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.
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), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
The official Philippines News Agency reported, citing local police, that authorities in the region had moved more than 2,500 people to evacuation centers by early Thursday.
“It’s a very poor country and there is not really any place for these people to go because they are on an island,” Weather Channel lead meteorologist Michael Palmer told NBC. “There was a similar typhoon that struck in 1990 which killed 700 people so you are going to see that here, maybe even worse.”
Haiyan is moving toward the Philippines from the west in the Pacific Ocean and is expected to make landfall around noon local time on Friday (11 p.m. ET Thursday) between the central islands of Samar and Leyte.
“It is a perfectly symmetrical storm with the eye completely clear so it is as strong as you can get,” Palmer said.
An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year. In 2011, Typhoon Washi killed 1,200 people, displaced 300,000 and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.
According to Climate Central, Haiyan is the fourth category 5 cyclone to form in the western Pacific this year — the most since 2009 but far from the record of 12 category 5 storms set in 1997, a particularly strong El Niño year.
Human activity driving fundamental changes in the climate is likely causing sea surface temperatures to warm, which can in turn intensify extreme weather events like Super Typhoon Haiyan. In September, warm waters fueled Typhoon Usagi as it headed towards Hong Kong.