Super Typhoon Halong resembles a buzz saw, gyrating through the Pacific at Category 5-equivalent strength. (RAMMB/NOAA/CIRA)
Super Typhoon Halong is raging in the open waters of the western tropical Pacific Ocean right now, with satellite imagery estimating its peak winds at close to 190 mph. It’s every bit a Category 5 storm and then some, its extreme strength coming three days after it drifted lazily as a tropical depression. Halong isn’t moving toward land, but its mesmerizing fury and terrifying beauty is capturing the attention of meteorologists worldwide.
Halong’s path to metastasizing into a monstrosity stemmed from seemingly innocuous origins Saturday, as an area of low pressure blossomed into a tropical depression several hundred miles east of the Northern Mariana Islands. Hours later, it bloomed into Tropical Storm Halong.
Halong got its act together gradually, ramping up into a Category 2 hurricane by Monday. That’s when the storm rapidly intensified overnight into a Category 5-equivalent buzz saw.
As of noon Tuesday, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated Halong’s intensity at 160 mph. But there are plenty of reasons to believe that may be conservative and that Halong is still intensifying.
“The latest automated values from [the Advanced Dvorak Technique] have it up to ~165 knots!” wrote Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, or 190 mph. Hurricane Dorian, which ravaged the Bahamas in September, had maximum winds of 185 mph.
Klotzbach referred to the Advanced Dvorak Technique, a means to assign storm intensity remotely using just satellite observations. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center does not dispatch aircraft into typhoons.
This could put Halong into the top dozen or so tropical cyclones ever observed by weather satellite, based on values churned out by the Dvorak method. The “satellite era” dates back to 1979.
The terrifying shots from above show extremely cold, high cloud tops raging about an ominous, warm eye.
Klotzbach did note that water temperatures in the region being traversed by Halong are slightly above normal but not by a wide margin. “It’s just normally stinking hot in the western North Pacific!” he wrote.
It’s been a busy year for typhoons in the western Pacific. Barely a month ago, Hagibis leaped from a tropical storm to a Category 5-equivalent super typhoon in 18 hours, intensifying at one of the fastest rates ever recorded.
Courtesy of washingtonpost.com