The typhoon season in the western North Pacific usually peaks in September and October. However, late season typhoons are not rare and this year Typhoon Hagupit has formed in December and poses a threat to the Philippines.
Hagupit developed in the open waters of the western Pacific becoming a tropical storm on 1 December. As it strengthened into a typhoon, it passed south of the Yap Islands and north of the island of Palau. In the last day, it has intensified rapidly and Typhoon Hagupit now has winds averaged over one minute of near 180 mph.
With the effects of Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013 still fresh in the memory there is obvious concern of a possible repeat as Hagupit moves towards the Philippines. However, unlike for Haiyan, there is much more uncertainty as to the precise track and intensity of the typhoon in the coming few days.
One possible scenario is that Hagupit continues moving westwards and makes landfall on Saturday as a strong typhoon in a similar location to Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Another scenario suggests that Hagupit will slow and make a slight turn north, but still makes landfall over the Central Philippines on Sunday. Yet another scenario predicts a marked turn northwards with the eye of the typhoon staying offshore altogether.
At this stage, the latter scenario seems the least likely outcome. Thus landfall somewhere over the Central Philippines seems likely to happen at some stage during the weekend. Below is the projected track of the storm from the Japan Meteorological Agency.
As ever with tropical cyclones, there are multiple hazards associated with landfall. With winds expected to remain well above 100 mph for the time being, there is the potential for significant structural damage if Hagupit makes landfall. Storm surge was a major hazard associated with Typhoon Haiyan and depending on the precise track of the storm could be again with Typhoon Hagupit. This would threaten coastal communities with flooding to the depth of several metres. One additional hazard which needs to be considered is heavy rain. If Hagupit reduces its speed of motion it could take a long time to cross the Philippines which would increase the threat from heavy rain, flooding and landslides.
In the last couple of years the Met Office has been working with the Philippines weather service PAGASA to help improve its weather forecasting capabilities with a particular emphasis on tropical cyclones, which are a regular threat to the country. In the last few days, our meteorologists have been providing advice on the latest predictions of the track and intensity and likely impacts of Typhoon Hagupit to counterparts in PAGASA.
Official warnings of west Pacific tropical storms are produced by the Japan Meteorological Agency. The Met Office routinely supplies predictions of cyclone tracks from its global forecast model to regional meteorological centres worldwide, which are used along with guidance from other models in the production of forecasts and guidance.
Met Office StormTracker provides a mapped picture of tropical cyclones around the globe with access to track history and six-day forecast tracks for current tropical cyclones from the Met Office global forecast model and latest observed cloud cover and sea surface temperature. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.