Typhoons in the Philippines


Writing in the New York Times today Coral Davenport makes a strong claim about typhoons in the Philippines:

A series of scientific reports have linked the burning of fossil fuels with rising sea levels and more powerful typhoons, like those that have battered the island nation.

I am unaware of any scientific report that has linked the burning of fossil fuels to more powerful typhoons, whether they have hit the Philippines or not. Via Twitter I have challenged Davenport to substantiate her claim (she is correct about sea level rise).

That’s not really fair of me, because she can’t. The graph at the top of this post comes from a 2009 paper by Kubota and Chan (here and here), which concluded “no trend is found.”

Below is a graph from a post I did last year when the exact same false claims were made following the disastrous landfall of Haiyan. That data comes from the Weinkle et al. dataset of global landfalls. It shows all landfalls in the western North Pacific, the region which includes the Philippines.

No matter how you parse the data, on climate time scales tropical cyclones, including the most powerful ones, have not become more common in the Philippines, the western North Pacific or on planet Earth. Last year I wrote in the Guardian that the science of tropical cyclones (and disasters more generally) provides a great test case study in adherence to scientific integrity when data is inconvenient.

To learn more, please have a look at my new book which summarizes the state of the science.

10 thoughts on “Typhoons in the Philippines

  1. On BBC News 24 I was amazed to see 15 minutes from 3.00 am Tuesday morning to 3.15 am devoted to the Typhoon in the Phillippines (that was now a tropical storm) with 4 dead but emphasis on “Super Typhoons” now an annual event when they used to be a 1 in 100 years. The piece was concluded with the Weatherman stating that we could expect more such events due to climate change. The anchorman made reference to COP20 in Lima. In the meantime, events in Japan, Russia and China are ignored where the death toll is much higher. The media (BBC especially) ignore or gloss over weather events that are not within the expected global warming box of tricks. Above average NH snowfall is a nuisance but to those suffering huge snowfalls in short periods of time, must look on Lima with a chagrin


  2. Similar claims about the drought in California…


    As everyone familiar with the relevant studies, for example by Ed Cook, knows, modern droughts in California are nothing compared to megadroughts 800-1100 years ago.

    They claim temps are now higher which makes it worse….well, back then, there was no 30 million Californians watering their lawns, running dishwashers, flushing their toilets and practising intensive irrigation agriculture either.

    Is it the Lima climate conference or is this the new reporting normal?? Goodbye data, hello hype?


  3. Roger,

    Do you plan to do your annual hurricane season update (days without a U.S. cat 3+ landfall graph)? I’ve come to look forward to that every year. ūüôā


  4. Roger,

    In looking at the Excel version of the Weinkle data, I noticed that the tropical cyclones labeled WP (presumably north western Pacific?) are well in excess of the numbers shown in the graph above (e.g., 17 in 1964 compared with the 8 you have shown). What’s the difference between the data and the graph? Is there an easy way to find the data used for the graph from the spreadsheet?


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