One of the most intense cyclones of the year in the world impresses scientists

A monster cyclone and one of the most intense of the year on the planet threatens some of the most densely populated areas of the Asian continent. Chanthu is the name of the super typhoon that is currently near the North of the Philippines and later should reach Taiwan and pass very close to Sghangai, in China.

Satellite Image of Monster Cyclone Chanthu This Morning Over Northern Philippines | CIMSS/UW

This morning, the center of supertyphoon Chanthu was located about 824 km south-southeast of Taipei, Taiwan. Its maximum sustained 10 minute winds were 195 km/h with gusts up to 280 km/h while maximum sustained 1 minute winds were 270 km/h. The minimum central atmospheric pressure was 920 hPa and the system was moving in a North-Northwest direction at 17 km/h.

Chanthu maintained its compact structure while completing another period of intensification under highly favorable conditions. However, as it continues to move northwest, the radial flow that accelerated its previous development tends to disappear.

Thus, significant intensification is unlikely in the next 24 hours, despite low vertical wind shear and high sea surface temperatures in the Luzon Strait.

The storm, currently bordering Luzon in the Northern Philippines, is expected to continue advancing northward and gradually weaken to a Category 4 equivalent storm before hitting southern Taiwan on Saturday.

Damage caused by extreme winds, torrential rain and storm flooding is common in Taiwan. The center of the storm is expected to pass near or over the capital Taipei as a Category 2 storm. Although Taiwan is used to typhoons, this one is taking an unusual south-to-north route that will make it spend more time over the island as well as crossing Taiwan from South to North, which greatly increases its potential for damage.

One of the most intense cyclones of the year

Supertyphoon Chantu is one of the most intense this year on the planet and joins a short list of storms with a force equivalent to a category 5 hurricane, the maximum on the Saffir-Simpson scale used in the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific and which is not used for typhoons in the Western Pacific.

Supertyphoon Chantu was preceded by three other cyclones as intense or more intense in 2021. Surigae super typhoon in the Pacific Northwest and near the Philippines with a wind of 305 km/h on April 17, tropical cyclone Faraji in the Southwest Indian Ocean with a wind of 257 km/h on February 8, and tropical cyclone Niran in the South Pacific Ocean with 257 km/h wind on March 5th. Earth had an average of 5.3 Category 5 storms per year between 1990 and 2020, according to rankings made by National Hurricane Center and by Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the United States Navy.

Chanthu had an incredible boost

Chantu’s intensification stunned scientists. On Monday, an unorganized group of storms in the Western Pacific formed a tropical depression with a 48 kph wind. Forty-eight hours later, the depression turned radically into an intense typhoon with wind reaching 257 km/h.

Super typhoon Chanthu thus joins an elite group of some of the fastest escalating storms ever seen in the world and are expected to become more common because of man-made climate change. Only five previous recorded storms have gone from a depression to a Category 5 equivalent storm in 48 hours. They were Elida (2002), Ernie (2017), Willa (2018), Hagibis (2019) and Goni (2020).

The US National Hurricane Center defines “rapid intensification” as an increase in maximum sustained winds by at least 56 km/h in 24 hours. Some essential ingredients for the rapid intensification of tropical cyclones include high sea surface temperatures, excess latent ocean heat (a measure of water temperature below the surface), and low vertical wind shear.

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Warm waters together with warm, moist air provide vital energy and moisture for hurricanes. Vertical wind shear is the difference in speed and direction of lower-level and upper-level winds in the atmosphere. High shear tears the tops of developing hurricanes and weakens them while low shear allows storms to gain strength.