Most intense cyclone of the year on the planet advances through the Pacific

Super typhoon Hinnamnor impressed in satellite images of the last few hours | CIMSS

The most intense cyclone on the planet so far in 2022 is currently advancing in the Pacific Ocean towards the Asian continent. This is Super Typhoon Hinnamnor, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic and East Pacific, currently moving from West to East towards islands that belong to Japan.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds were estimated at 257 km/h by the Joint Pacific Typhoon Forecast Center (JTWC), which gives the tropical cyclone the classification of a rare super typhoon. Gusts of up to 300 km/h are likely being registered within the eyewall, the ring of destructive winds around the calm center of the storm. The storm is 500 kilometers south-southeast of the island of Kyushu, Japan.

Hinnamnor’s central pressure dropped to 920 hPa, making it the strongest tropical system so far in 2022. Previously, the strongest tropical system of the year was intense tropical cyclone Batsirai, which had a central pressure of 934 hPa. Batsirai crossed the Southwest Indian Ocean in February before ravaging Madagascar with destructive winds and killing at least 21 people.

How is a typhoon different from a hurricane in the Atlantic or the East Pacific? Anything. It is the nomenclature that changes. In the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic, tropical cyclones with sustained winds above 120 km/h are called hurricanes, while in the Western Pacific, with the exception of Australia, they are called typhoons.

In the Atlantic and East Pacific, hurricanes are classified on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which typhoons do not. For a typhoon to be classified as a super typhoon in the West Pacific, the storm’s sustained winds must be at least 241 km/h.

Where is the cyclone going?

As Hinnamnor moves west, most of Japan is under warning or alert, but the greatest risk is to the Daito Islands, southeast of Okinawa, where about 2,100 residents live. Two other small populated islands in the storm’s path, Minamidaitojima and Kitadaitojima, stand about 60 meters above sea level at their highest point and are made of limestone that formed over ancient coral reefs.

Cyclone Hinnamnor has a very well defined eye with stadium effect | JMA

It’s not yet clear how close the storm will come to Japan’s most densely inhabited islands. In the last few hours, the Japanese satellite Himawari-8 captured impressive images of the super typhoon. The storm was a very compact “annular cyclone”, characterized by an intense convection edge around the eye that had a stadium effect. Ring cyclones have a narrower radius of maximum winds and are more symmetrical, which helps them sustain their ferocity.

Hinnamnor advances to the West, will pass through islands in the south of Japan and may head for South Korea | JTWC

Hinnamnor will likely maintain its strength for another day or two before the possibility of some modest weakening. Regardless, it’s already the strongest storm to hit Earth this year and could be very troublesome wherever it happens. It is projected to still be a Category 3 storm five days from now.

Numerical models indicate that Hinnamnor will pass very close to the coast of China, around Shanghai, and then advance north towards South Korea, which suffered disastrous flooding just three weeks ago. The European model projects a trajectory over southern Japan with hurricane-force winds and abundant rainfall.

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