Could The Pacific Northwest Be Next?
On Oct. 12, Japan was ravaged by Typhoon Hagibis.
At least 84 people were killed by way of floods, strong winds and mudslides in one of the worst storms in the country’s history, causing massive collateral damage.
Hagibis produced a tornado that hit the city of Ichihara before making landfall. Soon after, floods knocked out power and created landslides with up to 30 inches of rainfall.
Later that same day, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck just off the coast of Chiba Prefecture, adding to the already-prevalent damage caused by the typhoon.
Earlier this year, Japan was hit by Typhoon Faxai which left 100,000 homes and businesses without power. By contrast, over 270,000 homes flooded as a result of Hagibis’ heavy rainfall and overflowing riverbanks.
When asked about the progression of storms in Japan, Nicholas A. Bond — Washington state climatologist and UW’s deputy director of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean — said that Hagibis was the strongest storm to make landfall near Tokyo in the last few decades. He explained that Hagibis qualified as both a super typhoon and a Category 5 storm in terms of its peak sustained winds.
The death toll has been rising every day, with the destruction leaving thousands of homes without power and clean water. In addition, bags of soil left over from the Fukushima nuclear disaster were found drifting amongst the flooding, prompting fears of radioactive contamination.
Rescue efforts are still underway to look for missing civilians. However, Japanese citizens are not the only ones who are at risk.
One may wonder what would happen should a storm like this impact the continental U.S. While the requirements for such a typhoon to occur are highly unlikely, it’s not impossible.
While Hagibis itself will not make its way across the Pacific, Bond explained what would happen here as a result of a similar typhoon.
“The Pacific Northwest is not directly impacted by tropical cyclones in that the really warm water (required) to maintain them is so far away,” Bond said. “But on the other hand, the very strongest storms that hit (there) in early through mid-autumn almost always begin as typhoons in the Northwest Pacific Ocean.
“They undergo a transition to a mid-latitude-type storm and weaken. Then, when conditions are just right, are re-invigorated off the west coast.”
As the climate grows warmer, storms grow in power and size. As they do, more destruction will occur because society decided to turn a blind eye to what was right in front of them.
Typhoon Hagibis was only an ocean away. With proper conditions, it could have changed course en route to the west coast.
Cutting down the use of greenhouse gases could reduce ocean pollution and acidification, and increasing our knowledge base around ocean climates could provide a better understanding of how to stop these storms from forming.