Philippines Smashed by Warm Ocean Fed Super Typhoon

Debris litters the damaged airport in Tacloban. Erik de Castro / Reuters

Debris litters the damaged airport in Tacloban.
Erik de Castro / Reuters

Death toll thought to be 1,000 or more.

Warmer Pacific feeds Monster Typhoon

Super Typhoon Haiyan is making a beeline towards the Philippines and thousands of people in vulnerable areas are being relocated to prepare for the impact of the strongest storm on the planet so far this year.

According to Climate Central, extremely warm surface waters, 2-3°F above average for the last few months in the western tropical Pacific, have fueled Haiyan’s growth. As of late Thursday morning (U.S. time), Super Typhoon Haiyan had top sustained winds near 190 mph (equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane)

Climate Progress

According to Wunderblog, Super Typhoon Haiyan is now one of the most intense tropical cyclones in world history. Since 1969, only three tropical cyclones have equaled Haiyan’s 190 mph sustained winds — the Western Pacific’s Super Typhoon Tip of 1979, the Atlantic’s Hurricane Camille of 1969, and the Atlantic’s Hurricane Allen of 1980.


Manila Buried in Water

While fires rage across the US west, the Philippines and particularly the capital, Manila, is buried in water, again.

Aug. 20, 2013 file photo, office workers cross a flooded street using makeshift floats during heavy rain at the financial district of Makati, south of Manila, Philippines.AP/Aaron Favila

Aug. 20, 2013 file photo, office workers cross a flooded street using makeshift floats during heavy rain at the financial district of Makati, south of Manila, Philippines.AP/Aaron Favila

And again, much of the catastrophe seems to be from humans soiling their own nest.

  • Population growth, inadequate infrastructure, corruption, deforestation and even trash build-up combine to exacerbate the impact. It’s a trend experts expect to continue.
  • Much of Manila, once known as the “Pearl of the Orient,” was lost in heavy bombardment at the end of World War II. The haphazard, poorly planned urban reconstruction coupled with the 10-fold jump in population to nearly 12 million today has severely strained the city’s ability to cope with flooding.
  • Each year, about 20 typhoons hit the country, and they have become stronger over the past decade, said Edna Juanillo, head of the Philippine government weather agency’s climatology division. That prompted the agency about a decade ago to add a fourth category to public storm warning system for typhoons with sustained winds of more than 185 kilometers per hour (115 mph).
  • “It has not been concluded if this is caused by global warming and climate change, but we’ve been seeing more powerful tropical cyclones with winds of 150 kph and above in the last decade,” Juanillo said.
  • Four of the strongest typhoons that hit between 2008 and 2012 caused damage of $2.2 billion compared to $828 million for the four of the most devastating typhoons between 1990-1998.


Super Typhoon Bopha Devastates Mindanao

Jut to remind you, Hurricane Sandy was not even a hurricane when it did its damage; a hybrid storm yes, but winds were under 80 mph or so.  Imagine if you will a Super Typhoon, Cat 5, winds at 160 mph — and you living in lashed together housing….

Super Typhoon Bopha, Winds to 160 mph. Only Cat 5 Typhoon recorded to landfall on Mindanao

The death toll in the Philippines from Typhoon Bopha has risen to at 370, with hundreds more missing. Bopha (called “Pablo” in the Philippines), slammed ashore on the Philippine island of Mindanao at 4:45 am local time on Tuesday morning as a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds. Bopha is only Category 5 typhoon on record to make landfall on Mindanao, which rarely sees strong typhoons due to its position close to the Equator. Most of the deaths occurred in the gold-rush mountain towns of New Bataan and Monkayo due to typhoon-spawned landslides and flash floods. According to an op-ed published at, much of the death toll can be blamed on the fact that deforestation has reduced forest cover on Mindanao to just 10%, which allows more dangerous flash floods to occur…

and then there is Palau which  got  “a storm surge estimated at ten feet …  where near-total destruction is being reported in some coastal areas.


The video is mostly in Tagolog but the destruction is obvious

Climate Change?  As one commentator said, if the basketball floor is raised (ocean and atmospheric heat rise) you will expect more slam-dunks.  Yes, this one might have been made anyway, but expect many more.

Manila Drowns, Again

Residents wait for their family members being rescued at the end of a flooded street in the village of Tumana, Marikina town, in suburban Manila, on August 7, 2012, after torrential rains inundated most of the capital. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

Enormously frustrating that no article [here, here, here] I can find on Manila flooding and tropical storms puts this week’s events in the context of past such events.  The Philippines, like Bangladesh, is always saturated by monsoon rains. What we need to know, and in every article, is the trend line.  Compared not just to one other major storm or flood (2009 Philippines, 900 dead), but to years. How does this compare: total rainfall; intensity of rain; flooding, deaths, homelessness?  The business world lives and dies on rolling averages and minute tracking of sales and expenses compared to others in the industry, past records and future projections.  Is it so much to ask that where human lives and welfare are at stake similar tools are put to use?

The CNN link above links to another CNN article: What’s behind the major flood disasters in Asia? The best the author can do is this:

We always say that global warming or climate change does not explain, or cause, specific weather events or disasters. But one of the consequences of climate change, according to climate scientists, is a higher frequency of extreme rainfall events. A warmer climate results in more moisture in the atmosphere from evaporation, and thus, higher rainfall amounts are possible in storms.

Could this be what we are seeing? Perhaps, especially considering we have not seen an increase in the number of tropical storms or typhoons over the past several years, but the number of intense flooding scenarios seem to be in the rise.

Thanks, but let’s get data, comparisons, charts.  It is said that no single storm is caused by climate change.  Fair enough I’ve thought, until recently.  But if 30 migrants are stuffed into the back of a closed truck and some suffocate or die of heat exhaustion, would we say that no single death was caused by the conditions in the truck?  The insurance company perhaps — not the lack of oxygen, but compromised lungs, yada yada yada.  The rest of the sane world would know exactly what killed them.

All storms are taking place within a radically changing climate, and we should be expecting the unexpected, quit dithering and get about saving ourselves.  Kick the door down; stop spewing heat-trapping stuff into the sky above us.