IN-DEPTH: Super Typhoon Sanba Discussion & Look At Maximum Potential Intensity!

Written by on September 14, 2012 in Asia with 0 Comments

Thankfully, Sanba spinning away in the Western Pacific has weakened ever so slightly but remains an extremely danagerous 150-mph Super Typhoon (Category 4 eqiv), down from 175 mph earlier where gusts were estimated at around 207 mph. The intensity of this storm has been measured in comparison to Hurricanes Rita and Katrina within exploded over the Central Gulf of Mexico back in 2005 where they too packed 175 mph winds and supported extreme 200 mph gusts at their peak. The power of Sanba has been considered in between that of Rita and Katrina.

According to JMA, the current central pressure is around 900hpa and this storm is the most powerful in the Western Pacific basin since in 37 years, rivalling that of Irma back in 1971 which remained at Sea, supporting 180-mph winds at it’s peak and held the record for it’s pressure dropping from 981 to 884 mb within a 24-hour period.

Check out this stunning high resolution image courtesy of CIMSS of Sanba as the sun came up over the powerhouse 175 mph storm.

Image courtesy of CIMSS (MTSAT-2 0.7 µm)

Sanba Tracked Over Region Supporting Highest ‘Heat Potential’ On Earth

The Philippine Sea contains the largest area with the greatest level of maximum heat content not only in the Pacific basin but on earth and it is that which allowed Sanba to explode into a monster 175-mph Super Typhoon. Like we saw with Wilma, Rita and Katrina in 2005 and with Dean and Felix in 2007 in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. In order for Cat 5 or ‘Super Typhoon’ status to be achieved, these systems have to encounter the rare ‘perfect environment’ containing NO SHEAR and MAXIMUM HEAT CONTENT in waters beneath in order to obtain a near perfect heat engine.

The Pacific is much larger than the Atlantic and so it contains a much larger region of high heat content and the great potential energy contained within the ocean. The Philippine Sea has 90F skin temperatures across a broad area with highly warm water to great depth below. Every 20-30 years a near perfect heat engine forms and this will allow us to observe a storm which will get near to or approach it’s maximum potential intensity. Usually these superstorms of the tropics will get to perhaps 80-85% but according to Professor Kerry Emmenuel of MIT, a tropical cyclone cannot reach 100% maximum potential intensity. The most powerful tropical cyclones on earth have generated maximum sustained winds of near 200 mph but the strongest is typically 175-180 mph, that was observed with Rita, Katrina, Dean, Felix and of course Wilma. Camille in 1969 supported max sustained winds of around 190 mph as as it crossed the Mississippi coast with pressure at 909 mb.

Super Typhoon Tip in 1979 has been considered the longstanding strongest typhoon of all with estuimated winds of 190 mph and a record pressure of 898 mb. Tip, eventually struck Honshu, Japan, however Typhoon Gay in 1992 and Angela in 1995 have been questioned as strongest, supporting winds between 195-200 mph sustained.

It’s very rare to get a well organised tropical cyclone to cross into a near perfect region of the atmosphere and over an area supporting maximum heat content within the ocean below but that has happened with the storms named above but thankfully it doesn’t happen often.

Sanba Take Aim At Okinawa This Weekend, Could Be A Major Hitter Like Bolaven Was Back Last Month!

The track of Sanba appears to take more of a NW track over the next 24 hours due to high pressure positioned to the north which will bend the track more to the left of north. This means Sanba is on course to hit Okinawa to the south of Japan this weekend and is likely to be either a strong 2, if not 3 storm which could cause damage and a lot of disruption. This would be the second powerful typhoon to strike Okinawa in a matter of just a few weeks. The last storm, Bolaven struck the island back on August 27 packing distructive 161 mph gusts and spanned an incredible 1250 miles across, some 20 times larger than Okinawa’s length. Typhoon Bolaven was the strongest hit on the island since all the way back to 1956 when Naha struck.

Thankfully, like other Typhoon-prone islands in this region of the Pacific, Okinawa’s building code is such that violent storms are factored in and buildings are constructed with solid concrete, so the people here are well prepared.

Here’s the forecast track from the JTWC.

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