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Typhoon Phanfone Hits Japan; Typhoon Vongfong Next?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 3:30 PM GMT on October 06, 2014

Typhoon Phanfone 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, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. A few hours later, the core of the typhoon passed over Tokyo, where sustained winds of 53 mph, gusting to 70 mph were recorded. More than 2 million people across Japan were advised to evacuate as Phanfone came ashore. In Okinawa, Japan, three U.S. servicemen were swept away by Phanfone's 12 - 15 foot waves; the body of one was recovered, but the other two remain missing. Heavy rain from Phanfone triggered at least two mudslides in Japan. Two men went missing after mudslides in Yokohama, in Kanagawa Prefecture. A 21-year-old surfer and college student is also missing after going surfing in waters just south of Tokyo off the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture. Phanfone brought heavy rains to Japan, with 19.17" (487 mm) falling at Mount Amagi, Shizuoka Prefecture, 10.06" in Tokyo and 12.72" in Yokohama. A peak gust of 101.8 mph was recorded at Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, at 8:07 a.m. Monday, and a sustained wind of 72 mph was observed at Irozaki on the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture, at 9:01 a.m. Monday.

Figure 1. Typhoon Phanfone approaching Japan, as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite at 04:55 UTC October 5, 2014. At the time, Phanfone was a Category 2 storm with 105 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Typhoon Vongfong hits the Mariana Islands
Category 2 Typhoon 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. The eye passed just north of the island of Rota, about 25 miles north of Guam. According to the Guam Pacific Daily News, about 70% of Rota lost power, but there were no injuries and only minor damage--buildings on the island are built mostly of concrete, limiting the amount of damage a typhoon can do. Winds at Andersen AFB on the north end of Guam reached 44 mph with a peak gust of 60 mph, but were undoubtedly higher on Rota. Vongfong dumped 7.69" of rain on Guam. The typhoon is expected to turn more to the northwest later in the week, and could be a threat to Japan in 6 - 7 days. Satellite loops show Vongfong is moderately well-organized, with plenty of low-level spirals bands, good upper-level outflow, but no eye visible. With the typhoon over warm waters of 30°C (86°F) and under moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots, intensification into a Category 4 storm by Wednesday appears likely, before cooler waters and higher wind shear induce weakening late in the week as the typhoon approaches Japan.

Figure 2. MODIS satellite image of Typhoon Vongfong taken at approximately 9 pm EDT October 5, 2014. At the time, Vongfong was a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds, and had just passed through the Mariana Islands, passing just north or Rota. Image credit: NASA.

Simon weakening rapidly
In the Eastern Pacific, Tropical Storm Simon has weakened to sustained winds of 45 mph at 11 am EDT Monday, after topping out as a Category 4 hurricane with 135 mph winds at 11 pm EDT Saturday. Simon was the eighth intense hurricane so far in the Eastern Pacific (east of 140°W), putting this year in a tie with 1992 for the highest number of major hurricanes in one season. Simon will likely dissipate by Tuesday, and its remnants will slosh to the northeast over the 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. this week, bringing a round of heavy rains for Arizona and New Mexico. 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 and New Mexico Tuesday - Thursday from Simon's remnants.

Figure 3. Predicted precipitation for the three-day period 8 am EDT Monday - 8 am EDT Thursday from the NWS Weather Prediction Center. A plume of 1 - 2" of rain is predicted over Northern Mexico and the Southwest U.S. 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. However, the models predicts that an area of low pressure will develop over Central America near Nicaragua late this week, with the European model putting the focus of the low over Nicaragua's Pacific waters, while the GFS model prefers a location in the Southwest Caribbean. NHC is leaning towards the solution offered by the European model, and in their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, give a 5-day probability of 20% for a tropical depression to form off the Pacific coast of Nicaragua this week. We should not discount the GFS model's prediction, though, and keep an eye on the Southwest Caribbean this week. Anything that develops should move slowly to the northwest, bringing very heavy rains to much of Central America late this week.

Hurricane expert Steve Gregory offers his latest take on the tropics and the large-scale weather pattern over North America in his Sunday afternoon post.

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.