Updated Sep 10, 2021 - Science

Category 5 Super Typhoon Chanthu heads for direct hit on Taiwan

Satellite image of a Category 5 Super Typhoon Chanthu.
Category 5 Super Typhoon Chanthu seen in an infrared satellite image Friday, Sept. 10. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

Super Typhoon Chanthu, which has maintained an extreme intensity for days, is slated to make a direct hit on Taiwan beginning Saturday, local time.

Why it matters: The storm, which currently features maximum sustained winds of 180 mph, making it a fearsome Category 5, could cause significant damage as it moves across the highly populated island from south to north.

The big picture: Super Typhoon Chanthu gained global attention from meteorologists when it put on a staggering display of rapid intensification during midweek, with its maximum sustained winds jumping by 130 mph in just two days.

  • According to NOAA meteorologist Sam Lillo, only five previous storms on record have jumped from a depression to a Category 5-equivalent in such a short time period.
  • Rapid intensification is becoming more common due to human-caused global warming from burning fossil fuels, since it is causing ocean and air temperatures to warm. The air can hold about 7% more moisture for every 1-degree Celsius increase in temperature, which serves as energy for such storms.

What's next: The storm, currently churning north of the Philippines, is forecast to continue turning north-northwest on Friday, and gradually weaken to a Category 4-equivalent before making landfall in southern Taiwan on Sept. 11.

  • Damage from extreme winds, torrential rains and storm surge flooding are all in the cards for the island. The storm's center is forecast to move near or over Taipei as a Category 2 storm.
  • While Taiwan is accustomed to typhoons, this one is taking an unusual south-to-north path that maximizes its time spent over the region, and could maximize its damage potential.
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