New World Record for Super Typhoon Haiyan: a 180-Ton Boulder Transported

By Dr. Jeff Masters
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Published: 3:46 PM GMT on December 18, 2014

On November 8, 2013, the world changed forever for the people of the Central Philippines. The strongest tropical cyclone at landfall on record in world history, Super Typhoon Haiyan, crashed ashore on the island of Samar, bringing a massive storm surge of 15 - 23 feet to the city of Tacloban. At least 6,300 people died, mostly due to the storm surge, making it the deadliest typhoon in modern Philippines history. Storm surge surveys published earlier this year revealed that high waves on top of the surge created high water marks of up to 46 feet above mean sea level—among the highest in world history. New research presented by Max Engel and co-authors from the University of Cologne in Germany at this week’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, California found that Haiyan’s surge set another all-time record: the heaviest boulder known to be moved by a tropical cyclone. The team’s post-storm survey found a number of multi-ton boulders transported by the storm, with the heaviest being an incredible 180 metric tons. The huge boulder was shifted by 45 meters, parallel to the shore, by Haiyan’s storm surge. The boulder was on the shore near the town of Hernani, Samar Island, near where the remarkable storm surge video linked below was taken. Haiyan’s extreme storm surge was amplified by a long-wave phenomenon called infragravity waves or surf beat, Dr. Engel explained to me in an email, and that he and other researchers are not convinced anymore that a storm surge in the traditional sense, due to strong winds piling up a big dome of water, was that important in Eastern Samar.


Figure 1. Record-weight boulder (180 tons), 9 meters by 3.5 meters in size, transported by Super Typhoon Haiyan’s storm surge and waves. Image credit: Max Engel, University of Cologne, Germany.


Video 1. Nickson Gensis, Plan Philippines Community Development Worker, filmed from the top floor of a boarding house what is probably the most remarkable video of storm surge ever taken, during Super Typhoon Haiyan in Hernani, in Eastern Samar, Philippines on November 8, 2013. There is a remarkable tsunami-like storm surge observed at 46 seconds into the video.

Links
My May 2014 blog post, Super Typhoon Haiyan Storm Surge Survey Finds High Water Marks 46 Feet High.

My December 2013 blog post, Haiyan's Storm Surge: A Detailed Look.

Jeff Masters

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About The Author
Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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