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How big was Typhoon Haiyan?

Image of Typhoon Haiyan taken from the International Space Station.

Image of Typhoon Haiyan taken from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA.

You may have heard about a terrible storm that swept through the Philippines. This storm, named Typhoon Haiyan, brought destructive winds and powerful waves to this nation of many islands.

A typhoon is just like a hurricane. The only difference is that it forms in the North Pacific Ocean (which is in the Eastern Hemisphere). Hurricanes form only in the Western Hemisphere. Typhoons, like hurricanes, are powerful swirling cyclones. They have winds that can reach well over 100 miles an hour. And they can span up to 1000 miles in diameter.

But Haiyan was no ordinary typhoon. This was one of the largest and strongest typhoons ever recorded. In fact, it may have been the fourth strongest typhoon ever. And if you are ranking it only on the speed of the winds when it hit land, then it is the strongest ever recorded. It had winds that reached 195 miles per hour. This storm was disastrous.

But it can be hard to really grasp how strong a storm is by just reading statistics. Comparing it to other storms can sometimes help. Hurricane Katrina, from back in 2005, was one of the strongest and most destructive hurricanes to hit the United States. It was the costliest disaster in our nation’s history.

A seriously big storm

But Haiyan was even bigger than Katrina. Images from weather satellites show just how big it was. Below is a comparison of satellite images of both Katrina and Haiyan. A GOES weather satellite took the image of Katrina while another weather satellite took the image of Haiyan.

To make the comparison easier in the photos below, Typhoon Haiyan was moved from its original location in the North Pacific and was placed over same location that the Katrina picture was taken (Typhoon Haiyan never made it anywhere near the U.S. in reality). You can drag the scroll bar to the right and left to compare the size of the two storms.


Image of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico with compared to an image of Typhoon Haiyan placed in the same location at the same scale.

Slide the bar to compare the size of Hurricane Katrina (left) and Typhoon Haiyan (right). Note that the location of Typhoon Haiyan has been moved to Katrina's location for the sake of comparison. The image of Hurricane Katrina came from a GOES weather satellite. Credit: CIMSS/Rick Kohrs-SSEC/UW-Madison.