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Super Typhoon Vongfong Winds Hit 180 mph: Earth's Strongest Storm Since Haiyan

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 8:46 PM GMT on October 07, 2014

Earth's most powerful tropical cyclone since 2013's devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan is Super Typhoon Vongfong. Vongfang is in the midst of a very impressive bought of rapid intensification that took it from a Category 2 storm with 105 mph winds at 18 UTC Monday to Category 5 strength with 180 mph winds at 18 UTC Tuesday, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC.) These are the highest winds of any tropical cyclone they have rated since Super Typhoon Haiyan's 195 mph winds of November 7, 2013 (JTWC's post-season analysis showed Haiyan weakened slightly to 190 mph winds at landfall in the Philippines.) The 18:45 UTC October 7 advisory for Vongfong from the Japan Meteorological Agency put the storm's central pressure at 900 mb--the lowest of any typhoon they have rated since Super Typhoon Haiyan's 895 mb pressure of November 7, 2013.

Figure 1. Super Typhoon Vongfong as seen in moonlight at 17:03 UTC (1:03 pm EDT) on October 7, 2014. At the time, Vongfong was a Category 5 storm with 180 mph winds. Image credit: Dan Lindsey, NOAA/NASA and RAMMB/CIRA.

Vongfong is Earth's fourth Category 5 storm of 2014
Vongfong is Earth's fourth Category 5 storm of the year, and the second in the Western Pacific. The other Western Pacific Cat 5 was Super Typhoon Halong, which topped out at 160 mph winds on August 3, eventually making landfall in Japan on August 10 as a tropical storm. Another Western Pacific Super Typhoon, Rammasun, was only rated a Cat 4 when it hit China's Hainan Island on July 17, killing 195 people and causing over $7 billion in damage. However, a pressure characteristic of a Category 5 storm, 899.2 mb, was recorded at Qizhou Island just before Rammasun hit Hainan Island. If this pressure is verified, it is likely that the storm will be upgraded to a Category 5 in post-season reanalysis. The Eastern Pacific has had two Cat 5s in 2014 that did not affect land: Marie (160 mph winds) and Genevieve (160 mph winds.) The South Indian Ocean has had one Cat 5 this year, Tropical Cyclone Gillian in March (160 mph winds.) Gillian did not affect any land areas. Between 2000 - 2013, Earth averaged five Category 5 storms per year, with 51% of these occurring in the Western Pacific.

Vongfong a threat to Japan
Vongfong passed 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 by Thursday, and is a threat to hit Japan next 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, continued intensification is possible. The 5 pm EDT Tuesday forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicted that Vongfong would top out with sustained 190 mph winds at 2 pm EDT on Wednesday. Cooler waters and higher wind shear will induce weakening later in the week as the typhoon approaches Japan.

Jeff Masters


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