Kammuri Sweeps Through Philippines; Coldest Cloud Tops on Record

December 3, 2019, 6:10 PM EST

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Above: A resident walks past debris from their destroyed houses in Sorgoson City southeast of Manila on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, after Typhoon Kammuri struck late Monday. Image credit: Razvale Sayat/AFP/Getty Images.

At least four deaths have been reported from Typhoon Kammuri, which moved off the coast of the Philippines’ Mindanao island on Tuesday night local time after thrashing the central part of the nation with winds topping 100 mph. The strongest storm to hit the Philippines in 2019, Kammuri made landfall Monday night just after peaking at Category 4 strength, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The typhoon was referred to as Tisoy in the Philippines.

According to PAGASA, the Philippines meteorological agency, Kammuri/Tisoy made landfall at Gubat in Sorsogon province around 11 pm Monday local time (10 am EST), three hours after JTWC had pegged its top sustained winds at 130 mph. By the time of landfall, top winds may have dropped into the Category 3 range. Photos showed extensive damage in Gubat.

Legazpi City experienced the northern eyewall as well as the large eye of Kammuri. High winds and heavy rain damaged the city’s airport, according to the Associated Press, as noted by weather.com. The four deaths were scattered among three provinces, according to CNN Philippines, with two people killed by falling trees and two others by roof collapses.

Storm chaser James Reynolds, who was based in Legazpi City, during the storm, reported evidence of widespread power outages across southeast Luzon. River channels were engorged by heavy rain, but Reynolds saw no signs of major flooding.

Also based in Legazpi City during Kammuri was storm chaser Josh Morgerman, who found surface pressures in the eye to be surprisingly high given the strength of Kammuri on satellite.

As of 12Z Tuesday (7 am EST and 8 pm Philippines time), JTWC placed the center of Kammuri just north of Busuanga Island, about 150 miles southwest of Manila. Kammuri was a Category 1 typhoon with top sustained winds of 90 mph. The typhoon ended up moving far enough south to spare Manila from major impacts. The strongest wind gust at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport was a mere 31 mph. Officials had closed the airport as a precaution from 11 am to 11 pm Tuesday.

By late Tuesday, dry air and land interactions had cut back greatly on the amount of showers and thunderstorms (convection) around Kammuri’s center. Wind shear will jump above 20 knots on Wednesday, and Kammuri will move over sea surface temperatures of around 26°C (79°F), the minimal benchmark for tropical development. A strong midlatitude surface high will finish off Kammuri, pushing the decaying circulation southward across the South China Sea.

VIIRS infrared image of Typhoon Kammuri from the NOAA-20 satellite at 0400Z Saturday, November 30, 2019
Figure 1. VIIRS infrared image of Typhoon Kammuri from the NOAA-20 satellite at 0420Z Saturday, November 30, 2019. Scott Bachmeier (CIMSS/SSEC/University of Wisconsin–Madison) manually added the yellow color just west of the center to denote the location of the coldest cloud tops, which had gone “off the scale” of the automatically generated color table. Image credit: Scott Bachmeier and SSEC RealEarth

Kammuri produces the coldest cloud-top temperature on record

Kammuri may have earned a distinctive place in tropical cyclone history—not because of its impacts in the Philippines, but from its behavior several days earlier. While still a Category 1 typhoon well east of the Philippines, Kammuri was generating exceptionally strong convection, with storms extending high enough in the atmosphere to produce extremely cold cloud tops. At 0420Z on Saturday, November 30, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) aboard the NOAA-20 satellite detected a cloud-top infrared brightness temperature just west of Kammuri’s center of –109.4°C (–164.9°F). According to Mark Lander (University of Guam), this appears to be the only cloud-top temperature on record known to exceed by a wide margin the world record reported by Elizabeth Ebert and Greg Holland in 1992 of–102.2°C (–148°F) from Tropical Cyclone Hilda east of Australia in 1990.

Severe thunderstorms can also push cloud tops to extremely high, cold levels. Bachmeier reported in November 2008 that a thunderstorm complex on the north coast of Australia had produced an apparent infrared temperature of –102.9°C (–152°F), rivaling or perhaps slightly besting the record from Hilda.

Update (4 December): According to an email from Bachmeier, Kris Bedka (formerly at CIMSS, now at NASA Langley Research Center) estimated that the cloud tops producing the record-cold brightness temperature were at a height of around 12.1 miles (19.5 kilometers). For more details on this record-setting event, see the post from Bachmeier at the CIMSS Satellite Blog.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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Bob Henson

Bob Henson is a meteorologist and writer at weather.com, where he co-produces the Category 6 news site at Weather Underground. He spent many years at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and is the author of “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change” and “Weather on the Air: A History of Broadcast Meteorology.”


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