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Super typhoon shoved supersized boulder

Haiyan gave momentum to most massive rock ever seen moved by a storm

4:52pm, December 17, 2014
giant boulder

STRONG STORM  Tsunami-like waves generated by Typhoon Haiyan pushed around this giant boulder, which weighs roughly 180 metric tons.

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SAN FRANCISCO — When Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines in November 2013, its waves shoved a boulder weighing more than 25 adult African elephants. The boulder is the most massive known rock shifted by a storm, geoscientist Max Engel of the University of Cologne in Germany reported December 16 at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting.

Engel and colleagues initially thought there was a language barrier when a local fisherman told them that the 9-meter-wide, 180-metric-ton rock moved during the storm. Comparing satellite photos taken before and after the storm, the researchers found that the boulder traveled about 45 meters along a beach.

Based on videos recorded during the storm, the researchers think the typhoon created protracted tsunami-like waves that pushed the hefty rock. The observations suggest that other boulder movements that scientists had associated with tsunamis might actually have been caused by superstorms, Engel said.


M. Engel et al. Storm surge of Supertyphoon Haiyan (7–9 Nov 2013) on Samar (Philippines) moved the largest boulder ever documented for a recent storm. American Geophysical Union annual fall meeting, San Francisco, December 16, 2014.

Further Reading

T. Sumner. Death Valley’s sailing stones caught on the move. Science News. Vol. 186, October 18, 2014, p. 4.

A look back at 2013’s disasters. Science News. Vol. 186, December 13, 2014, p. 4.

S. Perkins. World’s largest tsunami debris. Science News. Vol. 174, November 8, 2008, p. 16.

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