Halong’s path to metastasis into a monstrosity stems from seemingly innocuous origins on Saturday, as an area of low pressure turned into a tropical depression several hundred miles east of the Northern Mariana Islands. A few hours later, it transformed into tropical storm Halong.
#Super Typhoon #Halong now has maximum sustained winds of 160 mph – making it a category 5 #typhoon. Halong is the 3rd category 5 typhoon of the 2019 Pacific Northwest season so far. The long-term average (1981-2010) for Category 5 typhoons through November 5 is 2. pic.twitter.com/p7uoMwPEck
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) November 5, 2019
Halong gradually recovered, becoming a Category 2 hurricane on Monday. That’s when the storm quickly escalated overnight into a circular saw equivalent to Category 5.
As of noon Tuesday, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated Halong’s intensity at 160 mph. But there are plenty of reasons to believe it may be conservative and Halong continues to escalate.
“The latest automated values of [the Advanced Dvorak Technique] have it up to ~165 knots! wrote Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, which is 190 mph. Hurricane Dorian, which tore through the Bahamas in September, had peak winds of 185 mph.
Klotzbach referred to Dvorak’s advanced technique, a way to remotely assign storm intensity using only satellite observations. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center does not send planes into typhoons.
The terrifying shots from above show extremely cold, high cloud tops raging around an ominous, hot eye.
It’s no exaggeration to say Super Typhoon #Halong this morning is one of the strongest storms seen *globally* since satellite records began in 1979. An extreme event, but thankfully no threat to land. (satellite via @UWSSEC) pic.twitter.com/IZ2vUIGcvd
— Michael Lowry (@MichaelRLowry) November 5, 2019
Klotzbach noted that water temperatures in the region through which Halong runs are slightly above normal, but not by far. “It is normally very hot in the western North Pacific!” he wrote.
It’s been a busy year for typhoons in the Western Pacific. Just a month ago, Hagibis went from a tropical storm to an equivalent Category 5 super typhoon in 18 hours, intensifying at one of the fastest rates on record.
From Tropical Storm to Category 5 in 18 Hours: Super Typhoon Hagibis Intensifies at One of the Fastest Rates on Record
Hagibis later hit Japan as a Category 1 or 2 equivalent but unloaded torrents of rain. More than three feet fell on Hakone in Kanagowa prefecture in 24 hours, as widespread flooding wreaked havoc across Japan.
In February, another super typhoon reached Category 5 status. The storm, named Wutip, swept through Guam, bringing more than 4.2 inches of rain to Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport on February 23. Further south on the island, flash flooding hit Inarajan, which recorded a whopping 16.9 inches.
Three Category 5s in the Western Pacific may sound bad, but it can be much worse; nine of them had filmed at this point in the year in 1997.
Halong is the seventh super typhoon to hit the Western Pacific this year, as well as the 13th typhoon. There have been 29 named storms.
The storm’s rapid intensification rate is in line with what climatologists expect in a warming world. There is evidence that rapidly intensifying storms are already becoming more frequent in the North Atlantic Ocean, for example.
A 2017 study that looked at modeled Atlantic storms showed an increase in the number of storms that would rapidly intensify just before landfall in a warmer world. Another study, published in 2018, found that with continued global warming, more tropical cyclones are likely to experience rapid intensification than in the past.
Halong is expected to remain entirely offshore and begin to weaken in the next three days or so. In the meantime, however, waves near the center of the storm will reach 30 to 40 feet.