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Super Typhoon Haima Takes Aim on Philippines

By: Bob Henson and Jeff Masters 4:00 PM GMT on October 18, 2016

Now an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm, Super Typhoon Haima is en route to hammer parts of the far northern Philippines that were slammed by another typhoon less than a week ago. Packing top sustained winds of 160 mph (1-minute average) on Tuesday morning, Haima was located about 450 miles east of the Philippines, moving just north of due west at about 17 mph. Haima’s power was obvious on satellite imagery Tuesday morning, with a large ring of intense thunderstorms with very cold cloud tops completely encircling Haima’s distinct eye. Haima is not only intense but mammoth: hurricane-force winds extend more than 60 miles northeast of its center and tropical-storm-force winds extend more than 200 miles northeast.

Haima’s track should angle slightly rightward over the next 24 hours, which would bring the typhoon onto the far northeast coast of the Philippines’ Luzon Island on Wednesday night local time (Wednesday afternoon EDT). Now that Haima has completed an eyewall replacement cycle, its overall structure should remain intact up through landfall. Haima’s new eye is nearly 30 miles across, large enough to allow considerable contraction. Together with the trends evident on satellite, this suggests that Haima could intensify even more prior to landfall. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) has Haima approaching Luzon as a Category 5 storm on Wednesday. More than 48 million people live on the island, although the population density is larger toward the island’s southern end, where Manila is located. The sparsely populated northeast coast of Luzon appears on track for an extremely powerful hit from Haima. Fortunately, there are no cities along this coast the size of Tacloban City, where the storm surge associated with Super Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 5000 people in 2013. The largest population center of far northeast Luzon is the city of Tuguegarao, located about 25 miles inland and shielded by a coastal range of mountains.

Figure 1. Enhanced infrared image from Japan’s Himiwari-8 satellite of Super Typhoon Haima as of 1400Z (10:00 am EDT) Tuesday, October 18, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

Figure 2. Forecast from JTWC for Haima as of 1500Z (11:00 am EDT) Tuesday, October 18, 2016.

Flooding a major threat over northern Philippines
It was just last Sunday local time when Tropical Storm Sarika made landfall on the east coast of Luzon shortly after attaining Category 4 strength. Sarika’s west-northwest track took it across the heart of the island, where it produced rainfall totals that topped 20 inches in spots. Sarika is now approaching far northern Vietnam and far south China as a much weaker storm, though it could still drop more than 8” of rain along its slow-moving path. Haima is likely to dump another 10 - 20” of rain, with even higher local totals, across the northern half of Luzon, along a track roughly 100-150 miles north of Sarika’s. Following in Sarika’s footsteps, Haima is expected to continue toward a second landfall on the coast of south China as a much weaker system.

Seven Cat 5 cyclones in 2016 thus far
Haima is the planet’s seventh Category 5 storm of the year. This makes 2016 Earth’s third consecutive year with an above-average number of these most dangerous of tropical cyclones. Since 1990, Earth has averaged between 4 and 5 Category 5 storms per year. The other Category 5 storms of 2016 were:

Tropical Cyclone Winston, which devastated Fiji in the Southwest Pacific in February;
Tropical Cyclone Fantala from May, in the Southwest Indian Ocean;
Super Typhoon Nepartak from July, in the Northwest Pacific Ocean;
Super Typhoon Meranti in the Northwest Pacific, which struck the small Philippine island of Itbayat Island while at peak strength in September;
Super Typhoon Chaba in the Northwest Pacific, which weakened before affecting South Korea and Japan in early October;
Hurricane Matthew in the Atlantic in October.

Meranti was the most intense Category 5 of the year thus far, with sustained winds of 190 mph and a central pressure of 890 mb.

Figure 3. Satellite image of Invest 99L as of 1408Z (10:08 am EDT) Tuesday, October 18, 2016.

Tropical storm may form in northwest Atlantic this week
The long-brewing disturbance east of the Bahamas dubbed Invest 99L has a decent shot at becoming a named storm over the next several days. 99L has a large area of fairly disorganized convection (showers and thunderstorms), with top sustained winds as high as 35 mph, but it still lacks the closed center of circulation that would qualify it as a tropical depression. In its Tropical Weather Outlook issued at 8 AM EDT Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center gave 99L a 40 percent chance of developing into at least a tropical depression by Thursday morning, and a 70 percent chance through Sunday morning.

The best shot for 99L’s development may be around Thursday, as it arcs gradually northwest around the Bahamas. Models differ on how far west this arcing path will take 99L and how strong it might become. Sea surface temperatures will remain at least marginally supportive, in the 26 - 28°C range (79 - 82°F), through Friday, and the mid-level atmosphere is reasonably moist (60 - 70%). However, 99L will be fighting wind shear now around 40 knots that will be only marginally more favorable (20-25 knots) by late in the week. The GFDL and HWRF models bring 99L to weak tropical storm strength by Wednesday and keep it there through the weekend. More than 80% of the 00Z Tuesday ensemble runs of the ECMWF, and about two-thirds of the 00Z Tuesday GFS ensemble runs, bring 99L up to tropical storm strength. There is no operational or ensemble model support for 99L becoming a hurricane, or even a strong tropical storm. The strong wind shear suggests that any development of 99L could be as a subtropical rather than a tropical cyclone.

Models are in very close agreement that 99L will turn sharply north-northeastward late next week ahead of a strong front that will be moving through the eastern U.S. It appears likely that 99L will be swept north along this front, eventually merging with a strong area of low pressure predicted to move from New England into eastern Canada over the weekend. This evolving front and low could become a major rain-producer across parts of northwest Pennsylvania, northern New York, northern and eastern New England, southern Quebec, and New Brunswick.

Figure 4. Enhanced infrared satellite image of former Tropical Storm Nicole at 0430Z (12:30 am EDT) Tuesday, October 18, 2016, just hours before it was reclassified as a post-tropical cyclone. Image credit: CIRA/CSU/RAMMB.

Nicole’s long life as a tropical cyclone comes to a close
At 5 am EDT Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center reclassified Tropical Storm Nicole as Post-Tropical Cyclone Nicole, bringing to a close nearly two weeks of NHC advisories on this venerable system. Located at 47.1°N—further north than Montreal and about 900 miles south of Greenland—Nicole was in the process of being absorbed by a midlatitude frontal system. Although Nicole’s top sustained winds remained 50 mph, the storm was barely discernible on satellite imagery, with its center elongated and virtually devoid of showers and thunderstorms.

Nicole was christened as a tropical storm at 11 AM EDT October 4, and it attained and lost hurricane status on three separate occasions, the first Atlantic storm to pull off this hat trick since Tomas (2010). According to Phil Klotzbach (Colorado State University), Nicole is the longest-lived (13.75 days) of all Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes forming after October 1 since the destructive 1906 Florida Keys hurricane. That one was born as a tropical storm on October 8 and dissipated as a tropical depression on October 23.

The October heat wave continues
Records are dropping like autumn leaves across much of the central and eastern U.S. as an incredibly warm air mass for mid-autumn progresses across the nation. On Monday, Dodge City, KS, rocketed to 101°F, which broke the all-time high for October that had been set just the day before at 99°F. Records began at Dodge City way back in 1873. Neighboring Garden City, KS, accomplished the same feat, setting an all-time October high of 98°F on Sunday followed by 100°F on Monday. Temperatures on Tuesday were on track to soar into the 80s from Chicago, IL, to Albany, NY, and many locations are experiencing summer-like nights as well. In Moline, IL, the low on Monday was 71°F, the city’s first-ever low of at least 70°F after October 6 in records going back to 1874. If Detroit manages to stay above 69°F through midnight Tuesday night, its morning low of 70°F will stand as the warmest daily minimum achieved on any date from October through April in records going back to 1874.

We’ll be back this afternoon with our global climate wrap-up for September.

Bob Henson and Jeff Masters

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.