The 10 Most Powerful Hurricanes and Typhoons in World History

A list of the planet's most intense hurricanes (by wind speed)

October 28, 2015

If you've been anywhere near a computer, tv, or newspaper in the last week, you've likely heard it mentioned that the East Pacific's Hurricane Patricia is now the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. But if Patricia is that fierce of a storm, could it also be one of the most intense tropical cyclones the world has ever seen? Here's a look at the 10 most intense hurricanes ever recorded on the planet -- that is, across the Atlantic, East Pacific, West Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Australian basins -- and how Patricia ranks among them.

Storms are ranked by highest 1-minute sustained surface wind speed reported during their life span. (A "sustained" wind just means that winds and wind gusts are averaged together to give an estimated constant speed.) Only storms having a central pressure below 900 millibars are listed.

10
of 10

Typhoon Amy (1971)

Typhoon Amy 1971
View of Typhoon Amy located southeast of Guam, May 5, 1971. NOAA via Wikimedia Commons
  • Basin: Western Pacific
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 172 mph ( kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 890 millibars

These storms tie Amy as 10th strongest (by winds):

  • Typhoon Elsie, 1975: 895 millibars
  • Typhoon Bess, 1965: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Agnes, 1968: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Hope, 1970: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Nadine, 1971: 900 mb.
09
of 10

Typhoon Ida (1954)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 173 mph (278 kph)
  • Lowest central Pressure: 890 millibars

These storms also rank as 9th strongest (by winds):

  • Typhoon Wilda, 1964: 895 mb
  • Typhoon Tess, 1953: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Pamela, 1954: 900 mb.
08
of 10

Typhoon Rita (1978)

Typhoon Rita 1978
Typhoon Rita intensifying over Philippine Sea, Oct 23, 1978. NOAA via Wikimedia Commons
  • Basin: Western Pacific
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 175 mph (281 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 880 millibars

Besides being notable in strength, Rita had the odd characteristic of tracking virtually due west for its nearly 2-week long duration. It impacted Guam, the Philippines (as a Category 4 equivalent), and Vietnam, causing $100 million in extensive damages and over 300 deaths.

These storms tie Rita as 8th strongest (by winds):

  • Typhoon Wynne, 1980: 890 mb
  • Typhoon Yuri, 1991: 895 mb
  • Hurricane Camille, 1969: 900 mb
07
of 10

Typhoon Irma (1971)

Typhoon Irma 1971
Typhoon Irma "bombs out" in the Philippine Sea, Nov 11, 1975. NOAA via Wikimedia Commons
  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 180 mph (286 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 884 millibars

Typhoon Irma is unique in that it's one of the few tropical cyclones on this list that remained at sea (although it did impact several islands in the West Pacific). Also of interest is it's rapid deepening rate: it strengthened by 4 mb per hour over the 24-hour period of November 10-11.

  • Hurricane Rita, 2005: 895 mb
06
of 10

Typhoon June (1975)

Typhoon June 1975
Typhoon June at near peak intensity, Nov 19, 1975. NOAA via Wikimedia Commons
  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 185 mph (298 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 875 millibars

June has the second lowest pressure of any tropical cyclone globally. It is also known for being the first storm in recorded history to exhibit triple eyewalls, an extremely rare occurrence where 2 additional eyewalls form outside of the main eyewall (like a bullseye pattern). There are no damages or fatalities to mention, as it steered clear of land areas.

These storms also clock in at 185 mph, tying for 6th strongest:

  • Typhoon Nora, 1973: 877 mb
  • Hurricane Wilma, 2005: 882 mb
  • Typhoon Megi, 2010: 885 mb
  • Typhoon Nina, 1953: 885 mb
  • Hurricane Gilbert, 1988: 888 mb
  • Labor Day Hurricane of 1935: 892 mb
  • Typhoon Karen, 1962: 894 mb
  • Typhoon Lola, 1957: 900 mb
  • Typhoon Carla, 1967: 900 mb
05
of 10

Typhoon Tip (1979)

Typhoon Tip 1979-satellite
Typhoon Tip at peak intensity, Oct 12, 1979. NOAA via Wikimedia Commons
  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 190 mph (306 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 870 millibars

While Tip may rank at the halfway mark when it comes to wind speed, keep in mind that when it comes to central pressure, it is the #1 strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded anywhere on Earth. (It's minimum pressure bottomed out at a worldwide record low 870 millibars on October 12, 1979, shortly after passing Guam and Japan.) Tip is also the largest tropical cyclone ever observed. At peak strength, its winds spread 1380 miles (2,220 km) in diameter -- that's nearly half the size of the contiguous United States!

Two storms, a Western Pacific and an Atlantic, tie for the #5 rank:

  • Typhoon Vera, 1959: 895 mb
  • Hurricane Allen, 1980: 899 mb.
04
of 10

Typhoon Joan (1959)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 195 mph (314 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 885 millibars

Joan was the 1959 typhoon season's strongest storm in terms of intensity and size (it was more than 1,000 miles across). Joan struck Taiwan (with winds of 185 mph -- the equivalent of a strong Cat 5) and China, but Taiwan was worstly affected with 11 deaths and $3 million in crop damage. 

These Western Pacific storms tie Joan as 4th strongest (by winds):

  • Typhoon Haiyan, 2013: 895 mb
  • Typhoon Sally, 1964: 895 mb.
03
of 10

Typhoon Ida (1958) and Hurricane Patricia (2015)

Hurricane Patricia 2015 satellite
A Cat 5 Hurricane Patricia nears Mexico coast, Oct 23, 2015. NASA
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 200 mph (325 kph)

The Western Pacific's Typhoon Ida and East Pacific newcomer, Hurricane Patricia, tie for third strongest cyclone ever recorded.

Hitting southeastern Japan as a Cat 3, Ida caused extensive flooding and mudslides and led to over 1,200 fatalities. With a minimum central pressure of 877 millibars, it is also the third strongest cyclone ever recorded in terms of central pressure.

Like Ida, Patricia also holds multiple records. In terms of pressure, it is the strongest hurricane to spin up in the Western Hemisphere. It is the strongest hurricane in terms of reliably measured winds. Patricia is also the fastest tropical cyclone to intensify, or "bomb out," a record previously held by --- but broken by Patricia's 100 millibar pressure decrease (from 980 mb to 880 mb) over October 22-23. It made landfall north of Manzanillo, Mexico still at Cat 5 intensity, becoming only the second Pacific hurricane to make landfall at this intensity. The storm impacted mostly rural areas and weakened to a depression within 24 hours of moving ashore (as a result of being broken apart by the mountainous terrain along the Mexican coastline) both of which limited damages to under $200 million and casualties to under 20.

02
of 10

Typhoon Violet (1961)

  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 207 mph (335 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 886 millibars

To be such an intense storm, Violet was surprisingly short-lived. Within 5 days of forming, it had strengthened into a Category 5 equivalent super typhoon with a central pressure of 886 millibars and winds in excess of 200 mph. A few days after reaching peak intensity, it had all but dissipated.

The fact that Violet had weakened to a tropical storm by the time it made landfall in Japan was the island's saving grace -- it kept damages and loss of life to a minimum.

01
of 10

Typhoon Nancy (1961)

Typhoon Nancy1961-radar
A picture of Typhoon Nancy taken on the Radarscope. U.S. Naval Observatory NOOC
  • Basin: West Pacific
  • Highest 1-minute sustained winds: 213 mph (345 kph)
  • Lowest central pressure: 882 millibars

Typhoon Nancy has held onto the #1 rank of strongest tropical cyclone (based on winds) for five decades and counting. But its rank isn't without controversy. It's possible that the storm's wind estimates may have been inflated during aircraft reconnaissance flyovers. (Wind readings during the 1940s to 1960s were likely overestimated due to inadequate technology and a lesser understanding at the time of how hurricanes work.) 

Assuming Nancy's wind speed data is reliable, it qualifies Nancy for another record: the longest lasting Category 5 equivalent hurricane in the Northern Hemisphere. (It remained a Cat 5 for 5 1/2 days!)

Nancy did make landfall, though thankfully not at peak intensity. Even so, it caused $500 million USD in damages and around 200 deaths as a Category 2 in Japan.

 

Resources & Links:

"List of the Most Intense Tropical Cyclones." Wikipedia.com. 

Joint Typhoon Warning Center Annual Tropical Cyclone Reports.

Western Pacific Hurricane Tracking Data by Year. Unisys Weather.