Taiwan braced for Typhoon Soudelor
Taiwan is braced for the arrival of Typhoon Soudelor, which is expected to slam into the island nation on Friday night, local time.
Whilst the storm has weakened somewhat in the past 24 hours, it was at one point a Super Typhoon, equivalent to a category five hurricane.
This places it as the strongest typhoon that has been experienced in the 2015 season so far – one which has been more active than normal, due to warmer ocean waters caused by El Nino.
Warmer ocean waters provide the fuel for these storms to thrive, so it comes as no surprise that Soudelor managed to become such a powerful storm.
Dangerous weather expected
Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau has already issued warnings for those at sea, with warnings for land expected as the Typhoon Soudelor moves closer.
The latest prediction from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center takes the storm east to west across the central swathe of the country.
Thankfully, the steep, rugged mountains of 2000 metres and above in the east of Taiwan will help to slow the storm’s winds down before it impacts on the more populated west.
This is because the mountains stretch high enough into the atmosphere to provide frictional forces to lessen the wind – much like if you were pedalling a bike on tarmac, then suddenly rode into thick, tall grass.
As a result, the winds on the eastern side of the country will be a steady 130mph, with gusts to 160mph, falling to a steady 85mph on the western side of the country, with gusts to around 100mph.
So whilst there will be some wind damage and disruption, it won’t be as bad as it could have been had the mountains not been in the way to provide some shelter.
Torrential rain and flooding main concerns
The main concerns will be torrential rain, flash flooding and landslides. This is because the storm will hold a lot of very warm, moisture laden air, which when forced over the mountains will produce copious amounts of rain.
In fact, some of the weather computer models are suggesting that 50-70cm of rain will fall in the worst affected areas.
This huge volume of rain will destabilise the ground on steep mountain slopes, bringing a risk of landslides.
Also, the intensity, persistence and amount of rain falling the space of a day will have the potential to bring flash flooding, as rivers flowing down from the mountains become overwhelmed.
Eastern China next target
After crossing Taiwan, Typhoon Soudelor will then emerge as a weaker storm over the sea to the west of the country, before heading towards eastern China.
Latest predictions have the storm making landfall in Fujian province early on Sunday, threatening more heavy rain, flooding and damaging gusts of wind.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on the progress of Typhoon Soudelor over the next few days and posting updates on Twitter – @liamdutton
Images: NOAA, JMA and JTWC