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

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