Tropical storms are increasing in strength. And Haiyan may well have been the strongest storm since modern measurements of storm strength have been made. Here are some of the stunning facts about the strength of Haiyan that are emerging.
Haiyan was at the top of the Category 5 storm classification system, while Katrina was a Category 3. Yet, Haiyan was three times more powerful than Katrina that devastated New Orleans!
Katrina was a strong storm but not unusually so. It caused devastation mainly because of the topography of New Orleans, erosion of natural protection by development over decades, and completely inadequate storm barriers around the city.
Compared to Katrina, Haiyan is off the charts. Haiyan had sustained winds of at least 175 mph, with the US military saying its sustained maximum winds were up to 195 mph. Haiyan's gusts were over 200 mph. The winds themselves were like a tornado and destroyed strong structures.
While Haiyan's winds were catastrophic, Haiyan also produced a 20 foot storm surge that acted like a tsunami. This wall of water swept away all before it and killed probably many thousands. Haiyan was like no storm before now. But it may be an example of what lies ahead.
Why are tropical storms on average increasing in strength? Seas are warming!