Typhoon Maria passing north of Taiwan; bearing down on mainland China.

Typhoon Maria, after blasting across the southern Japanese Ryukyu Islands, is now moving just north of Taiwan, delivering very heavy rain to much of the island, including Taipei City. It’s next and final destination is mainland China.

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Radar animation (Images by Central Weather Bureau of Taiwan) showing west-northwest progression of Typhoon Maria between 1 pm-1:40 am local time (UTC+8) Tuesday/Wednesday. Animation generated by the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science/U. of Miami.

According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, maximum sustained winds at 1500 UTC Tuesday were estimated near 120 mph, with gusts to 150 mph (~195 kph/240 kph, respectively). The system is forecast to make landfall on the mainland Chinese coast by between 3-6 UTC Wednesday (10 pm-1 am CDT Tuesday/Wednesday in the US, 11 am-2 pm Wednesday Taipei, Taiwan time).

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Maria track forecast by the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center and “cone of uncertainty” detailing potential deviations from the track.

As sea surface temperatures lower gradually approaching the Chinese coast, Typhoon Maria will continue to weaken gradually. The sea surface temperatures in Maria’ s path are mostly running near normal. However, at 81 F/27 C, it is more than warm enough to support a tropical cyclone of moderate strength.

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Current sea surface temperatures under the path of Maria.

It is expected to make landfall as a Category 2-equivalent typhoon (forecast sustained winds 100 mph/~160 kph) . Because the system will remain relatively well organized, this will continue to be a “all-hazards” event; potentially torrential rainfall, damaging wind gusts in excess of 100 mph near the large eye, significant storm surge, particularly in bays and battering waves in excess of 33 ft/10 meters on top of the surge.

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Forecast 24 hr rainfall ending at 12 UTC Wednesday by the Global Forecast System model. The mountainous terrain of northern Taiwan will be the hardest hit by torrential rainfall, but very heavy 24 hr totals are also likely along the mainland coast of China.
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GFS model forecast wind peak 1-3 hr wind gusts valid at 21 UTC Tuesday. Multiple models indicate open ocean coast will likely see gusts exceeding 110 mph/~175 kph as the center of the system bears down on the coast between after 00 UTC Wednesday.
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GFS forecast significant wave heights at 00 UTC Wednesday. The ~205 mile/330 km radius tropical storm-force wind field north of the center of Maria (winds at least 39 mph/~65 kph) will promote significant wave heights in excess of 33 ft (10 m), causing life-threatening wave action on top of the storm surge.

Potentially life-threatening risks from these hazards include injuries from falling or flying debris in the intense winds, very dangerous inland flooding from the heavy rains and storm surge flooding from the landfall of the typhoon, as well as the battering waves on top of the surge.

–Meteorologist Nick Humphrey

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North Atlantic Tropics Wake Up with Beryl; Typhoon Maria Roars to Cat 5-Equivalent Status West of Guam

The North Atlantic tropics finally woke up after a weeks long period of dormancy…with the birth of Tropical Storm Beryl Thursday. The system formed in the west-central Atlantic after days in a formative stage as a tropical wave with no defined surface low.

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Small Beryl (circled) heading east. Mid-level water vapor image around 12:30 am CDT Friday.

Beryl is a very small system with tropical storm force winds only extending out 35 miles from the center of circulation Thursday night. However, it has continued to strengthen through Thursday Night and is expected to become a minimal hurricane later Friday.

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US National Hurricane Center forecast track and uncertainty cone for Beryl showing the system peaking in strength Fri-Sat then weakening as it approaches the Lesser Antilles late-Sunday.

Although the system is depicted to move near the Lesser Antilles late-Sunday, vertical wind shear…increasing wind speed with height…is expected to increase dramatically over Beryl as it approaches Sunday, leading to a rapid weakening and possible dissipation. This is highly likely given the small size of the circulation. However, regardless of what the status of the system is when it moves over the islands, accompanying what remains will be gusty winds, showers and thunderstorms and local downpours.

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One of model depiction of rainfall path associated with Beryl through Monday afternoon. Light to moderate rainfall amounts likely over parts of the Lesser Antilles.

Meanwhile, in the Western Pacific, Maria has become a Category 5-equivalent super typhoon with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph. The first Category 5-equivalent cyclone observed in either the North Pacific or North Atlantic in 2018. Maria moved over Guam and the southern Mariana Islands as a tropical storm, bringing strong winds and locally heavy rainfall. Damage was reported to Rota’s power system, but no damage to personal property or injuries were reported. The system then became a typhoon west of the island chain, before rapidly intensifying to a Category 3-equivalent typhoon around 1800 UTC (1 pm CDT Thursday in the US),  then to its present intensity (as of this post) several hours later.

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Powerful Category 5-equivalent Super Typhoon Maria over the Philippine Sea with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph. Visible image valid at 05:30 UTC Friday (12:30 am in the US/3:30 pm Friday in Guam).
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Wider view.

Maria is expected to move generally northwestward over open water during the next three days. It will remain a powerful typhoon thanks to absolutely steamy waters warmer than 90 F/32 C, 1 C or more above normal. Afterwards, it will move over slightly cooler waters, but may remain a powerful Category 3 or 4 hurricane (115 mph+ winds) as it approaches some of the southern most small Japanese islands on Tuesday.

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US Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast track for Maria.
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Current sea surface temperatures east of the Philippines over 32 C.
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Sea surface temperature anomalies showing SSTs more than 1 C above normal (1961-1990 climatology) along the path of Maria as it continues moving northwest from Guam.

The most significant threats from Maria will be increasing high surf and rip currents for areas ahead of Maria (Philippines, southern Japan, Taiwan) followed by heavy rainfall and damaging winds for the remote southern Japanese islands as it moves closer toward mainland China midweek.

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One model depiction showing the path of heavy rainfall associated with Maria from southeast to northwest (bottom right to middle of image) through 18:00 UTC (2 am Guam time).

–Meteorologist Nick Humphrey