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Super Typhoon Halong rages, with additional storms eyeing Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 11/7/2019 Matthew Cappucci

a colorful face: Halong today doesn't look as potent as it did on Tuesday. It's lacking a well-defined eye, but is still a strong Category 4-equivalent storm. (CIRA/RAMMB/JMA)

Halong today doesn't look as potent as it did on Tuesday. It's lacking a well-defined eye, but is still a strong Category 4-equivalent storm. (CIRA/RAMMB/JMA)

Super Typhoon Halong is a 155-mph monster swirling in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. It’s the third super typhoon to reach Category 5-equivalent status in the Pacific this year, and on Tuesday it became the season’s most intense such storm, as it peaked at 180 mph. The small but ferocious storm, which unexpectedly developed Saturday and rapidly intensified Monday night, is still packing quite the punch. The storm won’t threaten land, but it has company now as additional tropical cyclones meander through the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Halong is a beast of a storm, albeit a weakening one. Overnight Monday into Tuesday, the storm underwent rapid intensification. By Tuesday afternoon, Halong’s eyewall contained one-minute sustained winds that were estimated to be 180 mph, with higher gusts.

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Its sinister-looking eye stared at the world Tuesday as Halong danced dazzlingly for satellites. The storm resembled a buzzsaw-like doughnut of doom.

Yet Halong has minded its own business, stirring up ocean waves topping 40 feet but otherwise avoiding land. Now just shy of Category 5 strength, Halong has lost its razor-sharp eye, a veil of upper-level cirrus and anvil clouds cloaking the storm’s warm core from view. It still exhibits healthy symmetry and outflow, and will dodge any potentially destructive upper-level winds.

Super Typhoon Halong’s track will soon bring it over cooler ocean waters, and it will outrun the fuel that gave rise to and helped sustain it. Halong is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm in just 72 hours, with winds in the 50-mph range by Saturday as it undergoes extratropical transition well southeast of Japan.

Thereafter, Halong’s remnants will energize a midlatitude cyclone that will snarl the Aleutian Islands with strong winds and high waves next week. It could also help to reinforce the high pressure ridging that has kept Alaska unusually mild for this time of year. This weather pattern will also favor prolonged shots of cold air rolling southeast out of Canada on the high’s eastern periphery. That further enhances the Lower 48′s chances of staying in the icebox for a while.

Even once Halong dissipates, it won’t soon be forgotten. It’s extreme intensity and impressive rapid intensification fits into an overall pattern of storms more likely to strengthen abruptly, thanks to climate change.

Typhoon Nakri

Meanwhile, Super Typhoon Halong has company in the Pacific. Tropical Storm Nakri is chugging along in the South China Sea, midway between the Philippines and Vietnam. It has sustained winds of about 45 mph, with little change in strength anticipated over the next several days. By Friday, it will start to decline, and is set to make landfall in Vietnam this weekend.

Some of the higher-resolution computer models take the storm farther north toward Hoi An. Others, namely the European model, place the axis of greatest impacts near the South Central Coast.

Regardless, the stage is set for a bull's eye of heavy rains somewhere between Danang and Tuy Hoa, as flooding looks to be the biggest threat with this storm.

Tropical Cyclones Maha and Matmo

An additional tropical cyclone is limping along in the Arabian Sea. Cyclone Maha, which developed Nov. 1, peaked as a Category 3-equivalent “extremely severe cyclonic storm earlier this week. (What is deemed a “hurricane” in the Atlantic or East Pacific is called a “typhoon” in the West Pacific, and a “cyclonic storm” in the Indian Ocean. Australia also refers to its storms as “cyclones.”) Maha came on the heels of Category 4-equivalent Kyarr, which packed 140 mph winds last week as the strongest Arabian Sea storm in 12 years.

The flurry of activity in the Indian Ocean is partly the result of an extremely positive phase of a climate cycle known as the Indian Ocean Dipole. In a positive state, this overturning circulation boosts the amount of rising air over the western Indian Ocean, and is more conducive for forming cyclones. The same pattern features sinking air over Australia, which has brought about a dry winter and spring and may herald an active bush fire season come autumn.

Maha is currently only a tropical storm and will largely fall apart as it heads toward the Indian state of Gujarat into the weekend. Fortunately, Maha’s remnants look to bring minimal impacts, with only a few inches of rain and gusty winds.

In addition, the remnants of Super Cyclonic Storm Matmo were given a “high” chance of redevelopment in the Bay of Bengal. A “significant tropical storm” is likely to form there by Thursday. The system could bring flooding to low-lying Kolkata, as well as parts of Bangladesh.


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