Updated May 26, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Super Typhoon Mawar, 2023's most powerful storm, barrels toward Philippines

A satellite image of Super Typhoon Mawar on Friday morning

A satellite image of Super Typhoon Mawar on Friday morning local Guam time. Photo: CIRA

Super typhoon Mawar strengthened into the equivalent of a powerful Category 5 hurricane as it pulled away from the Mariana Islands after pummeling Guam earlier this week.

State of play: That's according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which recorded Mawar's maximum sustained winds at 185 mph on Friday morning local Guam time. President Biden approved a disaster declaration late Thursday for Guam — which Mawar slammed with heavy rains and powerful winds, knocking out power and downing trees across the U.S. territory.

A screenshot of an NWS Guam tweet saying: " Mawar continues west as a 180 mph super typhoon, moving AWAY from the Marianas."
Photo: National Weather Service Guam/Twitter
  • The action makes federal funding available to the island and eligible local government agencies and certain nonprofits on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance in the territory, per a White House statement.

Threat level: A flood watch was in effect for Guam, which has a population of 168,000 and is home to three U.S. military bases, "due to flood concerns of already-soggy soils & clogged drains," according to a statement from the National Weather Service's office on the island.

  • Flash flooding caused by excessive rainfall was possible Friday night local time, the agency said.
  • A high surf warning was in effect for Guam and the Northern Marianas through Saturday, with the risk of rip currents, per the NWS.
  • There were "dangerously large," breaking waves of 10 to 15 feet and westerly swells from Mawar could produce life-threatening rip currents, warned the agency, which urged people to stay out of the water.

The big picture: Mawar's powerful winds make it the world's strongest storm of 2023 so far.

  • It's also more powerful than any storm that formed last year and one of the strongest-ever typhoons to have formed in the month of May.

Between the lines: Climate change is enabling typhoons and hurricanes to unleash more rainfall, per Axios' climate and energy reporter Andrew Freedman.

What's next: Forecasters warn Mawar may intensify further as it tracks across the Western Pacific Ocean before gradually moving toward the Philippines and Taiwan, which it's expected to come close to by Friday night or Saturday morning.

  • It may recurve north, missing both these areas but affecting parts of Japan, by early next week. However, forecast uncertainty is high that far in advance.

Go deeper: The unequal burden of extreme weather and climate disasters

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of President Biden's approval of the disaster declaration for Guam, further information of the storm's effect on the island and more context.

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