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Utor Pounds China; Japan Breaks All-Time Heat Record; Caribbean Disturbance

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 3:23 PM GMT on August 13, 2013

Category 2 Typhoon Utor is closing in on Southeast China, where it is expected to come ashore near 08 UTC (4 am EDT) on Wednesday, about 150 miles southwest of Hong Kong. Widespread heavy rains are already falling across much of Southeast China, as seen on Hong Kong radar and China radar. Satellite imagery shows that Utor is a large typhoon, and will dump torrential rains capable of causing deadly flash floods and mudslides over much of Southeast China and Northern Vietnam over the next three days; a wide swath of 6+ inches of rain is predicted over a 24-hour period for Southeast China using satellite estimates of the typhoon's current rainfall intensity. Unfortunately, the heaviest rains will fall just south of an area of extreme drought responsible for $6 billion in damages so far in 2013 (Figure 2.) Utor has drawn in some dry air and is slowly weakening, and should make landfall as a Category 2 storm.

Figure 1. Radar image of Typhoon Utor from August 13, 2013 taken at 17:12 local time (10:12 am EDT.) Image credit: Meteorological Bureau of Shenzhen Municipality.

A rough summer for extreme weather in China
China has already experienced five billion-dollar weather disasters so far in 2013. This is the most of any nation, according to insurance broker Aon Benfield. Utor is likely to the be sixth such disaster. The five Chinese billion-dollar weather disasters have all hit this summer:

1) Drought, Central and Eastern China, 1/1 - 7/31: $6.0 billion
2) Flooding, nationwide, 7/7 - 7/17: $4.5 billion
3) Flooding, Sichuan Province, China, 7/7 - 7/11: $1.6 billion
4) Flooding, China, 6/29 - 7/3: $1.4 billion
5) Flooding, China, 7/21 - 7/25: $1.4 billion

The most expensive of the these disasters, the $6 billion drought that hit Eastern China, helped intensify a remarkable and historic heat wave that assaulted Eastern China in July and August. In his latest post, wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt writes:

Virtually every possible heat statistic has been broken for most sites in eastern China (as well as central and southern Japan, and South Korea). I cannot think of any other heat event that has affected so many people for so long (including those that plagued the U.S. in the mid 1930s, Russia in 2010, and Western Europe in August 2003). Obviously, the Chinese authorities are keeping the fatalities from this ongoing event under wraps.

The Eastern China heat wave moved northwards and eastwards over Korea and Japan over the past few days, and brought Japan its all-time national heat record on August 12, 2013, when the temperature peaked at 41.0°C (105.8°F) at the Ekawasaki site in Shimanto. The previous record of 40.9°C (105.6°F) was recorded at Tajima and Kumagaya on August 16, 2007. the record heat wave also brought stiflingly hot weather to Tokyo, which on August 11 endured its warmest daily minimum temperature ever recorded: 30.4°C (86.7°F). This was also the 2nd warmest minimum on record for Japan.

Figure 2. Widespread drought over Eastern and Southeast China has caused at least $6 billion in damage, according to Aon Benfield. Image credit: Beijing Climate Center.

The Philippines clean up after Utor
The Philippines are cleaning up after Typhoon Utor powered ashore on the northern Philippine Island of Luzon on Monday near 3 am local time (3 pm EDT Sunday), as a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds. At least 3 deaths are being blamed on the storm, and 54 people are missing, mostly fishermen. Damage was heavy in Casiguran (population 24,000) near where the typhoon made landfall, with 80% of the infrastructure of the town reportedly destroyed.

Utor is a Marshallese word for squall line, and has been used for three tropical cyclones in the Western Pacific--in 2001, 2006, and 2013. Utor reached super typhoon status with 150 mph winds on Sunday, making it the strongest tropical cyclone globally so far in 2013. Earth's previous most powerful tropical cyclone of 2013 was Typhoon Soulik, which reached Category 4 strength with 145 mph winds on July 10. Soulik weakened to a Category 2 storm before hitting Taiwan on July 12.

Figure 2. Typhoon Utor approaches the Philippines in this 375 meter-resolution IR image taken by the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi satellite at 04:34 UTC August 11, 2013. At the time, Utor was a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds. Image credit: Dan Lindsey, NOAA Center for Satellite Applications and Research, Fort Collins.

Caribbean tropical wave may develop when it reaches the Gulf of Mexico
A tropical wave in the Central Caribbean is kicking up disorganized heavy thunderstorms over Jamaica today, and this activity will spread westwards into the Cayman Islands by Wednesday, and into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and Western Cuba by Thursday. Wind shear is a very high 30 - 40 knots over the the wave, making development very unlikely through Wednesday. However, once the wave reaches the Western Caribbean on Thursday and pushes into the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, the wave will find a region with lower wind shear, and a strong tropical disturbance capable of becoming a tropical storm could form. If a tropical depression or tropical storm does form, and its circulation extends high above the surface, a trough of low pressure over the northern Gulf of Mexico would likely steer the storm northwards to a landfall between Eastern Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle. This is the solution presented by the Navy's 00Z run of the NAVGEM model, which shows a landfall on Saturday of a moderate-strength tropical storm. The other reliable models for genesis--the GFS, European, and UKMET--do not develop the system, or show very weak development. The European model takes much of the wave's moisture west-northwest across the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend, but the other models show the main moisture heading northwards into the Southeast U.S. Soils across the Southeast U.S. are already saturated, and tropical moisture from this storm system will be capable of dumping a large area of 4+" of rain, potentially causing significant flooding over the weekend. In their 8 am EDT Tuesday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave the system a 30% of developing by Sunday, and a 10% chance of developing by Thursday. The Hurricane Hunters are on call to investigate the system on Thursday.

Figure 4. Predicted precipitation for the 7-day period ending on Tuesday, August 20, 2013. Tropical moisture flowing north and northeastwards over the Southeast U.S. is expected to create a broad swath of 4+ inches of rain, capable of triggering damaging flooding. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.

Resilience to Extreme Weather panel discussion being livestreamed today (Tuesday)
The 6th annual National Clean Energy Summit is today, Tuesday, August 13, and will be livestreamed here. Of particular interest may be the 6pm EDT panel on Resilience to Extreme Weather, featuring:

- Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce, Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Maria LaRosa, Meteorologist, The Weather Channel
- Patricia Mulroy, General Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority
- Chris Taylor, Executive Director, West Coast Infrastructure Exchange

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Extreme Weather Drought 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.