UPDATE: Oct. 18, 2016, 9:15 p.m. EDT Super Typhoon Haima remains on track for making landfall in northern Luzon on Wednesday afternoon or evening, local time. The storm has been maintaining its extreme intensity, with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour.
Super Typhoon Haima is likely to produce more than a foot of rainfall in areas along its path, particularly in higher elevations. While Haima is likely to spare densely populated and low-lying Manila from its worst impacts, the city may still see some heavy rains and gusty winds. Meanwhile, areas in central and northern Luzon are in line for a potentially historic storm.
UPDATE: Oct. 18, 2016, 5:37 p.m. EDT The Joint Typhoon Warning Center increased the intensity of Super Typhoon Haima to a high-end Category 5 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour. The forecast calls for Haima to maintain Category 5 intensity until landfall in northern Luzon on Wednesday evening or overnight, local time (Wednesday afternoon, EDT).
Category 5 Super Typhoon Haima is a historically intense storm on a path that would put it on top of the northern Philippine island of Luzon on Oct. 19. If this forecasts proves accurate, it would be the second major typhoon to hit the country in just one week.
Depending on its track and any intensity fluctuations prior to landfall, this typhoon poses a major threat to the natural disaster-prone country.
The first storm of the week, Typhoon Sarika, hit Luzon on Sunday as the equivalent of a Category 4. Ominously, Super Typhoon Haima, which is known in the Philippines as Typhoon Lawin, is now expected to hit the Philippines at Category 5 intensity, up from a Category 3 or 4 in earlier forecasts.
Super Typhoon Haima had maximum sustained winds of 160 mph as of Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. EDT, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). Further strengthening is possible as the storm edges closer to the Philippines, the JTWC forecast shows.
The JTWC projects that the storm will maintain its Category 5-equivalent intensity on Tuesday before making landfall late on Wednesday, local time. A Category 5 hit on Luzon could be catastrophic, depending on exactly where it makes landfall.
About 48 million people live on the island with the capital city of Manila is located in the south. The storm is forecast to more directly impact central and northern Luzon, though in this scenario, Manila would still be at-risk for heavy rains and strong winds from such a large and powerful storm.
Flooding, landslides as well as damaging winds will be the main threats in the Philippines, with more than a foot of rain expected with this storm. Since these rains will fall on top of the rains that hit during Typhoon Sarika, the threat of flooding and landslides will be especially significant.
Due to land interaction, Typhoon Haima is likely to be a Category 1 or 2 storm once it makes landfall in China near Hong Kong late this week. However, if the center of the storm only grazes northern Luzon, Super Typhoon Haima could remain a more formidable Category 3 storm when it hits China.
Super Typhoon Haima clearly one of strongest storms of 2016. May not have peaked yet as deep warm water lies ahead. pic.twitter.com/zJrjG7VjVr
Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) October 18, 2016
Because of its location in the western Pacific Ocean, the Philippines typically sees as many as 20 tropical cyclones per year, including typhoons as well as weaker tropical storms. The chain of islands are vulnerable to these storms, particularly because of the varied topography there as well as the many crowded, low-lying cities in the country.
Still, two storms in one week is unusual, and two major tropical cyclones (Category 3 intensity or greater) in one week is rarer still.
The storm is the fourth Category 5 storm to form this year in the Northwest Pacific Basin. This is above the average for the year-to-date, which is about two. Globally, this storm is the seventh Category 5 storm for the year, which is also above average.
In a typical year, the planet sees between four and five Category 5 storms. Natural climate phenomena, such as El Nio, can alter the annual number of these extreme storms from year-to-year.
In addition, Climate change research shows that one result of global warming may be an increase in the odds of powerful tropical cyclones, including Category 4 and 5 storms, with a decrease in the overall number of storms.
Such trends may be becoming evident in some ocean basins, including parts of the Pacific, but in many areas sparse historical records, natural climate variability and other factors can mask global warming’s influence.