Even at a young age Michael Padua already knew what he wanted to do in life. “My mom told me that since I was about four years old I would run outside the house, look at the sky and observe the storms,” he laughs.
Now at 34, Michael is a celebrity of sorts, popularly known as “Mr. Typhoon” for turning his personal hobby of typhoon forecasting into serious public service.
Michael relays his weather information mainly through his website, www.typhoon2000.ph. But local radio and TV stations actually get their weather info from him.
Like a one-man weather bureau, Michael gathers information from three weather agencies in the area: the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) of the US Navy & Air Force, Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), and our very own PAGASA. He reveals that he gets most info from JTWC due to their advanced forecasting methods but these are really very technical in nature. “I manage to interpret these into layman’s terms so that the public would understand. I guess that’s my forte – interpreting data clearly so that even the least educated will always be prepared,” he offers.
To further get accurate readings, Michael has even purchased his own equipment. “That’s a big thing for me because I can now record important data in my own backyard and transmit the data to people worldwide. He shares how his weather instrument was able to detect the lowest pressure of Typhoon Unding when it passed over Naga City in 2004.
Like stamp collecting
For Michael, typhoon forecasting started out just as a hobby – “like collecting stamps or books for other people,” he jokes. Unlike most forecasters though, he doesn’t have a degree in Meteorology. “Because I’m poor in Math, and you must acquire a Physics or Engineering degree to become a Meteorologist.”
What he lacked in formal training though, he more than made up for by years of acquiring knowledge in his favorite subject. By first grade, he was already teaching his classmates about typhoon signals. From newspaper cuttings of typhoon reports to attending workshops in PAGASA, Michael soaked up all the information he can lay his hands on.
He eventually took up BS Geography in UP Diliman, a course that he says has helped him more in explaining where typhoons passed. Even in UP, he became famous in the dormitories. “I set up this Typhoon Corner at the lobby where I plot and type weather bulletins issued by PAGASA. People laughed at me all the time but I didn’t mind,” he smiles.
He considers his years in Manila as his most educational as he regularly visited and made friends with the people at the PAGASA Main Office. “That’s when I started analyzing satellite photos.”
Like a man possessed, Michael says that when a big storm is headed towards the country, he can stay awake for 48 hours straight. “The adrenaline is there whenever a storm comes.”
Michael says that 2008’s Typhoon Reming was the most memorable for him. “That super typhoon scared the hell out of me! I often get excited during typhoons but not that one – it was really frightening.” He adds that his weather instrument recorded gusts of 190 km/h before it was hit by flying debris.
Asked about the accuracy of his predictions, Michael says his average would be about 90-95%. “With typhoon or weather prediction, it’s a must that you learn all the elements affecting a typhoon before you can forecast. As you gather forecast models, satellite photos, and other observations, you interpret which is best,” he explains.
Sometimes though, forecasting comes to him instinctively. “It’s a gut feel that I can’t explain. I can already look at the satellite and instantly know if there’s a system brewing,” he shares. Michael cites of Typhoon Dodong, which he reported a day ahead of all the weather agencies.
Michael explains that his real day-job is actually Internet Center Administrator at the Naga College Foundation. He updates his website every six hours on the average. But typhoon forecasting remains his first love. “It makes me happy. I just want to keep a low profile but it’s really satisfying when my forecast reaches the community.”