A dangerous tropical storm in the North Pacific Ocean has become even deadlier after strengthening to a super typhoon on Oct. 6.
The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center has upgraded Super Typhoon Hagibis to a category 5 storm, with winds estimated to be blowing at 160 mph near the Northern Mariana island of Anatahan, 200 miles northeast of Guam.
The Weather Channel described this escalation as the “most explosive rapid intensifications of any tropical cyclone on record anywhere on Earth.”
Hagibis began as a tropical depression and only grew to become a tropical storm on Oct. 5, with winds estimated to clock 60 mph.
CNN reported the storm’s intensification happened three times faster than what meteorologists would normally consider being “rapid intensification.”
“The wind speed increased by 100 mph in only 24 hours,” CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller said.
Colorado State University Meteorologist Philip Klotzbach estimated Super Typhoon Hagibis had intensified by 90 mph in just 18 hours.
“This is the most intensification by a tropical cyclone in the western North Pacific in 18 hours since Yates in 1996 also intensified by 90 mph in 18 hours,” Klotzbach said on Twitter.
#Hagibis has intensified by 90 mph in 18 hours – from a tropical storm to a #supertyphoon. This is the most intensification by a tropical cyclone in the western North Pacific in 18 hours since Yates in 1996 also intensified by 90 mph in 18 hours. pic.twitter.com/OspbbYwr4D
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) Oct. 7, 2019
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an animation showing the anti-clockwise direction of the deadly winds, with different colors representing the varying levels of intensity.
“Here’s a fresh Himawari8 infrared animation of Super Typhoon Hagibis, north [of] Guam,” the NOAA public affairs team said on Twitter.
— NOAA Satellites – Public Affairs (@NOAASatellitePA) Oct. 7, 2019
The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimates the eye of Hagibis to be about 5 miles in diameter. It’s significantly smaller than the eye of storms ranging from 20 to 40 miles wide, according to the Weather Channel.
Hagibis’ relatively small rotation has been fuelled by warm ocean water and winds that exit its core. Tropical storms with a small inner core are known to rapidly develop or weaken much faster than those with a larger core.
If the storm continues to move in the same direction, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicts Hagibis will pass between Anatahan and Sarigan before heading north towards Japan on Oct. 12.
CNN’s storm tracker team expects Super Typhoon Hagibis to make landfall in south-central Japan as a category 5 storm. More than 10 inches (250mm) of rainfall is expected for some locations.
“Conditions in Japan will deteriorate through the day with the worst moving through central Japan late Saturday into Sunday local time,” CNN Meteorologist Monica Garrett said.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center has low confidence in its forecast. They say the location of Super Typhoon Hagibis could change and will need to be watched closely in the coming days.
Klotzbach said Hagibis was the fourth category 5 tropical cyclone so far in 2019 after Wutip in February, Dorian in September, and Lorenzo in late September, according to the Weather Channel.