Thursday, October 9, 2014

Super Typhoon Vongfong - An Impressive Storm

Not only has the eastern Pacific tropical season been above normal, but storms have been frequent in the central and western Pacific as well. Super Typhoon Vongfong has been in the news lately partly because of some of the spectacular photos and satellite images that have been collected as this typhoon has crossed the Pacific but also because it is the strongest storm of 2014 in any basin.

Vongfong was born as a weak depression just south of the Marshall Islands on September 30. By October 3 it had strengthened into a tropical storm, and 30 hours later a typhoon. It reached super-typhoon strength on the morning of October 7 with winds of 155 knots (178 mph).  Winds are currently down to 130 kts, still a strong,dangerous, and massive storm. Gale force winds (>34 knots/39 mph)associated with this storm cover an area of 340,00 square miles.

The track of Super Typhoon Vongfong.
While here in the U.S. we are familiar with the terms tropical storm and hurricane, terminology differs in other parts of the world. A typhoon is the same as a hurricane west of the International dateline. A "super-typhoon" is a term utilized by the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center for typhoons that reach maximum sustained 1-minute surface winds of at least 130 kt/150 mph). This is the equivalent of a strong Saffir-Simpson category 4 or category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin.

One of the more interesting and spectacular images of Super Typhoon Vongfong was this visible image from NASA illuminated only by moonlight . Note the thunderstorms on the west and northwest outer bands of the storms identified by the bubble-like cloud tops.

This image is one hour earlier than the last position labeled on the chart above when the winds were 178 mph.

The Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post assembled images of Super Typhoon Vongfong for their column today. Rather than reproducing them here, visit their web page "Twelve incredible images of most powerful storm of the year, Super Typhoon Vongfong".

As you can see on this image of the current and projected track, Vongfong is forecast to weaken as it moves north. It will reach Okinawa as a category 3 equivalent storm, and by late this weekend will be entering southern Japan as a category 1 equivalent storm with top winds of about 90 mph.

Current and projected track of Super Typhoon Vongfong.

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