An unusually early Pacific super-typhoon with a wrinkle has led to more than half a million people in Japan being advised to evacuate their homes this week.
The category 4 super-typhoon Neoguri spun up winds of more than 200 kilometres per hour before it dropped to category 3 and passed Okinawa on Tuesday, where it caused substantial flooding. By the time it reaches mainland Japan, it is expected to drop to category 1. It was probably sparked by a developing El Niño.
Meteorologists around the world were intrigued by a wrinkle seen in the image above, like a tail coming out of the eye of the storm. These "cloud cliffs" are sometimes seen in strong cyclones but nobody knows what causes them. "It's a kind of odd feature that's got people talking," says Brian McNoldy from the University of Miami in Florida.
Although it looks like a scar where there are no clouds, McNoldy says it's really a sudden drop in their height, casting a shadow on the lower clouds. He says it might be caused by ice being thrown up particularly high in the atmosphere near the eye by intense thunderstorms, and then being spread in just one direction as the storm turns.
As it has come unusually early, McNoldy says we should expect similar typhoons this year. "This is just the first time that all the conditions were falling into place. There will probably be more," he says.
Typhoon Neoguri is probably the biggest storm in decades to hit Japan so early, says Hiroyuki Murakami from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. "Normally, the peak typhoon season for Japan is between September and October." He says the strength and the timing of the storm is likely to be a result of the likely El Niño later this year.
The warmer water in the eastern Pacific is pulling their genesis that way, Murakami says, giving them more time to grow in strength by the time they make landfall around Japan.
UPDATE 7-9-14: A Scary Super Typhoon Is Bearing Down on Japan…and Its Nuclear Plants
UPDATE, 11:30 AM on July 8: Typhoon Neoguri has weakened, and is no longer a Super Typhoon. But it is still headed straight at Japan, and in particular, at the island of Kyushu, with landfall expected on Thursday. For the latest forecasts from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, see here.
Japanese forecasters are calling it a "once in decades storm." And at Kadena Air Base, a US military installation on the island of Okinawa, one commander dubbed the storm "the most powerful typhoon forecast to hit the island in 15 years."
Super Typhoon Neoguri, currently sporting maximum sustained winds of nearly 150 miles per hour and just shy of Category 5 strength, is heading straight at Japan's islands, and its outer bands are currently battering the island of Okinawa. Here's the forecast map from the Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center. As you can see, the forecast for tomorrow brings the storm up to maximum sustained winds of 140 knots (161 miles per hour), or Category 5 strength (click for larger version):
The Western Pacific basin, home to typhoons (which are elsewhere called tropical cyclones or hurricanes), is known for having the strongest storms on Earth, such as last year's devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan. July is, generally, when the Western Pacific typhoon season really starts getting into gear, but August, September, and October are usually busier months.
Neoguri will weaken by the time it strikes Japan's main islands, but as meteorologist Jeff Masters observes, "the typhoon is so large and powerful that it will likely make landfall with at least Category 2 strength, causing major damage in Japan."
One pressing issue is the safety of Japan's nuclear plants. In the wake of the 2011 tsunami and the subsequent disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, it's important to consider whether a similar vulnerability arises here.
Fukushima is located north of Tokyo on Japan's largest island, Honshu. By the time the typhoon reaches that point, it is forecast to be considerably weaker. But there are a number of other reactors spread across the islands; perhaps most exposed will be the southwestern island of Kyushu, where the current forecast has the typhoon making its first major landfall.
According to reporting by Reuters, there are two nuclear plants on the island. A company spokeswoman for Kyushu Electric Power Co. told the news agency that it "has plans in place throughout the year to protect the plants from severe weather."
Hopefully nuclear plants including Fukushima will be safe (of course Fukushima is already unsafe.) I wonder myself how the law of averages will play out as the area Fukushima is in is bound to experience another earthquake as Honshu experiences many. Aren't we humans supposed to be the most advanced species? If so, wouldn't that mean having the common sense to not build a nuclear plant on a fault line near the ocean where tsunamis can strike? Neoguri is strong and is actually striking before the busier season. Typhoon Wipha and Super Typhoon Francisco last year had Fukushima on alert. As climate destruction soups up the storms we see taking place in areas that are already at risk it is time for all of us to be on alert. It also isn't just the storm but the after effects regarding floods, landslides... It may well be that those in areas that experience these storms more regularly will be able to adapt to the times we are entering now. It will be those of us who have lived in virtual paradise compared to many other parts of the world who will have the hardest time adapting to the cruel world we have made thinking we were somehow insulated from our actions.
Parts of Kyushu and Shikoku could see 20 to 28 inches of rain by the end of Thursday.
Kyushu Hit By Record Rainfall
The heaviest rain in half a century fell on parts of Kyushu on Thursday, the Meteorological Agency said.
Mount Nagaura in the city of Nagasaki saw 205 mm of rainfall and Sakai city in Nagasaki Prefecture recorded 155.5 mm over the course of three hours, both topping record levels dating back 50 years.
The agency issued a heavy-rain warning for the three northern Kyushu prefectures of Fukuoka, Saga and Nagasaki.
In the prefectural capital of Nagasaki, some houses were inundated below and above floor level. Roads flooded and there were landslides in parts of the city.
The agency warned of another downpour on Friday in western Japan, urging residents to pay attention to possible river flooding, landslides, lightning strikes and tornadoes.
Incredible. It is frightening yet eerily beautiful at the same time... and demands respect. I have always seen these storms as Mother Nature's way of talking to us... if so, she is truly not happy with us and with good reason. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
UPDATE 7-8-14: Typhoon Neoguri Targets Mainland Japan After Sweeping Through Okinawa; 1 Dead
Take notice of rainfall totals, winds and storm surge. All indicative of rising temperatures.
UPDATE: U-STREAM Coverage.
Japan Braces For Super Typhoon Neoguri
Super Typhoon Neoguri Lashing Okinawa, Headed for Japan
The outer spiral bands of Super Typhoon Neoguri are pounding the Japanese Ryukyu Islands, which include Okinawa, as the mighty storm heads north-northwest at 12 mph towards Japan. At 11:30 pm local time (13:30 UTC) Monday, Naha City in southern Okinawa was reporting heavy rain and wind gusts of 43 mph. At 8 pm local time Monday, Miyako-jima reported sustained winds of 33 mph, gusting to 53 mph. On Sunday, Neoguri strengthened to 155 mph winds, crossing the 150 mph threshold needed to be labeled a Super Typhoon. As of 8 am EDT on Monday, the typhoon had weaker slightly to 150 mph winds, and infrared satellite images showed a reduction in the intensity and areal coverage of Neoguri's heavy thunderstorms. Recent microwave satellite images showed that the weakening may be due to the onset of an eyewall replacement cycle, a common occurrence in intense tropical cyclones. In an eyewall replacement cycle, the inner eyewall shrinks to the point of instability, collapses, and is replaced by a larger-diameter outer eyewall that forms from a spiral band. This process can take several days, and typically reduces the peak winds by 10 - 20 mph. With wind shear light, 5 - 10 knots, sea surface temperatures a very warm 30 - 31°C, and very warm waters extending to great depth along the storm's path, the typhoon will have the opportunity to re-strengthen once the eyewall replacement cycle is done.
End of excerpt.
Okinawa on alert as ‘once in decades storm’ Super Typhoon Neoguri takes aim
Japan’s weather agency on Monday night issued emergency warnings to urge people in the country’s southern islands to take maximum precautions as a super typhoon described as a “once in decades storm” is set to rake the Okinawa island chain with heavy rain and powerful winds.
Typhoon Neoguri was already gusting at more than 250 kilometres an hour and may pick up still more power as it moves northwest, growing into an “extremely intense” storm by Tuesday, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
But it was not expected to be as strong as Typhoon Haiyan, which killed thousands in the Philippines last year.
The JMA issued emergency storm and high sea warnings for Japan’s small southern island of Miyakojima, some 300km southwest of Okinawa island, and for a smaller nearby islet.
The agency said on Monday evening it also planned to issue an emergency high sea warning for Okinawa island, host to three-quarters of US military facilities in Japan.
“In these regions, there is a chance of the kinds of storms, high seas, storm surges and heavy rains that you’ve never experienced before,” a JMA official told a news conference.
“This is an extraordinary situation, where a grave danger is approaching.”
My prayers to all in the path of this storm which could see record winds. Pray that Fukushima is not effected.
More information on this as it progresses.