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Soudelor Winds Down; Hilda Hits Category 4; Hong Kong Sets All-Time Heat Record

By: Bob Henson 12:07 AM GMT on August 09, 2015

Former Typhoon Soudelor, now a 50-mph tropical storm, is inland over eastern China after giving storm-savvy Taiwan one of its most powerful typhoon strikes on record. The damage in Taiwan appears to be widespread but not catastrophic, although at least 10 people are dead or missing, according to a Washington Post report. Power was knocked out to a reported 3.22 million residents, the largest storm-related outage in Taiwan history, and high winds toppled more than 2,000 trees in Taipei. Soudelor made landfall around 5:00 am Saturday local time as a Category 3 typhoon, with its strong right-hand flank passing over the island’s northern third, including the city of Taipei. As classified using the extended Beaufort scale, winds speeds at the Taipei airport topped out in the Level 13 range of 83-93 mph. These are the second-highest speeds on record for Taipei, behind only the Level 14 winds (93-103 mph) observed during 1996’s Typhoon Herb. While rainfall during Soudelor appears to have fallen short of at least two other typhoons (Herb and 2009’s Typhoon Morakot), the amounts were still impressive over wide areas, with a total of 52.52” reported at Datong Township in far northeast Taiwan.

Soudelor made a second landfall as a Category 1 typhoon just after 10:00 pm local time Saturday in China’s Fujian province near Putian City. See this weather.com report for more details on Soudelor.

Figure 1. Trees torn down by strong wind along a street in Jinjiang, on the east coast of China in the Fujian province, on August 8, 2015, as Typhoon Soudelor drew near. Image credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images.

Figure 2. Hurricane Hilda as seen at approximately 19 UTC (3 pm EDT) Saturday, August 8, 2015, from the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite. At the time, Hilda was a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds. The Big Island of Hawaii is visible in the upper left of the image. Image credit: NASA.

Hilda vaults to Category 4 status
A burst of rapid intensification brought Hurricane Hilda from Category 1 to Category 4 status in just 24 hours, with sustained winds estimated at 140 mph by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center at 11:00 am Hawaii time on Saturday (5:00 pm EDT). Hilda showed little in the way of spiral banding late Saturday, taking on more of an annular configuration. Already one of the strongest hurricanes in recent years over the Central Pacific, Hilda could intensify further over the next 24 hours. If Hilda manages to reach Category 5 strength, it will join the elite group of hurricanes of that intensity in the Central Pacific. The year to beat is 1994, when three Category 5 systems plowed across the basin in just five weeks: Emilia, Gilma, and John. El Niño tends to enhance hurricane activity in the Central Pacific; interestingly, an El Niño was not underway during July-August 1994, though one did develop later in the year.

As Hilda gradually gains latitude on its west-northwest course, wind shear will take an increasing toll. Models continue to diverge on Hilda’s strength and track toward the end of the five-day forecast period, though most models recurve the hurricane well east of Hawaii. A weaker Hilda would be steered more by low-level easterly flow, perhaps nearing the islands as a tropical storm, while a stronger system would be influenced more by the upper-level westerlies and would be more likely to angle north.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Molave continues to spin harmlessly well southeast of Japan, and Invest 93 should remain weak as it traverses the open waters of the Northeast Pacific.

Figure 3. Hilda will be traveling over warm seas for the next several days, but increasing wind shear will keep the hurricane from taking full advantage of the oceanic heat. Image credit: NOAA Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

Broken records piling up in Europe, Asia
As 2015 continues marching toward a new global record high temperature, the heat is making itself felt this weekend at a variety of locations across the globe. Excessive heat warnings are out for several south-central U.S. states, but records aren’t tumbling at the pace that they are in several other countries.

On Saturday, the venerable Hong Kong Observatory reached 36.3°C (97.3°F), the hottest temperature in its 132-year history. The heat in Hong Kong was likely enhanced by sinking air around the southern periphery of Typhoon Soudelor. Likewise, subsidence on the north side of Soudelor helped keep Tokyo toasty, as the city notched its eight consecutive day of at least 95°F temperatures on Friday. The streak was twice the previous record length of four days, recorded on five different occasions between 1978 and 2013, as noted in a full report by The Weather Channel’s Nick Wiltgen. Records in Tokyo began in 1875. The streak was broken on Saturday, as temperatures topped out at 91°F, and the heat should stay just short of the 95°F threshold over the coming week.

Meanwhile, central and eastern Europe continues to broil in a sustained heat wave. In Poland, the Wroclaw Observatory hit an all-time record high on Saturday of 38.9°C (102.0°F), and highs soared above 95°F over a broad swath from Lithuania to the Mediterranean. Some areas will see relief over the next several days, but others are facing at least a solid week of torrid readings (see Figure 4, below).

Bob Henson

Figure 4. On Saturday night, WU was predicting temperatures in Vienna, Austria, to hit the upper 90s Fahrenheit each day during the coming workweek. Vienna’s all-time high is 39.5°C (103.1°F), according to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera.

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.