After pummeling the Philippines, Typhoon Utor is swirling over warm waters that will probably help sustain it as it tracks toward an expected landfall in southeast China.
The storm is blamed for at least two deaths on the northern Philippine island of Luzon, and 44 fishermen are reported missing. Eighty percent of the infrastructure in the town of Casiguran near where the typhoon came ashore is reported to be destroyed.
Utor weakened as it passed over mountainous terrain on Luzon. But as the animation of satellite images above suggests, the storm seems to be reorganizing after emerging over the South China Sea. It may strengthen first and then weaken again before making its second landfall, this time as a Category 2 storm south of Hong Kong: Read More
Both of these things happened yesterday: a cold front painted delicate streamers of cloud across a desert landscape, and a super typhoon stormed ashore in the Philippines, causing untold misery.
Meteorology can certainly tell you why, on the same day, one set of conditions on Earth produced something that can be described as Earth art, and another set led to the raging monster named Super Typhoon Utor.
The same basic physics accounts for the changes in temperature and pressure that caused water vapor to condense in parallel lines of cloud over southeast Australia, and the gigantic cyclone swirling ashore at 150 miles per hour.
It’s also true that some combination of neurobiology and evolutionary biology can offer up a decent explanation of the awe I feel when I consider these manifestations of nature, and ponder how things so different in appearance and effect can arise from the same basic processes.
But somehow, of course, the whole winds up being larger than the sum of these parts. Which is another way of saying that science can take you a whole long ways but only so far.
| Updated below with new information about landfall. |
Super Typhoon Utor — the most dangerous tropical cyclone of 2013 so far — has slammed ashore on the northern Philippine Island of Luzon.
According to a dispatch from Reuters, Utor’s maximum sustained winds at landfall were about 130 knots, or 150 miles per hour. At sea, the storm was pushing up waves as high as 40 feet, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which categorizes the storm as a “super” typhoon.
| Update 8/12/13, 9:15 a.m. MDT: There are conflicting reports of Utor’s wind speeds when it made landfall, with some news outlets reporting maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. Regardless, Utor (known as Typhoon Labuyo in the Philippines) is being blamed for two deaths so far, and 44 fishermen are reported missing. Moreover, accounts of severe damage from the storm are coming in, particularly in the town of Casiguran. See the video below of a news report from the town, where officials are reporting that almost 80 percent of the infrastructure has been destroyed.
Prior to landfall, the storm strengthened as it swirled across warm ocean waters, and through an environment with low wind shear.