The strongest typhoon of the year and fifth ‘super typhoon,’ which sustain speeds of over 150 mph, is headed toward Japan after intensifying over the last few days. As of early Wednesday, Super Typhoon Vongfong had winds of over 180 mph with gusts up to 220 mph. Late Tuesday night, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported that it was giving rise to waves of at least 50 feet in height.
Vongfong will likely remain a Category 5 storm throughout Wednesday unless it unexpectedly weakens, according to the JTWC, which predicts the storm will make landfall in Japan early next week. However, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said the storm could weaken to a category three equivalent by the time it makes landfall.
Typhoon-force wind gusts will hit the Japanese islands over the weekend, where communities are still recovering from last week’s Typhoon Phanfone, which left many areas flooded and wind-ravaged. As of 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday in the U.S., the eye of Vongfong was just over 600 miles south-southeast of Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, moving west-northwest at about 8 mph.
“Satellite loops show Vongfong is an extremely impressive storm, with a large area of heavy thunderstorms with very cold cloud tops, excellent upper-level outflow, and a large 30-mile diameter eye,” wrote Jeff Masters of Weather Underground.
Typhoon Vongfong is the strongest tropical cyclone since last year’s Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated parts of the Philippines and left over 6,000 people dead.
Any single extreme storm can’t be linked directly to climate change, but a warmer climate can lead to warmer ocean surface temperatures that intensify storms. Michel Jarraud, World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General, said Typhoon Haiyan “tragically demonstrated” the “heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding” from global warming.