WATCH: Striking Animation Shows Prodigious — and Deadly — Rainfall from Typhoon Soudelor

By Tom Yulsman | August 11, 2015 4:56 pm
Screenshot from an animation showing showing estimated rainfall generated by Typhoon Soudelor between August 3-9, 2015. The estimates come from the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite mission, or GPM, supplemented with data from other satellites. Rugged terrain helped wring extraordinary rainfall totals from the storm, with over 1,320 mm (52 inches) being reported in Taiwan. (Source: SSAI/NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce)

A screenshot from an animation showing showing estimated rainfall generated by Typhoon Soudelor between August 3-9, 2015. Rugged terrain helped wring extraordinary rainfall totals from the storm, with over 1,320 mm (52 inches) being reported in Taiwan. (Source: SSAI/NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce)

Super Typhoon Soudelor may be spinning off into memory now, but I nonetheless thought I’d share this extraordinary animation of the storm’s accumulated rainfall as it charged toward, and then over, Taiwan between Aug. 3 and 9, 2015. It was released by NASA today.

In the animation (please click the image to watch it), Soudelor enters the frame at lower right and churns toward the northwest, trailing a light show of glowing color indicative or rainfall amounts. The precipitation estimates are based on data from the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite mission, or GPM, supplemented with data from other satellites.

To my eye, the animation indicates rainfall totals in parts of Taiwan of about 350 millimeters, or almost 14 inches. But we know from reports on the ground that more than that fell in some localities.  One location in Datong Township, Yilan County, experienced more than 4 feet of rain, according to Mashable’s Andrew Freedman.

After you watch the following video, I’m sure you can believe it:

Taiwan’s spine of mountains helped wring all that moisture from Soudelor, resulting in catastrophic floods and mudslides like this one. It was these effects, not the cyclone’s winds per se, that caused most of the devastation from the storm. Twenty-two people are lost or missing in Taiwan and mainland China. Five of the deaths occurred in Taiwan.

Soudelor formed in the Pacific Ocean east of Guam on July 20, 2015. It would go on to become the strongest tropical cyclone on planet Earth so far this year.

SEE ALSO: Watch as Super Typhoon Soudelor — Earth’s Most Powerful Cyclone This Year — Churns Toward Taiwan

On Aug. 3, Soudelor reached peak intensity, still well east of Taiwan, with sustained winds of 178 mph. It roared ashore in Taiwan on Saturday, Aug. 8 with winds over 100 miles per hour.

There’s still quite a lot of time left in the northern Pacific’s cyclone season. And with a powerful El Niño still gathering strength, Soudelor might be a taste of much more to come.

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ImaGeo

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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