Science

9 million people evacuated due to Super Typhoon Nanmadol, one of the most powerful ever recorded in Japan

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Japan suffers from typhoon season every year from July to October, sometimes as early as June during the rainy season. But it is in autumn that they are at their strongest. Japan is currently experiencing its 14th typhoon of the season, the strongest ever. Gusts up to 234 km / h were recorded, as well as heavy rains. Dozens of people were injured and two died after a hurricane made landfall on Sunday morning September 18 in Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island. These phenomena will be repeated with climate change, experts warn.

Every year, Japan frantically prepares for typhoon season. These storms move up the “typhoon lane”, i.e. to the Pacific Northwest. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) is responsible for studying them to predict, based on their formation, their trajectory and evolution, and to issue warning bulletins early enough for the country to prepare.

Currently in this typhoon alley, Category 4 storm Nanmadol on Sunday dealt a devastating blow to Japan. Please note that level 5 alert is the highest on the emergency scale and is only used in a situation of unprecedented danger. The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued a rare emergency warning of high winds, high waves and storm surge for southwestern Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida even postponed his trip to New York this week for the UN General Assembly to assess the damage caused by Japan’s 14th typhoon, the strongest of the season.

Unheard of violence bound to repeat

On Friday, September 16, Nanmadol’s winds peaked at 250 km/h, prompting the JTWC to classify it as a “Super Typhoon”. Satellite images taken on Saturday afternoon showed a very large and impressive storm with a prominent eye 20 km in diameter surrounded by very cold cloud tops. Nanmadol’s “hurricane” force winds extended over 135 km from the center, while “tropical storm” force winds extended to about 435 km. According to the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), this large wind field created huge waves up to 14 meters high.

Nanmadol, spotted 18 September. © Zoom Earth (JMA/NOAA/CIRA, Himawari-8)

It is this gigantic storm surge that is capable of causing massive destruction. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) tweeted on September 18 that Nanmadol was “one of the strongest typhoons ever seen,” warning of heavy rain, coastal flooding and winds strong enough to destroy homes.

wave typhoon nanmadol

Huge waves accompanying Nanmadol. © Reuters/Kyodo

Despite conditions that seemed to favor the storm’s intensification — sea surface temperatures of 29 to 30 degrees Celsius, light wind shear and a humid atmosphere — all observers issued a weakening warning, resulting in Nanmadol being upgraded to a Category 2 or 3 storm. Indeed, authorities predict that Nanmadol will reach Tokyo on Tuesday, September 20, as a tropical storm on Tuesday, and then go to sea on Wednesday, September 21, in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean.

You should be aware that many climate experts are predicting a very active hurricane season this year driven by the opposite of El Niño known as La Niña. In addition, warmer sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Caribbean due to climate change may have an impact. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agrees that intense tropical cyclones will increase worldwide in the coming years due to climate change.

Devastating storm surge, stalemate activity

Storm surges are of greatest concern for this super typhoon, especially in Kagoshima Bay, a long, narrow inlet that can act as a funnel to concentrate these storm surges. The city of Kagoshima (pop. 600,000) is located on the western side of the bay.

In comparison, Typhoon Makurazaki on September 17, 1945, following the same path as Nanmadol, caused a storm surge over 2 meters high at the head of the bay, causing severe damage to the western side of the bay. This typhoon made landfall near Makurazaki with a central pressure of 916.7 hectopascals, while the Japan Meteorological Agency predicts that the central pressure of Nanmadol will be 920 hectopascals as it approaches Kagoshima.

That’s why authorities have issued flood warnings for Tokyo and the adjacent coastal prefecture of Kanagawa, warning that heavy rains could also lead to landslides. Not to mention that some 350,000 homes no longer have electricity and tens of thousands of people are housed in shelters, according to the BBC.

According to Reuters, a Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) spokesman said at a press conference: “We must remain very vigilant about heavy rains, hurricane-force winds, high waves and storm surges.” As many flights and trains have been cancelled, Toyota Motor Corp on Monday suspended night shifts on 24 routes at its 12 national plants.

This powerful typhoon has already claimed the lives of two people and injured more than 110. Nanmadol caused wind gusts up to 234 km / h, and in some areas up to 900 mm of rain fell in a day. The CMRS Tokyo Typhoon Center predicted that Nanmadol would withstand the strength of the typhoon for another 12 hours. As a result, nine million people were ordered to leave their homes.

But James Duris, a WMO disaster risk reduction expert, explains in a statement: “When the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issues early warnings, local governments respond by giving people information on how to evacuate, what to bring and other protective gear. “. measures. Evacuation warnings are not mandatory, and in the past, authorities have struggled to convince people to move to shelters before extreme weather events.”

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