News & Blogs
From Tropical Storm to Category 5, Super Typhoon Hagibis' Rapid Intensification One of Most Explosive On Record
Published: October 7, 2019
Super Typhoon Hagibis strengthening from a tropical storm to a Category 5 super typhoon in just a day is among the most explosive rapid intensifications of any tropical cyclone on record anywhere on Earth.
This latest western Pacific storm first became a tropical depression and then tropical storm Saturday.
After that, Hagibis went to town.
It exploded from a tropical storm with estimated winds of 60 mph Sunday morning (U.S. Eastern time) to a Category 5 super typhoon with winds estimated at 160 mph in just 24 hours as its center neared the northern Mariana island of Anatahan, about 200 miles north-northeast of Guam, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
(FORECAST: Hagibis a Danger For Japan This Weekend)
(Estimated winds: U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center)
Hagibis was the strongest rapid intensification of any western Pacific tropical cyclone in at least 23 years, according to Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University.
(University of Wisconsin-CIMSS)
In September 1983, Super Typhoon Forrest's winds intensified 100 mph in 24 hours, from a 75 mph Category 1 storm to 175 mph Category 5 behemoth, according NOAA's Hurricane Research Division. Its central pressure measured by reconnaissance aircraft also plunged by 100 millibars during that time. Unfortunately, routine aircraft missions into western Pacific typhoons ended in 1987, so we don't have any exact measurements of the central pressure or wind speed of Hagibis.
Only a couple of recent hurricanes appeared to top Hagibis' incredible intensification rate.
In late October 2015, Hurricane Patricia's maximum sustained winds increased an incredible 120 mph in 24 hours from 85 mph at 1 a.m. CDT on Oct. 22 to 205 mph at 1 a.m. CDT Oct. 23. Patricia became the most intense hurricane on record in the Western Hemisphere with peak winds up to 215 mph, before slamming into southwest Mexico.
Another October storm, Wilma, went from a tropical storm to Category 5 hurricane from Oct. 18-19, 2005 in the western Caribbean Sea. Its maximum winds increased 110 mph in 24 hours.
The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated Monday the eye of Hagibis was only about 5 miles in diameter, much smaller than the average 20- to 40-mile-wide eye, according to NOAA HRD.
The tiny eye tracked near or over part of Anatahan, a 13-square-mile uninhabited island in the Northern Marianas about 200 miles north-northeast of Guam. It could also be tracked by radar from Guam.
Hagibis' tiny circulation took advantage of plentiful warm ocean water, low wind shear and winds aloft that were spreading apart from its core. Tropical cyclones with small inner cores of convection are notorious for rapidly developing and weakening much faster than expected.
Hagibis became the fourth Category 5 tropical cyclone on Earth in 2019, according to Klotzbach, following Super Typhoon Wutip in February, Dorian in early September and Lorenzo in late September.
Hagibis also joined an impressive list of Atlantic hurricanes that rapidly intensified since 2017, including Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, Michael and Lorenzo. Rapid intensification in a tropical cyclone is defined as an increase in wind speed of at least 35 mph in 24 hours.
Extreme hurricane intensification rates such as what we just witnessed with Hagibis could increase in the future from climate change, according to recent research from Kerry Emanuel, an MIT hurricane scientist.
“My own work shows that rates of intensification increase more rapidly than intensity itself as the climate warms, so that rapidly intensifying storms like Michael may be expected to become more common," said Emanuel in an email to wunderground.com last October.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.