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Typhoon Parma: a new disaster for Asia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:59 PM GMT on October 02, 2009

Asia's terrible natural disasters of the past week will soon have new company--Typhoon Parma, a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds and torrential rains, is poised to strike the northern portion of the Philippines' Luzon Island on Saturday. Also of concern is Category 4 Typhoon Melor, which may attain super typhoon status (150 mph winds) as it passes though the northern Marianas Islands near Saipan Island on Saturday. Melor is expected to recurve to the north, and may strike Japan late next week.

Typhoon Parma weakened some yesterday as its rain began spreading over the Philippines, thanks to 20 knots of hostile wind shear from strong upper-level winds. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is rating Parma a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds, but satellite intensity estimates from NOAA and the Japan Meteorological Agency put Parma at Category 2 strength. Regardless, Parma will be an extremely dangerous storm for the Philippines due the heavy rain it will bring. Microwave satellite estimates of Parma's rainfall (Figure 1) show that the typhoon is producing up to 1.3 inches per hours of rain. Given the slow movement of the storm, Parma is capable of bringing over twelve inches of rain to coastal Luzon Island over the next 24 hours. The situation worsens Saturday and Sunday, as steering currents are expected to collapse, and Parma may sit just offshore, dumping prodigious amounts of rain on soils already saturated by Typhoon Ketsana a week ago. The potential exists for portions of northern Luzon Island to receive over twenty inches of rain from Parma, which would likely destroy most of the transportation and communications infrastructure and create life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. Parma has the potential to become one of the ten most damaging typhoons in Philippines history.

Figure 1. Estimated rainfall rate for Typhoon Parma at 11:01 UTC on 10/02/09, as estimated by a microwave instrument on the polar-orbiting F-16 satellite. Image credit: Naval Research Lab, Monterey.

Figure 2. Forecast rain amounts for Typhoon Parma for the 24-hour period ending at 12 UTC October 3 (8am EDT Saturday). This forecast is based on satellite measurements of Parma's current rainfall rate, plus a projection of the storm's path. Over twelve inches of rain (red colors) is expected along a portion of the typhoon's path. A few tiny areas of 20+ inches (purple colors) also appear in the forecast. Image credit: NOAA Satellite Services Division.

Mobilizing for Parma and Melor
Philippines President Arroyo has already declared a nationwide "state of calamity" and ordered six provincial governments to evacuate residents from flood- and landslide-prone areas in the path of the Parma. Going against the flow of evacuees will be Typhoon chasers James Reynolds and Geoff Mackley, who plan to travel to northern Luzon today to intercept Typhoon Parma. You can follow their progress at typhoonfury.com and rambocam.com. In addition, storm chaser Jim Edds is on Saipan Island waiting for Typhoon Melor to arrive; you can track his experiences at www.extremestorms.com.

The Atlantic remains quiet
A non-tropical low pressure system gave the Azores Islands some wind gusts over 40 mph yesterday, and NHC labeled this system "Invest 90L". However, this system is not a threat to develop into a tropical depression, as water temperatures are a chilly 23°C in the region. None of the computer models are forecasting tropical storm formation over the next seven days.

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.