Super Typhoon Hagibis – with winds cranking back up to 160 mph – is still trudging northward across the western Pacific Ocean toward Japan. It will lose some steam by the weekend, but could still remain a threat to supply chains, lives and properties.
Hagibis – pronounced HAH-guh-biss – began as a tropical depression in the wee hours, EDT, on October 5. This was during the afternoon in Japan. Maximum sustained winds at that time were a mere 30 mph. Within 36 hours, the storm became a typhoon when winds reached 75 mph. From that point forward, there was no stopping Hagibis.
Hagibis exploded into a violent super typhoon by early morning EDT on Monday, October 7, as sustained winds doubled in speed to 150 mph. They peaked at 160 mph a few hours later. This is when Hagibis brushed by the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, producing wind damage and flooding. The strength of the typhoon has fluctuated since then; however, its winds were back to 160 mph yesterday afternoon with an eyewall 35 miles wide.
Satellite imagery of the storm is considerably different from earlier this week, when it had a pinhole-sized eye that was only five miles across or even smaller at times. Given the increase in eye size, strong winds are now more spread out. The satellite photos show the storm now closely resembles a doughnut.
This transformation resulted from a process known as an eyewall replacement cycle (EWRC). This takes place in many mature tropical cyclones. It happens when the eyewall – the ring of the most intense thunderstorms containing the hurricane’s/typhoon’s peak winds and heaviest rains – breaks down, and is replaced by a new and often larger eyewall. Sometimes, storms emerge from this process stronger, and frequently with a larger wind field.
Very warm sea-surface temperatures likely contributed to Hagibis’ extreme growth. It formed in the warmest part of the Pacific Ocean where temperatures have been hovering around 85°F. Once maximum sustained winds reached 150 mph – equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane – Hagibis became a super typhoon by definition. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hagibis was the strongest storm on earth yesterday, October 8.
Forecasters with the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) expect Hagibis – whose name means “speed” or “velocity” in the Tagalog language – to weaken some tomorrow and Friday, gradually losing super typhoon status. However, Hagibis could still pose a threat to Japan, possibly making landfall in Tokyo Bay on Saturday, October 12.
Sustained winds at that time could be as high 100 mph, which would have significant impacts on the major port of Tokyo and the city itself. Tokyo has a population of 13.5 million people, according to government statistics from 2012.
Facilities in Tokyo Bay – the ports of Tokyo, Kirarazu and Yokohama – may end up closing. This would be a serious blow to regional, national and international supply chains. Businesses, oil/petroleum facilities, and freight operations may be offline for a few days, and air cargo runs a high chance of delays or cancellations.
The typhoon’s large size means that areas not facing a direct hit could also suffer significant damage and disruption. During a news conference earlier today, a JMA warned people of potentially heavy rain, strong winds, high waves and storm surge.
“Winds of such speed pose a danger to anyone who is outdoors, and it is possible that strong winds may knock down utility poles or street lamps… or blow away trucks or cars that may struggle to maintain stability,” a JMA analyst said.
The JMA has issued a typhoon warning for the Tokyo metropolitan area and a typhoon advisory for other parts of the island of Honshu. An advisory has also been posted for the entire island of Hokkaido.
When FreightWaves first reported on the storm on October 7, the predicted path was farther west than today’s outlook. The forecast track and intensity of Super Typhoon Hagibis may change again over the next couple of days. Look for more updates through the remainder of the week on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.