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Soudelor Approaches Taiwan; All-Time Record Heat Returns to Germany

By: Bob Henson 6:56 PM GMT on August 07, 2015

It's been a nail-biting Friday night for residents of Taiwan as Category 3 Typhoon Soudelor approaches the island. At 1745 GMT Friday (1:45 pm EDT), the Japan Meteorological Agency placed the center of Soudelor at 23.2°N, 122.5°E, or about 60 miles east-southeast of the east-central coast of Taiwan. Soudelor’s peak 10-minute sustained winds were 105 mph, according to JMA, whereas the 1500 GMT (11:00 am EDT) update from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center kept Soudelor as a Category 3 cyclone with 120-mph sustained winds, using the 1-minute definition that is commonly associated with the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Figure 1. Streamline imagery from the earth.nullschool.net visualization site shows the circulation around Typhoon Soudelor in stunning detail. Thanks to wunderground member PlazaRed for creating and posting this visualization. Image credit: earth.nullschool.net.

Soudelor was moving west-northwest at about 11 mph on a track that would take it directly into the east-central coast of Taiwan around 8:00 am local time on Saturday morning (about 6:00 pm EDT Friday). Soudelor is a powerful, well-structured cyclone with an expanding shield of heavy rain. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 45 miles from the center, and gale-force winds covered an area some 450 miles in diameter. A peak gust of 123 mph was clocked on the Japanese island of Ishigakijima at 11:51 p.m. local time Friday (10:51 a.m. EDT), according to weather.com. Between 1700 and 1800 GMT, winds gusted to about 80 mph at Su-ao, a fishing port on Taiwan’s northeast coast, as reported by Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau (thanks to wunderground member bwi for this tip).

Reintensification over the past day has been partially thwarted by intrusions of dry air at times. The typhoon also embarked on a second eyewall replacement cycle (ERC), following one earlier in the week. This time, a once-50-mile-wide eye contracted to about 20 miles in width and has been fragmenting, while a larger ring of convection morphed into an partial outer secondary eyewall. It can take 24-48 hours for an ERC to be completed, after which the newly restructured tropical cyclone has another chance to restrengthen. Soudelor does not have enough time for that process to conclude before landfall. However, as it approaches the coast, Soudelor’s interaction with land will help increase low-level convergence into the storm’s center, and a slight bit of additional intensification could occur before Soudelor strikes the central Taiwan coast on Saturday morning local time. The strongest winds and heaviest rains will be on the north (right-hand) side of the eye, toward the northern third of Taiwan (including the city of Taipei).

Figure 2. Radar imagery shows a somewhat elongated central core of Soudelor, with an open eyewall to the northwest. Extremely heavy rain is funneling into far northern Taiwan, including the Taipei area. Image credit: Central Weather Bureau, Taiwan.

Figure 3. A composite (RGB) satellite image of Typhoon Soudelor, collected by MTSAT at 1732 GMT Friday (11:32 am EDT). Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

Soudelor may be the strongest typhoon to make landfall in Taiwan in three years, as noted by weather.com. The last Category 4 equivalent typhoon to landfall in Taiwan was Tembin in August 2012, according to hurricane specialist Michael Lowry. In all, Taiwan has seen 18 Category 4 or stronger equivalent typhoon landfalls since 1958, says Lowry.

Torrential rain, already widespread across Taiwan, will continue through Saturday local time. As of 1730 GMT Friday, Yilan County in the far northeast had reported 522 mm (20.55”), with several reports above 8” in the Taipei area. Especially massive amounts of rain will fall where Soudelor slams into the north-south mountain range that spans most of Taiwan, and substantial local flooding and mudslides can be expected. Soudelor’s steady movement will help at least to some extent in keeping rainfall totals below the even more prodigious amounts that slower-moving systems such as 2009’s Typhoon Morakot can produce. Morakot was only a Category 1 storm, but it moved in a leisurely cyclonic loop across northern Taiwan, prolonging the widespread intense rainfall. An almost unbelievable total of 2777 mm (109.33”) was reported at the mountainside resort of Alishan, far outstripping the previous record of 1736 mm (68.35”) set during Typhoon Herb in 1996. Morakot caused more than 450 deaths and some $3.3 billion US in damage.

On its relatively steady west-northwest track, Soudelor will strike the coast of China on Saturday night local time. The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) is calling for a landfall in Fujian Province, near the cities of Lianjiang and Longhai, which together have about 1.4 million residents. The CMA has launched a level-three emergency response, the second highest category in China’s four-tier system, to address the arrival of Soudelor. The passage over Taiwan’s mountains will markedly disrupt Soudelor so that its winds may be at or just below hurricane strength by the time it reaches China. However, the typhoon’s large envelope of rich moisture will produce heavy rains near the coast and for some distance inland, as the center recurves toward the Yangtze Valley.

Elsewhere in the tropics
Although there are no immediate threats on the scale of Soudelor, the Pacific remains active. Tropical Depression Molave, well east of Soudelor, should recurve before threatening Japan and is unlikely to reach hurricane strength. In the Northeast Pacific, Tropical Storm Hilda could reach hurricane strength over the weekend as it move west-northwest over open water. Hilda could approach Hawaii by later next week, although track models continue to diverge on Hilda’s ultimate trajectory, so it is far too soon to know if any real threat will emerge. On the heels of Hilda is Invest 93E, which appears to have little chance of major development on its westward track.

Figure 4. An electronic display at a pharmacy in Lyon, France, shows a temperature of 42°C (107.6°F) on Friday afternoon, August 7. While many such outdoor displays are compromised by poor placement of thermometers, official temperatures did reach 102°F at Lyon’s airport, compared to an average high for the date of 77°F. Image credit: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images.

Europe again slathered with all-time record heat; Berlin has hottest day on record
Just one month after setting its all-time national heat record, Germany tied that mark on Friday at the same location, as yet another multiway heat wave swept across much of Europe. The German meteorological agency (Deutscher Wetterdienst) confirms that the town of Kitzingen reached 40.3°C (104.5°F) on Friday, the same national record it reached on July 5. According to Michael Theusner (Klimahaus), more than 100 towns and cities in Germany either tied or broke their all-time record highs on Friday. Berlin's Kaniswall station hit 38.9°C (102.0°F)--the hottest temperature ever observed in the Berlin area, beating the old record of 38.6°C (101.5°F).

Record heat extended far across other parts of Europe on Friday. According to international weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera, who maintains a comprehensive list of extreme temperature records for every nation in the world on his website, Friday’s high of 38.3C (100.9°F] at Genoa, Italy, topped the all-time airport record by a full 4°F. Records at the airport extend back to 1962; the previous reporting site for Genoa was located further inland, with a warmer microclimate. Even at that location, the previous Genoa record was 37.8°C (100.0°F) in July 1952. We’ll continue to keep an eye on Europe this weekend, as several nationwide all-time records could be approached or toppled.

Jeff Masters will be back on deck next week. In the meantime, have a great weekend, everyone!

Bob Henson

Hurricane Heat

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.