Action in the Pacific: Typhoon Usagi and Tropical Storm Pabuk

By Tom Yulsman | September 23, 2013 12:10 am

Two swirling storms can be seen evolving in this remote sensing animation of precipitable water over the Pacific.Typhoon Usagi, to the west, is seen making landfall in China. Tropical Storm Pabuk is develops to the west of it. (Animation: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies)

As I write this late on Sunday night, Usagi has stormed ashore in China as a powerful Category 2 typhoon.

This radar animation shows Usagi’s rainfall rate at landfall. (Source: Brian McNoldy, RSMAS/Univ of Miami)

CNN International is reporting that 25 people in China have already died, and tens of thousands of people have had to evacuate. By tomorrow, the toll from the storm may be even higher

Hong Kong, which was bracing for a possible direct hit, was spared as the storm came ashore to the northeast.

At one point, Usagi’s winds were clocked at more than 160 miles per hour, qualifying it as a “super-typhoon” and making it the most powerful storm on the home planet so far this year, eclipsing Typhoon Utor in August.

You can see Usagi making landfall in in the animation at the top of thia post. It shows total precipitable water over the western Pacific Ocean — a measure of the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. (It is given in millimeters — meaning the total depth that the water would accumulate to in a column if it all condensed as precipitation. For real-time animations of TPC globally check this out.)

Here’s a compelling animation of Usagi as it was charging toward the gap between The Philippines and Taiwan:

Typhoon Usagi swirls in the Philippine Sea on Sept. 19, as seen in this animation of infrared satellite images. (Source: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies.)

Note Usagi’s wobble. Meteorologists called this “trochoidal wobble,” and it is not uncommon with intense cyclones.

In the animation at the top of the post you can also see Tropical Storm Pabuk swirling fast on Usagi’s heels. Luckily, the forecast is for Pabuk to curve to the northeast off the coast of Japan over the next few days, with gusts reaching as high as 100 knots before it begins to dissipate out at sea.

As I was poking around for interesting imagery for this post, I found one more that I thought I would share:

This is a computer simulation of global precipitable water produced by the Argonne National Laboratory. I find it kind of mesmerizing. And I also think it’s cool that the simulation produces two cyclone-like structures out in the Pacific, not unlike Usagi and Pabuk. Look for them starting on August 31 in the simulation.

They both wind up curving to the northeast, doing a kind of do-si-do, and then dissipating.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Top Posts, Weather


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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