguel Oquendo  Hey man, I'm from the Philippines..The path of the typhoon is in Visayas region if you're familiar with it. All places in visayas region are in Signal No.4, the strongest wind category in PH..

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