Celebrations of Christmas Day in the Philippines this year will have to occur amid emergency declarations as Typhoon Nock-ten
puts a huge lump of coal into the stockings of residents of the main Philippine Island of Luzon. Satellite loops
on Friday afternoon showed that Nock-ten was undergoing rapid intensification. A prominent eye was developing, surrounded by an intense ring of eyewall thunderstorms with cold cloud tops. With Nock-ten experiencing low wind shear of 5 - 10 knots and traversing very warm waters of 29°C (84°F), which were 1°C (1.8°F) above average, intensification into a Category 4 storm by Sunday appears likely. Unfortunately, the storm is on track to pass over a very heavily populated area of the Philippines, including the capital of Manila.Figure 1.
MODIS satellite image of Nock-ten taken at approximately 06 UTC December 24, 2016. At the time, Nock-ten was a Category 4 super typhoon with 150 mph winds, approaching the Philippines. Image credit: NASA.A rare out-of-season typhoon for the Philippines
Strong typhoons are rare in December in the Philippines. According to NOAA’s historical hurricane archive
, only seven major typhoons of Category 3 or stronger intensity have hit the Philippines in December:
Category 4 Typhoon Harriet on December 31, 1959 (145 mph winds)
Category 3 Typhoon Opal on December 14, 1964 (115 mph winds)
Category 4 Typhoon Nanmadol on December 2, 2004 (135 mph winds)
Category 3 Typhoon Hagupit on December 6, 2014 (125 mph winds)
Category 5 Typhoon Gilda on December 18, 1959 (160 mph winds)
Category 4 Typhoon Manny on December 9, 1993 (130 mph winds)
Category 5 Typhoon Bopha on December 3, 2012 (170 mph winds)
The Philippines—a heavily Catholic nation—is having a bad run of luck for typhoons hitting on major holy days. Just last year, the Philippines suffered their first typhoon ever recorded on Easter Sunday—Typhoon Maysak
. Fortunately, Maysak was weakening rapidly at landfall, and caused no deaths or major damage. Nock-ten will be just the third typhoon on record to hit the Philippines on Christmas Day. The others were Category 2 Typhoon Lee in 1981 and Category 2 Typhoon Jean in 1947. The worst tropical cyclone in world history to strike on Christmas Day was Category 3 Cyclone Tracy
, which devastated Darwin, Australia in 1974, killing 71 people and destroying 80% of the homes in the city.
Have a safe and happy holiday, everyone, and I’ll be back with an update on Nock-ten this weekend.