As we begin the countdown to ending another year, we take a look at the weather events that made 2014 memorable, weather-wise.
Situation: Tropical Cyclones
This year, a total of 19 tropical cyclones entered the PAR (Philippine Area of Responsibility).
The first was Agaton, which made its entry last January 17. Though it was identified as a Tropical Depression, the lowest category for cyclones, Agaton caused severe flooding in Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao and the CARAGA region.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), 244,344 families were affected in more than a thousand villages in 16 provinces. There were at least 1,147 houses destroyed and more than one thousand partially damaged. All in all, damages in infrastructure and agriculture were estimated at more than 500 million pesos.
From the 19 tropical cyclones that entered PAR, 10 were under the Typhoon category with wind speeds of 118 to 220 kilometers per hour.
From these 10 typhoons, Ompong and Ruby could be categorized as Super Typhoons.
Entering PAR on October 7 and making its exit on October 11, Ompong, with international name Vongfong, was classified by the U.S Joint Typhoon Warning Center as a Category 5 Super Typhoon.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gustiness of 250 kilometers per hour, Ompong—thankfully— did not hit the country as it re-curved towards Mainland Japan.
But Typhoon Ruby was totally different story. With the fitting “Hagupit” as its international name, Ruby entered the country’s boundary on December 3 and made its way out on December 11. With maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gustiness of 250 kilometers per hour, Ompong made five landfalls.
First landfall: Dolores, Eastern Samar
Second landfall: Cataingan, Masbate
Third landfall: Torrijos, Masbate
Fourth landfall: Laiya, Batangas
Fifth landfall: Lubang, Island
The NDRRMC filed a total of more than four million residents affected in Regions III, IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, CARAGA and the National Capital Region. 18 deaths were recorded while injured persons reached up to 916. Ruby damaged mostly infrastructure and agriculture—the total cost amounting to more than 5 billion peos.
Due to its devastating impact, a state of calamity was declared in San Pablo City in Laguna, Batangas, Albay, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, Naga City, Juaban and Gubat in Sorsogon, Sorsogon City, Aklan; Maayon, Dumalag and Panay in Capiz; and Northern and Eastern Samar.
Because fatal storm surges brought by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 made the public more aware of this weather phenomenon, Ruby kept Filipinos on their toes.
Coincidentally, while Ruby was inside PAR, an astronomical event happened. This was the Full Moon phase, which caused higher tidal variations due to our satellite’s strong gravitational pull.
Weather forecaster Chris Perez explained that higher waves were expected due to the combination of storm surge and the effects of the Full Moon.
Watch the Interview: Storm Tide
PAGASA officially announced the start of the Hot and Dry season last March 26. Easterlies, the prevailing wind system during this time, brought hot and humid weather to the country.
Aside from the easterlies, this season’s indicators included the presence of the High Pressure Area (HPA), which brings good weather conditions, the termination of the northeast monsoon, and the increase in temperatures.
Upon the onset of the Hot and Dry season, the country undeniably experienced a number of scorching days that were especially evident in the Luzon area.
In March, Tuguegarao recorded a maximum temperature of 37.9 degrees Celsius. But its days got hotter in April and May, which brought in temperatures of 39 degrees and 39.8 degrees consecutively.
Meanwhile, the Science Garden in Quezon City documented a high of 36.7 degrees Celsius in May.
The Unpredictable El Niño
Within this year, the El Niño phenomenon became a hot topic during the hot season as PAGASA continued to monitor the ups and down of sea surface temperature.
From April 21 to 28, PAGASA recorded a substantial increase in the sea surface temperature anomaly from 0.2 to 0.4 degree Celsius. It was then forecast that El Niño might reach its peak in the last quarter of 2014.
But with the recent report from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, only weak El Nino conditions were observed in November and December.
Here comes the rain!
The rainy season in the country officially started in June 10. Before declaring the onset of this season, PAGASA first made sure that the following requirements were met:
• Daily thunderstorm activity
• Prevailing southwest monsoon
• 5-day period with a total rainfall of 25 millimeters or more in three consecutive days.
Come on, Amihan!
The Amihan season was officially declared by PAGASA on October 16. The northeast monsoon or amihan is the prevailing wind system, bringing light rains to its affected areas. It also has cold and dry characteristics, resulting to colder mornings.
At this time of the year, a gradual decrease in temperatures was observed in different parts of the country.
Winter season in the northern hemisphere officially started on December 22 this year. This also signaled the start of experiencing longer nights and shorter days in the Philippines.
During the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere leans the farthest distance from the Sun, causing longer nights and lower temperatures for those in the northern hemisphere. The opposite happens in the southern hemisphere where people experience the longest day.
Related article: Winter has arrived
Although a lot has happened this year, there’s more to come this 2015. So brace yourself for those inevitable storms, but remember to keep to the sunny side of the street. With all the changes the weather brings, one thing stays the same: the Filipino brand of resilience that knows no bounds.
Typhoon Vongfong, locally named Ompong, has been classified under Category 5: Super Typhoon status by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC).
Since Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, Ompong is the strongest tropical cyclone to approach Asia.
In comparison, Typhoon Yolanda, which remains the strongest tropical cyclone that recently battered the country in recent history (2013), reached maximum sustained winds of 235 kilometers per hour while Ompong’s peak is at 215 kilometers per hour.
In the Philippines, no Public Storm Warning Signal has been raised as the typhoon has no direct effect on the country, aside from enhancing the Northeasterly wind flow, bringing rough to very rough sea conditions in the northern and eastern seaboards of Luzon and Visayas.
Even while maintaining its impressive maximum sustained winds for days and going nowhere near the Philippine landmass after spending hours over the sea, Ompong is not intensifying because according to PAGASA Weather Forecaster Aldczar Aurelio, cold and dry air from the higher latitudes are beginning to join in the cyclone’s circulation. Dry air is not conducive to cyclones as weather disturbances feed off warm and moist air to intensify.
Furthermore, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) states that tropical cyclones are strongest when in the tropics. As they move towards the subtropical region and the temperate zone, they start to gradually weaken.
Why Ompong is slow-moving
Aurelio says there are two High Pressure Areas (HPAs) on each side of the typhoon, its ridge hampering its northward movement. When the extension of the anti-cyclone recedes, Ompong will continue its sail towards Japan.
At 13 kilometers per hour moving northward, Bagyong ‘Ompong’ is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Saturday.
Currently, over open water, Ompong fails to have a major impact on the Philippines.
Over Taiwan, its southern portions, which are included in the Philippine Area of Responsibility, might experience strong winds and cloudy skies with light to moderate rains, Aurelio says.
However, Japan is another matter. While recovering from the recent cyclone Phanphone that slammed rains on Central Japan, Super Typhoon Vongfong threatens to make landfall in Japan in the following days.
According to JTWC, based on the current forecast track of Vongfong, the typhoon is moving near or over mainland Japan, which include Tokyo and other major cities. However, the typhoon may weaken considerably as it moves closer and begins to affect the country this weekend until early next week.
The strong winds of Vongfong might also batter Ryukyu Island, including Okinawa this weekend. Come Monday, effects will reach Kyushu, Shikoku and later in Honshu, including Tokyo and Osaka.
Typhoon Ompong is the 15th tropical cyclone this year, and the second this October.
The name Vongfong was contributed by Macau, China, which means wasp or putakti in Tagalog.
It has been used three times in tropical storm category in 2002 and 2008, and in typhoon category this year.
Sources: JMA, JTWC, PAGASA