Bird’s-eye photos of Vanuatu illustrate Tropical Cyclone Pam’s fury as it whipped through the South Pacific islands as the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane.

The photos were taken by pilot William Dyer and shared on Twitter by Australia’s ABC journalist Sam Bolitho. They show before-and-after views of two islands of Vanuatu. Before Cyclone Pam these islands were lush, green and tropical. After, they are barren and brown, and look like the cyclone spared not a single leaf.

[Pam thrashes Vanuatu as a category 5]

The top row photos appears to be of a small island that’s part of and just south of Epi, while the island on the bottom row looks like Emae.

If that is the case, these islands saw intense winds and gusts as Pam passed just 30-40 miles to the east. According to analysis of the wind field from Tropical Storm Risk, Emae saw peak 3-second wind gusts of 80 to 100 mph, while the central part of Epi saw gusts of 70 to 80 mph.


Three-second wind gust estimate from Tropical Cyclone Pam over the Vanuatu islands of Epi and Emae. Circled in red are what I think are the two islands shown in the photos above. (Prof. Mark Saunders and Dr. Adam Lea, Tropical Storm Risk, University College London, U.K./Google Earth)

Tropical Storm Risk’s analysis of wind gusts long Pam’s path is a real-time estimate that employs wind radius data from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in combination with an analytical model to arrive at peak, 3-second wind gusts.

[Did global warming play a role in Pam’s intensity?]

The islands of Erromango and Tanna, south of Efate, both sparsely populated relative to the larger islands, were the hardest hit by Pam. Erromango, with a population of about 2,000, sustained the strongest of Pam’s winds, with gusts possibly reaching 200 mph. Gusts up to 160 mph were probably felt on the island of Tanna has a population of approximately 29,000.

h/t Anthony Sagliani