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Tracking Super Typhoon Haiyan: International effort provides new views of monster storm, saves lives

09 December 2013

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By mid-afternoon on 03 November 2013, residents of Manila were sweltering. The high temperature peaked at 88 degrees Fahrenheit, but the tropical humidity made it feel like 102. A few scattered clouds above the capital city of the Philippines offered little protection from the tropical sun. A feeble and irregular breeze hardly stirred the giant Filipino flag hanging outside Malacañan Palace, where the president lives.

On that same Sunday afternoon, Himawari 6, a Japanese satellite at an altitude of 35,800 kilometres (22,245 miles) above the Pacific Ocean, detected ocean surface level winds blowing at about 30 mph, some 2,500 miles southeast of the Philippines. A day later, winds were clocking in at 40 mph. What had been merely a tropical depression was upgraded to a tropical storm. On 05 November satellite data determined that the wind speed had increased to 75 mph. The tropical depression had become Typhoon Haiyan.

The technology used to track tropical cyclones has made enormous strides since an experimental U.S. satellite, the TIROS 3, discovered a tropical wave forming over the central Atlantic Ocean on 10 September 1961. Two days later, the low pressure system had become Hurricane Esther - the first tropical cyclone discovered from space.

Source: Earthzine

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