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Super Typhoon Vongfong Headed Towards Japan

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 3:07 PM GMT on October 07, 2014

Category 4 Super Typhoon Vongfong is at the verge of Category 5 strength with 155 mph winds as it continues a period of rapid intensification in the waters about 1000 miles south of Japan. Vongfong plowed through the U.S. Mariana islands of Guam, Rota, Saipan, and Tinian on Sunday as a Category 2 storm with 105 mph winds, causing mostly minor damage. The typhoon is expected to turn to the north on Wednesday, and is a threat to hit Japan on Monday. Satellite loops show Vongfong is an extremely impressive storm, with a large area of heavy thunderstorms with very cold cloud tops, excellent upper-level outflow, and a large 30-mile diameter eye. With the typhoon over warm waters of 30°C (86°F) and under light wind shear of 5 - 10 knots, intensification into a Category 5 storm by Wednesday appears likely. Cooler waters and higher wind shear will induce weakening late in the week as the typhoon approaches Japan. Vongfong is the third Super Typhoon of 2014 in the Western Pacific. The others were Halong (160 mph winds, the only Cat 5 so far), Rammasun (155 mph winds), and Neoguri (155 mph winds.) A Super Typhoon is defined as being any Western Pacific typhoon with sustained winds of 150 mph or greater.

Figure 1. MODIS satellite image of Typhoon Vongfong taken at approximately 10 pm EDT October 6, 2014. At the time, Vongfong was intensifying from a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds to a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Japan cleaning up from Typhoon Phanfone
Vongfong is following a track remarkably similar to Typhoon Phanfone, which made landfall as a Category 1 storm with 80 mph winds on Japan's main island of Honshu at 7:16 pm EDT Sunday, October 5, 2014 near the city of Hamamatsu in western Shizuoka Prefecture, about 125 miles west-southwest of Tokyo. A few hours later, the core of the typhoon passed over Tokyo, where sustained winds of 53 mph, gusting to 70 mph were recorded. Phanfone killed at least seven and left four missing, injuring at least 62 others.

Figure 2. High waves batter a breakwater at a port at Kihou town in Mie prefecture, central Japan on October 6, 2014, from Category 1 Typhoon Phanfone. Image credit: JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images.

Simon's remnants to bring heavy rains to Arizona
In the Eastern Pacific, Tropical Storm Simon has weakened to sustained winds of 40 mph at 11 am EDT Tuesday, and will likely dissipate by Tuesday night. Simon's remnants will slosh to the northeast over the north-central coast of Mexico's Baja Peninsula and into Mainland Mexico, bringing 3 - 6" of rain into these regions though Wednesday. Deep moisture from Simon will flow northeastward into the Southwest U.S., bringing a round of heavy rains for Arizona. There will not be as much moisture associated with Simon compared to the what the remnants of Hurricane Odile brought in September; rainfall amounts of 1 - 2" can be expected over Arizona Tuesday - Friday from Simon's remnants.

Figure 3. Predicted precipitation for the three-day period 8 am EDT Tuesday - 8 am EDT Friday from the NWS Weather Prediction Center. A plume of 1 - 2" of rain is predicted over Northern Mexico and Arizona from the remnants of Hurricane Simon.

Quiet in the Atlantic
Our top three models for predicting tropical cyclone genesis show nothing developing over the next five days in the Atlantic, though the 06Z Tuesday run of the GFS model shows an area of disturbed weather between the Bahamas and Bermuda could develop early next week. We should also keep an eye on the Southwest Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua late this week. Low pressure over Central America will be capable of forming a center of circulation over the Caribbean, as the GFS model has been suggesting with recent runs. Anything that develops in the Caribbean should move slowly to the northwest early next week, bringing very heavy rains to much of Central America. What is more likely to happen is that the low pressure area over Central America will spawn a strong tropical disturbance by Sunday in the Pacific off the coast of Guatemala, as predicted by the UKMET and European models. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave this Pacific disturbance 5-day development odds of 20%.

Jeff Masters


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