|Above: GeoColor image from the Himiwari-8 satellite of Typhoon Kammuri at 1530Z (10:30 am EDT) Monday, December 2, 2019, or 11:30 pm Monday local time. Lights from the Manila area can be seen at upper left. Image credit: RAMMB/CIRA/CSU.|
Rapidly intensifying in the day before landfall, Typhoon Kammuri rolled into the central Philippines province of Sorsogon on Monday night local time after vaulting to Category 4 strength. Kammuri’s top winds were estimated by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center at 130 mph at 12Z (7 am EST) Monday. This sprawling typhoon, moving just north of due west at about 10 mph, was on track to move across parts of southern Luzon island through the day Tuesday, bringing torrential rains, destructive winds, and the risk of floods and mudslides. Kammuri is being 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). Peak winds at landfall were likely in the Category 3 range. The typhoon’s massive, oblong eye, about 55 miles in diameter, passed over the northern part of Sorsogon province. According to the Philippines News Agency, more than 100,000 people were evacuated from Albay province, which was on track to be hit by Kammuri’s northern half.
Early Tuesday morning, the northern part of the eye moved over Legazpi City in Albay, where hurricane chasers James Reynolds and Josh Morgerman were stationed.
A quick report from the rain free eye of #typhoon #Kammuri - still some gusty wind blowing. Remember the storm is not over - the back side eyewall / 2nd half is still to come #Legazpi #Philippines #TisoyPH pic.twitter.com/MzCUyKYTdn— James Reynolds (@EarthUncutTV) December 2, 2019
1:40 am. After long calm, wind is starting to roar again. We’re going back into the ring of hell. While #KAMMURI’s violence has mightily impressed me, the data have not. I have 3 calibrated devices going, and none got lower than 961.9 mb. Weird. But this felt like a legit Cat 4.— Josh Morgerman (@iCyclone) December 2, 2019
PAGASA warned that a storm surge of greater than 10 feet (3 meters) was possible for coastal areas in Albay, Sorsogon, Northern Samar, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur provinces. Kammuri’s inner core was not well organized until about a day before landfall, and this may mitigate the surge threat somewhat. Given Kammuri’s size, some surge may extend well north of the landfall location, affecting locations along the Lagonoy Gulf toward San Jose.
Torrential rains exceeding 10” can be expected along and near Kammuri’s path, with especially heavy rains wherever the typhoon’s strongest winds are being forced upslope. One area of particular concern is the Mayon Volcano (elevation 8081’), just northwest of Legazpi City. In 2006, Typhoon Durian (Reming in the Philippines) struck the area, producing mudflows along the volcanic slopes that killed as many as 1000 people.
Kammuri’s center is expected to pass roughly 60 to 80 miles south of Manila, likely close enough to bring tropical-storm-force winds to the metropolitan area given that Kammuri may still be a Category 1 or 2 typhoon at that point. Once it moves west of the Philippines, Kammuri will rapidly weaken and angle leftward as it encounters strong northeasterly flow.
|Figure 1. Residents help carry a wooden fishing boat into a secured area along the coast in Borongan town, Eastern Samar province, central Philippines, on December 2, 2019, as they prepare for Typhoon Kammuri. Image credit: Alren Beronio/AFP/Getty Images.|
Although it reached the Philippines as a stronger typhoon than official forecasts had predicted, Kammuri’s arrival was not a surprise. For most of last week, the GFS and European track models had flagged the potential for a strong typhoon to move westward into the Philippines early this week. For several days, HWRF consistently called for Kammuri to reach Category 4 strength just before moving into the Philippines. HWRF is typically among the top-performing intensity models with Atlantic hurricanes.
Kammuri’s intensification did occur a bit later than models had projected, in large part because of the storm’s large eye and vast size. Just as tiny, compact tropical cyclones can strengthen and weaken quickly, large ones are typically slower to intensify. Kammuri reached typhoon strength on Friday, November 27, and featured a broad shield of intense showers and thunderstorms for days, but it remained a Category 1 storm without a distinct eye until late Sunday local time. Kammuri then surged from peak winds of 80 mph at 12Z Sunday to 130 mph at 12Z Monday, a 50-mph increase that is well above the margin of 30 knots (35 mph) in 24 hours that the National Hurricane Center defines as rapid intensification.
Jeff Masters, who authors the Eye of the Storm blog at ScientificAmerican.com, put Kammuri into climatological context for Category 6 in the two sections below. Many thanks to Jeff!
A near-average year for Northwest Pacific typhoons
It has been a near-average year for the number of named tropical cyclones in the Northwest Pacific in 2019, with 28 named storms, according to statistics of advisories from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) compiled at Digital Typhoon; the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) has classified 26 named storms in 2019. The 1951 – 2010 average for the Northwest Pacific was 26 named storms per year. Typhoons have been a little weaker than average in 2019; according to statistics from Colorado State University, as of December 2, this year’s Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) was 254, compared to the 289 we expect to see by this date.
Three category 5 typhoons have been observed in the Northwest Pacific so far in 2019: Wutip (160 mph winds), Hagibis (160 mph winds) and Halong (180 mph winds). Between 1990 and 2018, the Northwest Pacific averaged three Category 5 storms per year, so we are near average for that statistic. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over much of the tropical Northwest Pacific have been about 1°C (1.8°F) warmer than average since August.
The Philippines are among the most tropical cyclone-prone nations on Earth, but the country has had a quieter-than-usual peak part of the typhoon season. Prior to Kammuri, the Philippines experienced just two landfalling storms this year:
—Tropical Storm Podul (45 mph winds) in Luzon on August 27; 9 killed, $7 million in damage
—Typhoon Kalmaegi (75 mph winds) in Luzon on November 20
Deadly December typhoons in the Philippines
Strong typhoons can occur year-round in the Northwest Pacific, and the southern Philippines are no stranger to strong December storms. Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) left 1,900 people dead or missing mainly on Mindanao's eastern provinces in December 2012, and Typhoon Sendong (Washi) killed 1,080 people on Mindanao's north coast in December 2011. In 2016, Super Typhoon Nock-Ten peaked as a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds at 3 UTC Christmas Day, making landfall in the Philippines at 6 UTC Christmas Day, 2016, as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds and a central pressure of 915 mb. Nock-Ten killed 24 people and did over $1 billion in damage, and was the strongest landfalling typhoon ever recorded so late in the year. On December 21, 2017, Tropical Storm Tembin made landfall in Mindanao province, killing 266 people.
The only stronger typhoon than Nock-Ten recorded so late in the year over the ocean was Super Typhoon Hester, which peaked as a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds on December 31, 1952, about 1,000 miles east of the Philippines (Hester recurved out to sea without affecting any land areas). Nock-Ten’s formation was aided by ocean temperatures that were up to 1°C (1.8°F) warmer than average.
Dr. Jeff Masters' Monday post at ScientificAmerican.com, Climate Science Legal Defense Fund Fights for Whistle-Blowing Climate Scientist, is a Giving Tuesday plug for this nonprofit, where Jeff is a founding board member.