Tag Archives: typhoon

Powerful typhoon forces thousands to evacuate in the Philippines

The typhoon Rai, also known locally as Odette, has forced nearly 100,000 people to be evacuated from high-risk areas in the southeast of the Philippines, after bringing torrential rain and the threat of flooding in the archipelago. The typhoon has generated winds of 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour, and although there have been no reports of casualties or major damage, authorities are still on alert.

Image credit: Flickr / EU.

Among all meteorological disasters, typhoons are among the most severe ones in terms of human lives and urban development affected. They have a great destructive power and can bring other hazards such as flooding. There’s also scientific consensus that global warming is making typhoons stronger and more frequent. However, these disasters are often underreported by international media.

The Philippines is often described as one of the world’s hotspots for typhoons, floods, droughts and earthquakes. Every year, about 20 typhoons, (the equivalent of 25% of all typhoons around the globe), take place in the country. Most occur during the rainy season, from July to September, but studies showed this is now extending to December.

The country is surrounded by warm ocean water and this paves the way for typhoons, which need a water temperature above 28ºC. In the recent decades, the Philippines has seen a number of devastating typhoons affecting the country, including typhoon Ondoy in 2009, Pepeng in 2009, Juan in 2010, Sendong in 2011 and Labuyo in 2013. 

Typhoon Rai is the 15th one to hit the country this year. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has described it as “one of the world’s strongest storms” of the year and said it’s threatening “millions of people with destructive winds and flash floods” – deploying volunteers to help local residents. 

“This monster storm is frightening and threatens to hit coastal communities like a freight train. We are very concerned that climate change is making typhoons more ferocious and unpredictable,” IFRC Head of Philippine Country Office Alberto Bocanegra said in a statement. “Emergency teams are in overdrive to help people.”

A destructive power

The country’s weather agency, PAGASA, said the typhoon made landfall in the Siargao Island earlier today, with “very destructive typhoon-force winds” already visible in several parts of the country. Storm surges in coastal areas are expected, PAGASA said, as well as flooding and landslides. Over 98,000 people have already been evacuated.

Keeping people safely distanced in evacuation centers amid the Covid-19 pandemic has proven challenging for authorities. The Philippines is one of the countries in Southeast Asia most affected by the pandemic, with over 2,8 million infections and 50,000 deaths. Initial infections from the Omicron variant were already detected prior to the typhoon.

The government has placed eight regions of the country (all in central and southern areas) on the highest level in emergency preparedness and response protocol. Most domestic flights were canceled, schools and workplaces were shut in vulnerable areas and all vessels were grounded by the coast guard, stranding nearly 4,000 people.

“We have undertaken all the necessary precautions, prepositioned resources, and closely coordinated with the localities to prepare for immediate emergency and relief response,” President Rodrigo Duterte said in the inauguration of a new train, adding the government is closely monitoring the movement of typhoon across the country. 

Typhoon Hagibis hits Japan with intense rainfall and winds

Torrential rain and tornado-like winds are lashing out at mainland Japan. It’s probably the strongest storm to hit Japan in 60 years.

Typhoon Hagibis is currently the strongest storm on Earth, and will quite possibly be the strongest of the year. It made landfall on Saturday on Japan’s East coast, striking with consistent winds at about 100 miles (160 km) per hour and gusts of up to 135 mph (217 km/h).

Authorities have urged more than 7 million people in Japan to leave their homes as Hagibis nears Tokyo. Almost 1 million have received direct evacuation orders — a sign that authorities have learned from previous events and are taking the storm very seriously. However, only 50,000 people took the official advice to evacuate to shelters, according to the AFP news agency.

Hagibis has already caused power outages. Train services have been halted and over 1,000 flights have been stopped. At least two people have been killed by the storm, due to the high winds — but this figure will almost certainly increase as the storm continues to unfold. An additional 60 people have been reported injured, many of them children, but this number is also expected to grow.

Hagibis also poses great flooding and landslide risks. Over 100 rivers at risk of overflowing as massive rains hit areas including Tokyo, Saitama, and Chiba. Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA) has warned half a metre of rain could fall on Tokyo in 24 hours.

“Unprecedented heavy rain has been seen in cities, towns and villages for which the emergency warning was issued,” JMA forecaster Yasushi Kajiwara told a press briefing.

“The possibility is extremely high that disasters such as landslides and floods have already occurred. It is important to take action that can help save your lives.”

Residents who fled their homes have gathered in evacuation centers to escape the scourge of the storm. Others have stockpiled food, leaving supermarkets with empty shelves (most supermarkets are currently closed). However, in many areas, the storm is already ripping the roofs of houses.

This could very well be the strongest storm the country has faced since the infamous Kanogawa Typhoon in 1958, which left more than 1,200 people dead or missing.

Hagibis Typhoon is the equivalent of a level 5 hurricane. The difference between ‘typhoon’ and ‘hurricane’ is just geographical — they pretty much mean the same thing. Hurricanes are tropical storms that form in the North Atlantic, northeastern Pacific, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, while typhoons are storms that develop in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes are generally categorized from 1 to 5 based on their wind speed, whereas typhoons are classified as “typhoon,” “very strong typhoon” or “violent typhoon” by the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Hagibis storm intensifies and becomes strongest on Earth

Currently the strongest storm on the planet and on its way to possibly becoming the strongest of the year, Super Typhoon Hagibis has already gathered strength with astonishing speed. Winds surged at over 144 km/h (90 mph), and it took just 18 hours for Hagibis to reach super typhoon status.

The U.S. National Weather Service issued a typhoon warning for the islands of Saipan, Tinian, Alamagan and Pagan in the Northern Marianas, with the worst impacts from the storm expected soon in the region. A tropical storm warning was also in effect for the islands of Agrihan, Rota, and Guam.

Hagibis is set to bring strong winds and torrential rainfall to the Northern Marianas, a U.S. territory in the North Pacific. Flash flooding and high surf are also likely in Guam as the center of the storm moves towards the north. From there, models diverge somewhat on the eventual path of the storm, but the official track takes it on a path close to Japan’s northern islands.

This means Hagibis could also affect the Rugby World Cup, currently held in Japan. The World Rugby Federation has said they are monitoring the situation in the hope Hagibis does not prove to be a danger to World Cup fixtures and training sessions. A World Rugby spokesperson said:

“We are currently monitoring the development of a typhoon off the south coast of Japan in partnership with our weather information experts. It is still too early to determine what, if any, impact there will be on match or training activities.”

Hagibis’ tiny circulation took advantage of plentiful warm ocean water, low wind shear and winds aloft that were spreading apart from its core — tropical cyclones with small inner cores of convection are notorious for rapidly developing and weakening much faster than expected.

Hagibis became the fourth Category 5 tropical cyclone on Earth in 2019, according to Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University — following Super Typhoon Wutip in February, Dorian in early September and Lorenzo in late September.

“This is the most intensification by a tropical cyclone in the western North Pacific in 18 hours since Yates in 1996,” Klotzbach said.

Hagibis joined an impressive list of Atlantic hurricanes that rapidly intensified since 2017, including Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, Michael, and Lorenzo. Rapid intensification is a tropical cyclone is defined as an increase in wind speed of at least 35 mph in 24 hours — it’s very unusual for a storm to develop so quickly, but the process seems to become more common in recent years. The most likely culprit for this is climate change.

Extreme hurricane intensification such as what we just witnessed with Hagibis could further increase in the future from climate change, according to recent research from Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane scientist working at MIT.

“Rates of intensification increase more rapidly than intensity itself as the climate warms, so that rapidly intensifying storms like Michael may be expected to become more common,” said Emanuel.

Wutip becomes earliest ever super-typhoon, with gusts over 180 mph

During the past few days, the world has been hit with some of the most unusual weather ever. In the UK, warm Mediterranean air masses pushed temperatures to unprecedented peaks, while in the US was hit by flash floods in Tennessee and a massive blizzard storm in the northern plains. Now, another freak weather event is set to hit US territory: Wutip is set to become the earliest super-typhoon in recorded history, hitting Guam with gusts of up to 180 mph (289 km/h).

The typhoon started as low-pressure just south of the Marshall Islands on February 16. It then began to gradually pick up steam while moving westward, finally receiving the name Wutip from the Japan Meteorological Agency on February 20. A day later, Wutip strengthened a severe tropical storm, before intensifying further into a typhoon later that day. It continued to intensify, reaching what was initially predicted to be its peak as a Category 4-equivalent.

But Wutip continued to surprise meteorologists, blowing up into a full Category 5 super-typhoon, becoming the strongest February storm of any kind ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere. Sustained winds reached 160 mph (257 km/h).

February typhoons are extremely unusual. The last such storm to brush by Guam was Irma in 1953 — thankfully, the island escaped with minimal damage at the time.

NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite provided an infrared look at Typhoon Wutip on February 21, 2019. Image credits: NASA/NOAA/Williams Straka III/UWM/CIMSS.

Wutip continues its movement towards the Philippines, but thankfully, the storm’s intensity has decreased substantially. In order for such a storm to continue picking up steam, it would need warm ocean waters and weak upper winds — which are a rare occurrence in February. Even the level it reached was extremely unlikely to start with. While previous research has shown that climate change makes extreme weather more likely and tends to exacerbate big storms, there’s no evidence yet to suggest that Wutip is directly connected to climate change.

A typhoon is a mature tropical cyclone that develops in the Northern Hemisphere between 180° and 100°E. Typhoons are differentiated from other major storms (such as a cyclone or a storm) solely on the basis of location. Typhoons occur in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, whereas hurricanes occur in the northeastern Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean.

A hurricane is a storm that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean or the northeastern Pacific Ocean, a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, and a tropical cyclone occurs in the south Pacific or the Indian Ocean. There are several scales used for classifying these storms, but most common is the Saffir Simpson wind scale, which classifies storms on a scale of 1 (least severe) to 5 (most severe). This scale estimates potential property damage. Category 5 storms can cause catastrophic damage, tearing down house roofs and collapsing walls and trees. These storms have wind speeds of 157 mph (252 km/h) or higher.

A monster typhoon as seen from the ISS. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

New wind turbine could harness typhoons and generate enough electricity to power Japan for 50 years

A monster typhoon as seen from the ISS. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A monster typhoon as seen from the ISS. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wind power hasn’t worked that well in Japan but not gusts are lacking. On the contrary, the country of the rising sun is often bombarded with typhoons whose devastating force easily destroy wind turbine blades which are designed and rated to withstand much milder conditions, like those in Europe. At the same time, Japan needs to supplement its renewable energy mix if it’s ever to become free of fossil fuels. The 2011 Fukushima meltdown also made a dent in the public’s support for nuclear energy which means the shackles of carbon-intensive energy generation have grown harder to break.

A typhoon eggbeater 

One inventive Japanese named Atsushi Shimizu, isn’t deterred away by typhoons. Instead of a threat, he sees potential. It’s believed that the energy encased in a typhoon is equivalent to half of the world’s current electricity generation capacity. Harnessing the power of a single typhoon could provide enough energy to power Japan for 50 years.

To this end, Shimizu, who is the CEO of a green-tech company called Challenergy since 2013, has come up with a new turbine design that’s meant to withstand powerful and unpredictable forces of nature. Instead of the familiar rotor blades, the new turbine is essentially made up of three pillars rotating around a vertical axis.

According to Shimizu, the design was modeled to take advantage of the Magnus effect, which is used to explain the often mysterious and commonly observed movements of spinning balls in sports like soccer, baseball tennis, table tennis, volleyball, golf and cricket. Basically, the Magnus effect explains why a spinning ball curves rather than follow a straight trajectory — the interaction between the air and the side of the ball that rotates in the opposite direction of the ball movement creates a low-pressure area.

So far, the turbine hasn’t been tested in real life conditions. Prototypes have been installed in Okinawa in July, and Shimizu and his team are currently waiting for a typhoon to strike. They’re one of the few people in the world eagerly waiting it. The video below shows how the turbine works during a benchmark in the lab.

Nevertheless, if it works it would mean a lot for Japan which currently has to import 85% of its energy requirements. Of course, while a typhoon can release a lot of energy that doesn’t mean we can harness all of it — most likely just a fraction of it because there’s no way to store a country’s 50 years worth electricity with current technology.