After several days of dithering in the Philippine Sea, tropical storm Tapah (also called Nimfa) has transformed into a typhoon. It has also started accelerating towards southern Japan and Korea.
A typhoon is exactly the same weather event as a hurricane; the name only differs depending upon its location on the globe.
Tapah has been drifting around the Philippine Sea and out into the Pacific and back again since about September 10. Tapah started life as a low pressure system west of the unincorporated territory of Guam on September 10. It strengthened and weakened over the next few days, picking up the name “Marilyn” in the process, before drifting out of the various areas of responsibility of several Asian meteorological offices.
However, it ran into another tropical storm, re-strengthened and drifted back into the Philippine area of responsibility on September 17 when it was renamed as “Nimfa” by the Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). However, at 14:00 Philippine-time yesterday, the system strengthened into a typhoon. Overnight, the system began to accelerate and move in a north-north-westward direction.
As at 23:00 Manila-time, the system had maximum sustained winds of about 40 miles per hour and gusts of about 50 miles per hour, according to the PAGASA.
The forecast track-map from PAGASA indicates that the system will likely veer into a more northerly direction over the weekend and will strengthen into a more severe tropical storm. PAGASA estimates that the typhoon will exit the Philippine area of responsibility on Saturday.
The Japan Meteorological Agency then forecasts Tapah will shoot north into the East China Sea (graphic, left), likely missing both Taiwan and much of the main southern Japanese island chain en route. Although, as the main graphic at the top of this story shows, typhoons are such large weather events that even areas at the marginal edge of the system will likely experience heavy winds and rain.
Unfortunately, as cyclones are very unpredictable, there are a wide range of land areas that Tapah could directly hit.
Between September 22 and 23, on the southern side of the 70 percent probability track, Tapah could run over the southern main Japanese island of Kyushu. On the following day it could run all along the west coast of the main Japanese island of Honshu and then on September 24, over the main northern island of Hokkaido. On the northern side of the forecast track, Tapah could over-run the whole of South Korea by September 23 and then, on the following day, possibly hit the Russian port of Vladivostok.
A wide range of large container terminals could be affected, depending upon exactly where Tapah travels. This includes, but is not limited to Incheon (3.1 million twenty foot equivalent unit shipping containers, South Korea) and Gwangyan (2.4 million TEU, South Korea).
Fortunately, many of the main container terminals in Japan, particularly Kobe, Osaka, Yokohama and Tokyo are on the south-east and eastern side of Japan, away from the forecast track of Tapah.
Now that this typhoon is actually moving, it appears to be moving quite quickly, unlike, say, Hurricane Dorian which devastated the Bahamas because it dwelt over those islands for an extended time. East Asia appears to be quite well prepared for typhoons and they typically tend not to cause a lot of landside damage.
In the likely event that there is not a lot of damage then logistics disruption tends to be localised and short lived. Air freight spot rates may surge during and immediately after the passage of the typhoon, but the weather system is unlikely to materially affect the market in the long term.
Ocean-going ships will tend to detour around or follow in the wake of typhoons. Ships en-route across the Pacific from China to the U.S. may be temporarily delayed. However, after the typhoon has passed, ships can also simply speed up, at the cost of burning through a lot more fuel, to stay on schedule.
See more Asia and Australia stories by Jim Wilson.