Super-Typhoon Neoguri threatens to do extensive damage to a large swath of Japan on Wednesday and Thursday after passing very close to the US military base on Okinawa Tuesday.
Neoguri’s cyclopean eye — at 50 miles across, large for any tropical cyclone — has been gazing at southern Japan for several days. When the forecast track doesn’t change much over time, it is usually correct.
The Western Pacific Typhoon Season
The tropical cyclone season in the western North Pacific Ocean runs from January 1 to December 31. This year there have been nine named storms, three of them typhoons.
The water is warm enough to support typhoon formation all year, and is particularly warm in the summer months. Any time the vertical wind structure is favorable, a storm can form.
Hurricane, Typhoon, Super-Typhoon: Let’s Get The Terms Straight
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone. A typhoon is a tropical cyclone. There is no difference except location. A tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Ocean or in the eastern Pacific Ocean is called a hurricane. A tropical cyclone in the western Pacific is called a typhoon. To make things more complicated, a tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean is just called a tropical cyclone.
A typhoon is classified a Super-Typhoon if its winds reach 150 miles per hour. The amount of damage that a typhoon — or any other kind of storm — does has more to do with its location and the preparation of those affected than with the exact classification or the maximum winds.
Neoguri is potentially very dangerous because it will affect the populous country of Japan.
Neoguri Or Florita? Let’s Get the Name Straight
The World Meteorological Organization oversees the lists of storm names, sensibly in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific, less so in the western Pacific.
Six lists of names submitted by the National Hurricane Center are rotated yearly for hurricanes.
For typhoons, 14 countries have submitted names which have been put on six lists. The names rotate continuously (since the typhoon season is technically continuous). The name Neoguri (which means raccoon cat) was submitted by the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Interestingly, South Korea will be impacted by the fringe winds and rough surf from Neoguri.
This would be a sensible system, except that for some reason, the Philippines, which submits names for the general list, insists on using its own names for storms that enter its jurisdictional area. Neoguri is now in the Philippines area of jurisdiction, and is known locally as Florita. For simplicity, Decoded Science will honor the WMO list and refer to the storm as Neoguri.
Neoguri Became A Super-Typhoon Sunday Afternoon (EDT)
Neoguri’s winds attained Super-Typhoon strength of 150 miles per hour late Sunday. Winds are expected to increase to 160 miles per hour on Monday before the storm strikes Okinawa. Fortunately, Neoguri will not impact any large land masses at that strength. But it will traverse a large part of Japan, and even at reduced strength, Neoguri will cause extensive damage.
The combination of high pressure to the northeast and a trough of low pressure to the northwest will steer Neoguri in a curve that will take it over or near much of Japan. As Neoguri traverses colder water south of Japan, the storm will weaken, but will still affect the southern island of Kyushu with 120 mile-per-hour winds; the city of Nagasaki could take a direct hit. Neoguri should then retain minimal typhoon strength (winds 75 miles per hour) into central Japan.
The decrease in strength and an increase in forward speed will combine to lessen the potential damage, and Neoguri will not be another Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines), last year’s blockbuster storm, in terms of casualties — Haiyan killed over 6,000 people in the Philippines. However, damage in the industrialized country of Japan could surpass the two billion dollar price tag of Haiyan.
Will There Be More Typhoons? More Super-Typhoons?
Neoguri is the ninth named storm of the year in the western Pacific; Haiyan, which formed in early November, was last year’s thirtieth named storm. There will definitely be more typhoons. And given the extremely warm water covering most of the western Pacific Ocean, there almost certainly will be more Super-Typhoons.