Why The Super Typhoon Heading Toward Japan Could Be So Dangerous

“Super typhoon” Neoguri is headed towards Okinawa and then Tokyo this week. The storm has been called a “once in decades” event, with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (240km/h).

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the system may develop into an “extremely intense” storm today as it moves north.

“I can’t stress enough how dangerous this typhoon may be when it hits Okinawa,” wrote Brigadier General James Hecker on the base’s Facebook page on Sunday. “This is not just another typhoon.”

A typhoon is a Pacific Ocean cyclone and the same meteorological event as a hurricane, just leaving the tropics toward the Pacific instead of the Atlantic and making landfall in a different part of the world. These storms are more frequent and more intense than Atlantic hurricanes.

Like hurricanes, typhoons form from warm surface water in the ocean, high atmospheric instability, high humidity, the creation of a low pressure center from the Coriolis effect, and a low vertical wind shear.

They have the same seasonality as hurricanes — mainly forming between June and November – and they pose the same dangers as hurricanes:

1. High winds — typhoons have sustained winds greater than 70 miles per hour. Super typhoons aren’t officially on Japan’s scale, but colloquially are known to have 120 mile-per-hour sustained winds similar to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane.

2. Lots of rain — record-breaking Typhoon Morakot landed in Taiwan in 2009 and dumped more than 90 inches of rain in the Southern regions.

3. They can cause storm surges that ravage beaches and coastal areas with an inundation of water, similar to what happened to New Jersey and New York when Hurricane Sandy struck last year.

Here’s a map of tracks from all the tropical depressions, storms, and typhoons in the Pacific from 1980 to 2005:

Pacific typhoon tracks 1980-2005Public domainThis track map shows the tracks of all tropical cyclones in the Northwest Pacific Ocean from 1980 to 2005.

Most typhoons hit the Philippines so frequently that they are responsible for 30% of the country’s northern rainfall, but typhoons are at their deadliest when they strike China because of the country’s high population density.

The most intense storm on record occurred in 1979 and was named Typhoon Tip, a category 5 super typhoon, which had sustained winds of 190 miles per hour.

The deadliest was in 1975 when Typhoon Nina caused a flood and 12 reservoirs failed, killing 100,000 in China alone.

This map shows when the Typhoon is expected to weaken and make landfall this week. The expected position of the storm is shown at 6:00 GMT for each day, which is 2am EDT :

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