John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
All eyes in Japan are on Super Typhoon Neoguri, a tremendous storm set to create 40-foot-tall waves.
Airports have shut down and at least 500,000 people have received evacuation advisories in southern Japan due to this: a monster storm throwing 40-foot-waves in the Pacific called Super Typhoon Neoguri.
A "super typhoon" is a typhoon so powerful its maximum sustained winds hit 150 mph or higher, equivalent to the fury of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane in the Atlantic. Neoguri had supersized itself with 150-mph winds when the Suomi NPP satellite snapped the above image of the tempest approaching Okinawa on Tuesday afternoon, Japanese time. From there, it's expected to make a beeline for Kyushu, perhaps growing even more ferocious for a quick spell thanks to supportive winds and warm ocean waters.
Neoguri is tremendous enough that its clearly defined eye is visible from space, as seen in this shot from astronaut Reid Wiseman:
Forecasters predict that the super typhoon will lose some of its punch by the time it reaches mainland Japan, but that it still could hit the coast with substantial and dangerous strength. That's a problem for cities that've recently been drenched with seasonal storms, as the sodden ground is primed for flooding and mudslides. Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground has given a dire scenario for how that might effect what happens in the days ahead:
Neoguri has been caught by a trough of low pressure and is headed for the Japanese island of Kyushu, where the city of Nagasaki lies. Nagasaki had upwards of 8 inches of rain on Thursday, and parts of Kyushu saw 10 inches of rain on Friday, thanks to a stalled stationary front over the island. With the soils already saturated from these heavy rains, the torrential rains from Neoguri are sure to cause major flooding on Wednesday and Thursday. ... Although ocean temperatures will cool and wind shear will rise as Neoguri approaches Japan, weakening the storm, the typhoon is so large and powerful that it will likely make landfall with at least Category 2 strength, causing major damage in Japan.
Neoguri, whose name means "raccoon dog" in Korean, is primed to be "one of the strongest [storms] to hit Japan in decades, generating waves up to 14 meters (46 feet) high," according to ABC News. But if there's one thing the perennially sea-battered country is good at doing, it's using strong social and infrastructural measures to protect against typhoons. So here's hoping the superbeast limps off into the Pacific without any major damage done.
These are a couple more satellite images of the storm from Monday night, U.S. time: