Cyclone Pam raged in the South Pacific island nation, Vanuatu. The category 5 cyclone has been compared to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that devastated Central Philippines back in November 2013.

BBC News Asia reported that up to 90% of infrastructure were drastically shattered in the Pacific Island’s state capital Port Vila. The situation in the area was described into one word, “apocalyptic”, Red Cross Spokesperson said.

courtesy of: NBC.News.com
courtesy of: NBC.News.com

With winds of up to 165 mph, Pam swerved off from its forecast track damaging populated areas on Friday night. Like what happened during the nightmare of Yolanda, communities were wiped out.

For better comparison, let us go into the details of Pam’s and Yolanda’s (Haiyan) similarities.

courtesy: NOAA/NASA
courtesy: NOAA/NASA
courtesy: Joint Typhoon Warning Center
courtesy: Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Point #1: Winds
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) has recorded windspeeds 190 miles per hour for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) during its landfall. Cyclone Pam was reported to have moved at 165 mph as it battered Central and Southern Vanuatu.

Point #2: Pressure
According to JTWC, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) has a reported central pressure of 895 millibars upon making its landfall on November 7, 2013. Meanwhile, Cyclone Pam is at 899 millibars as of 11 PM on March 13 as reported by the Fiji Meteorological Service.

Specifics shows slight differences between Cyclone Pam and Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). However, the disparity were of no value considering the annihilation they both brought.

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.

Image from http://earth.nullschool.net/
Image from http://earth.nullschool.net/

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.

Image from PAGASA Weather Bulletin No.5 Typhoon Ompong
Image from PAGASA Weather Bulletin No.7 Typhoon Ompong

Possible Scenarios

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.

NASA Astronaut G. Reid Wiseman captured the amazing photo of Typhoon #OmpongPH (international name #Vongfong) from the International Space Station.
NASA Astronaut G. Reid Wiseman captured the amazing photo of Typhoon #OmpongPH (international name #Vongfong) from the International Space Station.



Typhoon Ompong with international name Vongfong is tagged as the strongest typhoon in the world for 2014.

According to Meteorologist Jim Andrews of AccuWeather.com, “Vongfong is the strongest tropical cyclone we’ve had all year anywhere on Earth,” categorized as a super typhoon by the US Naval Observatory’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). Meanwhile the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) described its intensity from very strong to violent, with maximum winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gustiness of 250 kilometers per hour, moving towards Japan at 9 kilometers per hour.

The reason for its decrease in speed is caused by the intensity of rains it brings, and the presence of the High Pressure Area (HPA) in Japan. Still, the typhoon’s destructive winds and inundating rains are expected to hit Mainland Japan.

PH safe from Ompong

But the good news is PAGASA assured that the super typhoon will not directly affect any part of the country, and is expected to be outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) by Saturday morning.

However, it may intensify winds from the northwest and southwest, creating wind convergence over Mindanao, where the Inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is located, which has been bringing rains over that area. Converging winds from different paths automatically create clouds that often lead to thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening. This weather system may bring moderate to occasionally heavy rains.

Meanwhile, Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) will also experience light to moderate rains brought by northeast monsoon or the amihan.

Transition Period

During this period, the transition of winds from southwest to northeast is still happening. This is the reason why PAGASA has yet to officially declare the amihan season, associated with dry and cold air, because of the lingering presence of the weak southwest monsoon or habagat, associated with humid and warm air.

MTSAT Image from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
MTSAT Image from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
MTSAT Image from Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA)
MTSAT Image from Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA)
MTSAT Image from Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)
MTSAT Image from Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)

Sources: PAGASA | JTWC | JMA | NOAA | AccuWeather.com