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Typhoon Lekima Rapidly Intensifies and Poses a Potential Threat to Taiwan, Japan's Ryukyu Islands and Eastern China
Published: August 7, 2019
Typhoon Lekima has rapidly intensified and poses a threat to Japan's southern Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and eastern China late this week into the weekend.
Lekima is currently centered more than 300 miles south of Kadena Air Base in Okinawa and is heading northwestward.
Maximum sustained winds in Lekima increased from 60 mph to 100 mph in the 24 hours ending 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday. That means Lekima has met the requirement for rapid intensification which is a wind speed increase of 35 mph in 24 hours or less.
The typhoon is forecast to further intensify through Thursday as it nears Japan's southernmost Ryukyu Islands with destructive winds, flooding rain and storm surge. It could have winds equivalent in strength to a Category 4 hurricane when it passes near Ishigaki Thursday night into early Friday local time.
Lekima is then forecast to move near or just north of Taiwan on Friday local time. Heavy rain and strong wind gusts could still impact parts of Taiwan even if the center tracks to their north.
More than a foot of rain is currently forecast through Saturday in the higher elevations of Taiwan. The excessive rainfall could trigger flooding, as well as landslides.
This weekend, Lekima will be on a weakening trend as it curls northward near the eastern coast of China, potentially including near Shanghai.
Heavy rain could trigger flooding in eastern China. Strong winds and storm surge flooding are also possible depending on the exact track and intensity of Lekima as it moves near, inland or offshore from the coastline.
Tropical Storm Krosa
Tropical Storm Krosa is now intensifying in the Western Pacific and could grow into a typhoon over the next few days.
Krosa is forecast to move near Iwo Jima and the Ogasawara Islands later this week but will otherwise remain over the open waters of the Western Pacific the next five days.
It's possible Krosa could approach mainland Japan early next week, but the forecast this far out in time is highly uncertain. Typhoon Lekima may have its hand in the direction of where Krosa goes as the two systems may get close enough to one another to cause some sort of interaction.
Recap: Francisco Strikes Japan as a Typhoon
Francisco made landfall in southern Japan as typhoon Tuesday morning local time, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
A Quiet Typhoon Season Before This Week
This year had been uncommonly calm for typhoon activity through Aug. 4 in the Northwest Pacific, which is normally the most active region on Earth for tropical cyclones. The only typhoon recorded in 2019 through Aug. 4 was Wutip, the first Category 5 super typhoon on record in February. Wutip passed south of Guam and Micronesia as a Category 4 storm, producing more than $3 million in damage.
Japan is accustomed to typhoons. In a typical year, three typhoons strike Japan, according to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency analyzed by nippon.com. Landfalls are most common in August, but the most destructive typhoons tend to be in September.
Since 1950, no other year had gone from Feb. 28 to Aug. 4 without any typhoons, as noted by Dr. Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University. Francisco put an end to that streak when it became a typhoon on Aug. 5.
In a typical season (1981-2010), the Northwest Pacific sees about eight named storms and five typhoons by Aug. 2. This year had brought just five named storms and one typhoon by that date.
The amount of accumulated cyclone energy in the Northwest Pacific – which is calculated based on how strong tropical cyclones get and how long they last – was only a little over half of average for the year as of Aug. 2, according to data compiled by Colorado State University.
So, what's the difference between this quiet period and now?
At least one factor that may be having its hand on the "on" switch for the west Pacific is the Madden-Julian Oscillation.
The MJO is essentially a wave of increased storminess, clouds and pressure that moves eastward around the globe once every 40 days or so.
In the tropics, the MJO is known to kick up or assist in tropical cyclone development.
A robust MJO wave is now moving through eastern Asia and the western Pacific, and likely helped the recent tropical cyclone outbreak fester.
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