Super-Typhoon Halong To Strike Japan, South Korea, Or Both

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Satellite image of Super-Typhoon Halong at 1:32 EDT Sunday. Image courtesy of US Navy

Satellite image of Super-Typhoon Halong at 1:32 EDT Sunday. Image courtesy of US Navy

The active tropical western Pacific Ocean has produced its third Super-Typhoon — with winds over 150 miles per hour — of the 2014 season.

Like Super-Typhoons Neoguri and Rammasun before it, Super-Typhoon Halong will probably affect populated areas. Before Halong reaches Japan and/or South Korea, however, the storm will weaken as it encounters wind shear and travels over colder water.

Western Pacific Storms Compared To Tropical Atlantic

The west Pacific’s current total of thirteen named tropical storms, five typhoons, and three Super-Typhoons is comparable to the average of a whole season of activity in the tropical Atlantic Basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.

So far, the Atlantic has produced only two named systems.

The persistent warm water in the western Pacific makes it a breeding ground for tropical activity all year. This year the temperatures are a little warmer than normal, and the western Pacific is well on its way to surpassing its seasonal average of 29 named storms, as the most active part of the season is yet to come.

Super Typhoon Halong’s History

Halong began as an easterly wave over the warm water east of Guam and moved slowly westward.  Halong was designated a tropical storm last Tuesday, July 29, and crossed just north of Guam on Wednesday with modest winds. Rainfall, up to 16 inches, caused some flooding.

Halong became a typhoon on Thursday. Moving over very warm water with no significant land masses, and with practically no vertical wind shear (change of wind with height), Halong rapidly intensified into a Super-Typhoon yesterday (Saturday, August 2) and has retained 160-mile-per-hour winds into Sunday morning..

Halong’s Current Movement

Halong has come to a moment of mid-life crisis. Having meandered without worry along the southern periphery of a subtropical high pressure area, the storm now sees a break in the high and a trough of low pressure moving southward over Korea. Though tempted to go straight ahead over the lovely warm water, Halong is also enticed by a sharp turn to the right where it would enter a channel of southerly wind.

The forecast track for Super-Typhoon Halong. Forecast courtesy of US Navy

The forecast track for Super-Typhoon Halong. Forecast courtesy of US Navy

Halong’s Future

The inducement of the northerly trajectory will be too much for Halong to resist, and the storm has already begun to turn to the northwest.

After completing a quarter circle, Halong will head due north, passing about 100 miles east of Okinawa. After that, the timing of Halong’s interaction with the deepening low pressure over Korea shrouds the forecast in uncertainty.. Some models take the storm directly into Japan,while others put it on a more north-northwesterly track towards Korea.

Either way, Halong seems destined to impact a densely-populated land mass.

Water Temperature And Wind Shear

The water south of Japan has warmed considerably since Neoguri passed over it, so that is less of a consideration until Halong enters the frigid East China Sea. However, as Halong makes its turn, it will be affected by moderate wind shear. The result is that the storm will slowly weaken as it moves to the north, but will probably still be a significant typhoon wherever it makes landfall.

The latest Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast tracks Halong near Nagasaki, close to where Neoguri made landfall.

Tropical Storm Nakri: Complicating Factor

On Friday, a new tropical storm, Nakri, formed in the East China Sea, midway between China and South Korea. Nakri is not very strong, and Halong may ignore its presence. But theory indicates that Halong would be steered slightly to the right by the Fujiwara Effect.

Discovered by Sakuhei Fujiwara, the Fujiwara effect describes two hurricanes interacting in a waltz that finds them twirling around each other in a counterclockwise direction.

Nakri is currently crossing Korea with winds of only 30 miles per hour. It may regenerate some strength over the Sea of Japan, and later it could merge with the remnants of Halong as an extra-tropical cyclone, which could affect the Russian city of Vladivostok or the northern Japanese island of Sapporo. So it may be some time before we can finally say ‘So long’ to Halong.

Japanese And Korean Interests Should Be Alert

The coastal Pacific nations are accustomed to typhoon threats. Hopefully, they are prepared for Halong.

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