November is Climate Change Awareness month and various activities are held worldwide to promote environmental consciousness. In line with this, let’s look back at one of the most devastating typhoons in Philippine history: Super Typhoon Haiyan. Although no direct correlation has been published yet, a lot of post-Haiyan discussions are suggesting climate change might have something to do with how stronger typhoons have developed in the past decade.
Haiyan was a storm of unusual intensity, as it maintained a relatively consistent track and intensity as it was traversing the warm Pacific Ocean. The storm peaked right as it was approaching the coast of Eastern Visayas. It made landfall at exactly 4:40 a.m. in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, 650 kilometers southeast of the capital Manila. It was the 23rd tropical cyclone in 2013.
The howler packed an unprecedented wind speed of 313 kilometers per hour (kph), with gusts of about 386 kph, something we have never seen or observed before. It swamped the highly exposed and vulnerable coast of the Visayas, unleashing a barrage of eight-meter high storm surges. Many people died of drowning because of the overwhelming power of the sea.
Counting the cost
Records have shown, Haiyan affected about 3.4 million families, comprising of 16 million persons in 12,139 barangays, in 44 provinces, 591 municipalities, and 57 cities across the archipelago (Regions IV-A, V, VII, VIII, IX, X and the CARAGA Region). This data came from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), days after the Haiyan struck. The death toll was 6,300 people, with 28,688 injured and 1,062 missing.
Haiyan destroyed homes and property, numbering about 1.1 million (550,928 totaled, 589,404 partially damaged). Damage totaled P89.6 million, with an estimated loss of around P42.7 million. Infrastructure was hit the hardest, with losses of P9.5 million. No other government in the Philippines has ever faced this kind of adversity.
How Haiyan was formed
How did Haiyan form exactly? On Nov. 1, 2013, a low-pressure area formed over Central Micronesia, drawing a large banding general circulation.
Underneath it, a warm pool of water formed and over the course of the days, it continued to grow in size and strength. Once the wind strength reached 55 kph, the American agency Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) issued a warning.
On Nov. 3, 2013, several observation buoys reported an unusually thick layer of warm water – 30 degrees Celsius, and with a depth of about 300 feet, at exactly where the developing storm was located. The next day, Haiyan becomes a full-fledged typhoon, and shortly became a Super Typhoon as it doubled in intensity.
The Philippines is a country of about 193,116 kilometers, roughly the size of Italy, but nearly double the number of people, and a population 10 times that of the United States. This makes the Philippines a socially vulnerable place with many people all living in extreme poverty–and lately, at the mercy of climate change.
Time to make a stand
However, things do not have to be this way. The hard lessons of the Haiyan disaster should not be forgotten, lest we repeat the errors of the past. The reality of changing climatic patterns is evident already. The Philippines, according to experts, will face a climatic shift in the not-so-distant future, where disruptions in rain cycles and extreme weather will take a huge toll on our environment, water requirements, and agricultural productivity. The choice to be informed and resilient is ours to make. Stay ahead of climate change and unexpected weather conditions by constantly being vigilant and #WeatherWiser!