Super typhoon Soudelor powers towards Taiwan, may boost El Nino

Super typhoon Soudelor powers towards Taiwan, may boost El Nino

Sydney Morning Herald
Peter Hannam 20 hrs ago

Super typhoon Soudelor, possibly the strongest storm of 2015, is powering towards Taiwan in the north-west Pacific after causing widespread damage in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The category 5 storm is expected to strengthen further, with sustained wind speeds of 150 knots, or 277.8 km/h, later on Tuesday, US space agency NASA said.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre is predicting wind speeds could reach 160 knots, with gusts reaching 195 knots, or 361 km/h.

NASA An infra-red image of the eye of super typhoon Soudelor.

"It's not the most intense ever, but it is intense," Kevin Walsh, an associate professor of the School of Earth Sciences at Melbourne University, said.

A typhoon gains "super" status once sustained winds reach 130 knots, he said.

NASA said the typhoon was dumping rain at the rate of 58 millimetres an hour, according to satellite readings.

JTWC Projected path of the typhoon.

The storm is expected to track towards northern Taiwan and hit mainland China in about four days' time, although it will have weakened by then, NASA said.

Soudelor means a legendary ruler in the Pohnpeian language, which is spoken in the Caroline Islands, according to Guam's Pacific Daily News.

The news service reported that the storm is the strongest this year, and prompted authorities in the US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands to declare "a state of disaster and significant emergency" on Monday.

The island of Saipan had its power plant flooded, with hundreds of residents taking to shelters as power and water supplies were cut off, Pacific Daily News reported.

Himawari 8 satellite Super typhoon Soudelor as it spins away from the Mariana Islands.

Soudelor's winds are forecast to exceed those of Cyclone Pam, which peaked at 143 knots (265 km/h) when it devastated Vanuatu earlier this year.

The big storm may add another boost to the El Nino in the central and eastern Pacific.

Last month, Cyclone Raquel - the earliest ever recorded in the eastern Australian zone - and a series of typhoons and tropical lows boosted the El Nino by providing westward wind bursts along the Equator.

El Ninos are marked by the stalling or reversal of the normally easterly trade winds blowing along the equator. One result is that heat tends to build up in the central and eastern Pacific and rainfall patterns shift eastwards away from the Australian continent and south-east Asia.

*Interesting comment in the comments section..

Les Beyan: hang on to your nuts, this is going to be one hell of a blow job
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