NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this visible image of Typhoon Higos at 0310 GMT on February 10, 2015. Image credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
With an unexpected burst of intensification on Monday, Typhoon Higos became the strongest tropical cyclone on record for so early in the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The compact typhoon dissipated quickly after its show of strength, having spun out its short life over an empty stretch of the Northwest Pacific roughly midway between the Marshall Islands and Northern Mariana Islands. The official peak intensity of Higos, as recorded by Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JWTC) was 105 kts (120 mph) at 0600 GMT on February 10, making it a Category 3. Satellite imagery suggests that Higos may have briefly spiked at Category 4 strength, with an outside chance of Category 5 strength, so the storm’s peak winds could be revised in later analyses. Two NASA satellites were in place to estimate rainfall rates below Higos.
Figure 2. The satellite image at right of Higos, collected at 0301 GMT on February 10, 2015, shows a solid field of intense convection around the typhoon’s distinct eye. The typhoon’s intensity at this point or shortly thereafter may have been stronger than the officially recorded peak of 105 kts (120 mph). Image credit: NOAA, via @ wxtrackercody.
Typhoons do form on occasion in February over the Northwest Pacific, with 36 tropical cyclones on record for the region since 1900 in NOAA’s Historical Hurricane Tracks website. However, these storms tend to develop late in the month, with their peak intensities often occurring in early March. Supertyphoon Mitag formed at the end of February 2002 and attained peak winds of 140 kts (160 mph) on March 5. The strongest intensity in the official record during February is the 1970’s Typhoon Nancy, whose winds reached 120 kts (140 mph) on February 24. This also stands as a record for the entire Northern Hemisphere, since water temperatures are normally too cool and wind shear too strong to allow for hurricane development so early in the Northeast Pacific and North Atlantic.
Another noteworthy aspect of Higos is its position-–at peak intensity, it was more than 500 miles east of the track of any other February typhoon. The next closest is 2014’s Typhoon Faxai, although Faxai did not peak until early March. Sea-surface temperatures were close to 1°C warmer than average across the region where Higos developed (see Figure 3), part of a pattern of unusual warmth covering much of the western tropical Pacific.
Figure 3. Departures from average (anomalies) in sea-surface temperature (degrees C) for February 5, 2015, just before Typhoon Higos developed. Image credit: NOAA Office of Satellite and Product Operations.
Courtesy of Dr. Jeff Masters
Credit to Bob Henson