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Typhoon Soudelor

August 4, 2015

By Paul Homewood 




You may have heard about the latest typhoon.


Super Typhoon Soudelor developed into the world’s most powerful storm of the year on Tuesday as it took aim at Japan, Taiwan and China after trashing the Northern Marianas.


Super Typhoon Soudelor seen from Japan’s Himawari-8 Satellite on Monday (JMA/RAMMB/CIRA)


The storm was roaring across the western Pacific Ocean packing wind gusts up to 220 miles per hour, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center which rated it a maximum category five.

It was stronger than Cyclone Pam, the previous strongest storm of 2015, which killed at least 15 people when it slammed into Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, five months ago.

No deaths have been attributed to Soudelor, but it left a trail of destruction across the Northern Marianas where acting governor Ralph Torres declared a "state of major disaster and significant emergency" after it struck late on Sunday.

Nearly 400 people were packed in emergency shelters after Soudelor ripped roofs off houses and left residents without power, water and wastewater services.

"I’ve seen multiple primary power poles down; I’ve seen cars flipped over the road; I’ve seen lots of torn roofs," John Hirsh, executive director of the American Red Cross in Saipan, told Pacific Daily News.

Damage was "extensive" across the island and there had been significant damage to public infrastructure, he said.

Many roads were impassable in Saipan – the Northern Marianas main island, the seat of government and hub of the local economy – while in the harbour at least three vessels were ripped from their moorings.

In Hagatna, on neighbouring Guam, the weather service warned boats to stay away from exposed reefs and beaches because of "hazardous surf" and "life threatening" rip currents.

It said Soudelor would continue to intensify as it swept across open water for the next 24 hours before starting to weaken.

It was expected to be down to category four or three by the time it hit southern Japan, Taiwan and China from late Thursday.

Tropical typhoons and cyclones typically form in the western Pacific between May and October with Pam the most destructive so far this year.

In addition to the fatalities in Vanuatu, about 75,000 people needed emergency shelter after their homes were destroyed and almost all food crops were wiped out.

Typhoon Maysak slammed into the Federated States of Micronesia in late March killing at least four people and leaving more than 5,000 in need of food, shelter and other emergency assistance.



First, a bit of clarification. Although we often get “super” bandied about, such as the meaningless and made up “Superstorm Sandy”, Super Typhoon is an accepted phrase. However, there are several definitions!

While Japan, China and the Philippines all use different scales, and also different length of sustained wind speeds, I will work with the JTWC methodology, which classifies any typhoon with 1-minute sustained wind speeds of 130kt+ as “Super”. This equates to 150 mph, and puts it at the top end of a Cat 4 hurricane.


As far as Soudelor is concerned, the top wind speed so far has been 155kt, or 178 mph. Although wind gusts of 220 mph have been reported, these are not regarded as particularly meaningful by meteorological experts. For comparison, however, Typhoon Tip, the largest and most intense typhoon on record, reached sustained speeds of 190 mph in 1979. Tip fortunately lost much of its strength before making landfall in Japan, but it has been said that had the typhoon struck very populous, southern Japan at or near peak intensity, mass destruction would have likely resulted.


On average there are between four and five super typhoons each year in the Western Pacific. With five already this year, 2015 will likely end up above average. However, it has a long way to go to beat the eleven super typhoons recorded in 1965, and again in 1997.




Soudelor has already declined from its maximum speeds, and is forecast to weaken to a Cat 3 or 4 by the time it hits land on Thursday.

  1. A C Osborn permalink
    August 4, 2015 5:21 pm

    Paul, when I saw that article in the DT this morning I looked at Typhoon Soudelor on NuSchool’s Earth on high magnification.
    The top wind speed being registered this morning was around 147Kph (Note not Mph).
    I posted this comment over at Energy matters this morning
    “The MSM is yet again over hyping the latest Typhoon in the Pacific, this one is called Super Typhoon Soudelor and being hyped as a class 5.
    However if you look at it on Nuschool’s Earth it is showing about 145Kph, not 145-200Mph.
    So yet again we appear to have a problem with Satellite imagary where we see Kph but the authorities quote Mph.
    This has happened with every single Typhoon over the last 2 years where the actual recorded Ground Speeds do not match those at the top of the Typhoon as measured by Satellites.”

    When these Typhoons (and Hurricanes) finally make landfall their ground windspeeds are no where those claimed by the Weather Organisations.

  2. Dave Ward permalink
    August 4, 2015 7:55 pm

    Whilst the Earth.Nullschool site is very useful, there is no guarantee of accuracy. The “About” page says this:

    “A visualization of global weather conditions forecast by supercomputers updated every three hours”

    Click on the “Earth” box at the bottom LHD corner to bring up the menu and settings – the link for the “About” page is at the bottom. There are several parameters you can change, including the forecast winds at various altitudes. As an example, my sister and her husband rang me yesterday from their yacht, moored up at Bradwell marina in Essex. They were “enjoying” a blustery 23kt wind, at the same time the Earth site showed about the same numbers, but in km/hr…

  3. Andy DC permalink
    August 5, 2015 7:10 pm

    If you listen to the media hype and propaganda from the climate change “industry”, you get the clear impression that these typhoons are “fossil fuel powered” and that there is something drastically wrong with our climate.

    You have done a great job of illustrating that these recent storms, from a historical perspective, are nothing out of the ordinary.

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