The tropics are quite active this morning. As the weekend draws to a close, meteorologists like me are tracking Super-Typhoon Maria, Tropical Storm Beryl, and the newly formed Tropical Storm Chris. Each of these storms brings unique threats. However, I could not overlook the fact that a current storm named Maria is bearing down on Asia as the impacts of Hurricane Maria still haunt Puerto Rico and the Caribbean as Tropical Storm Beryl approaches the islands.
According to the NOAA Hurricane Research Division website, a super-typhoon is a “term utilized by the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center for typhoons that reach maximum sustained 1-minute surface winds of at least 65 m/s (130 kt, 150 mph). This is the equivalent of a strong Saffir-Simpson category 4 or category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin or a category 5 severe tropical cyclone in the Australian basin.” Super-typhoon Maria is a significant threat to parts of Asia including Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, eastern China, and Taiwan in the coming week. The storm carries the potential for significant flooding, landslides, and wind-related threats.
Some readers tend to be “Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico”-centric when it comes to tropical cyclone activity, which is why I often like to draw attention to the western Pacific and other regions. Some of the most powerful tropical cyclones on the planet happen in that region. Typhoons, on average, tend to be stronger because the waters of the western Pacific are typically warmer. A recent study published in Nature Geoscience by researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill also revealed that typhoons have gotten stronger by 50% in the past 40 years. This finding is consistent with previous studies in the region.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense with responsibility for issuing tropical cyclone warnings for the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The graphic above illustrates the current JTWC projected path for Super Typhoon Maria. Several major populated areas in China could experience excessive rainfall, winds, and storm surge by mid-week.
Ironically, as people in Asia keep a close eye on Maria, U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and residents of the Leeward Islands are preparing for Tropical Storm Beryl or its remnants. While the National Hurricane Center expects Beryl to weaken to a Tropical Depression or Wave in the coming hours or days, strong gusty winds and locally heavy rainfall are expected for Puerto Rico, the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. This is not trivial since Hurricane Maria ravaged the region in 2017. The power grid was essential “repaired” not replaced in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello has declared a state of emergency, and people are purchasing supplies. Hurricane Maria is justifiably the reason for high alert. It changed every person’s life on this island and caused many to flee the island. Jacksel Rodriguez worries about Puerto Rico and whether it is ready for even a minimal tropical system. On the CNN website Rodriguez said, “most of the power grid was just repaired, not updated, and the power goes out even with light winds — imagine a big storm.” Electrical power and resources are no longer taken for granted on the islands, and they will be haunted by Hurricane Maria for years to come.
Even as Beryl advances, the National Hurricane Center, at the time of writing, is monitoring Tropical Storm Chris off the coast of the Carolinas. The storm is expected to linger for a few days before moving out to sea along a northeastward trajectory. It may even reach hurricane strength. The main threats for the Carolina and nearby coastal regions are rip currents, rough seas, windy conditions, and persistent rainfall. Mariners, residents and visitors to the region should stay on alert.
Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Dir., Atmospheric Sciences Program/GA Athletic Assoc. Distinguished Professor (Univ of Georgia), Host, Weather Channel’s Popular Podcast, Weather Geeks, 2013 AMS President