Typhoon Pablo regains strength near Luzon

Posted at 12/07/12 10:30 PM

A satellite image of Typhoon Pablo just off Luzon as of 11:30 UTC ( 7:30 p.m. Philippine time) on Friday. Image from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

Typhoon may threaten north Luzon, UK Met Office warns

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha), which devastated Mindanao and left hundreds of people dead or missing, has regained strength off Luzon, the UK Met Office warned Friday.

The UK's national weather service, which has been tracking the typhoon along with other foreign agencies, said the typhoon may threaten the Philippines again, particularly northern Luzon.

The UK Met Office's showed images and an animation on Twitter of the typhoon rapidly swirling and changing direction.

"Typhoon Bopha was the first tropical cyclone worldwide to make landfall with winds of category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale since Typhoon Megi in 2010," it said.

It added that Pablo "was the most intense typhoon to strike the island of Mindanao on record."

In its latest advisory Friday, the US Navy and Air Force Joint Typhoon Watch Center (JTWC) echoed the UK Met Office's new assessment on Pablo.

The typhoon weakened when it hit Mindanao, the Visayas and Palawan but regained quickly regained strength when it reached the open waters of the West Philippine Sea and started feeding on warm moisture coming from the east.

"Animated multispectral satellite imagery shows a recent rapid increase in organization with the development of an 11 (nautical mile) eye," the JTWC said. 

Based on one-minute average readings, the typhoon is now packing maximum sustained winds of 148 kilometers per hour, with gusts of up to 185kph, according to the Hawaii-based weather task force. "The current intensity has been increased to 80 knots based upon a rapid rise in congruent Dvorak estimates from all agencies now reporting 77 knots."

"Intensities will increase for the next 24 hours as [Pablo] maintains its warm moisture feed and continues to have a favorable upper-level environment," the JTWC said.

It expects the typhoon to slowly move north-northeast off Luzon for the next 36 hours. Pablo may then move southwest, making another turn and picking up speed as it moves along the northeast monsoon.

Philippine weather bureay PAGASA, in its 11 p.m. bulletin on the typhoon Friday, also said Pablo has intensified as it moves north-northeastward.

It last spotted the typhoon at 390 km west of Iba, Zambales.

PAGASA, PAGASA, which uses methods and equipment different from those employed by the JTWC and the UK Met Office, measured the typhoon's maximum sustained winds at 130 kph near the center and its gustiness at up to 160 kph.

The weather bureau expects Pablo to be outside the Philippine area of responsibility by Sunday night.

No storm warning signals are raised in the country.


Pablo's rainfall

According to latest data from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Typhoon Pablo dumped more than 240 millimeters of rain near the coast of eastern Mindanao where it first made landfall.

"Rainfall totals of over 100mm were normal over a large area of eastern Mindanao," it added. 

NASA used its Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite to estimate and compile rainfall data its orbit in space.

To compare Pablo's rainfall rate, tropical storm Sendong that killed more than 1,200 people in Mindanao last year dumped 300 to over 400 mm of rainfall along Mindanao's northwest coast as it made landfall.

Sendong's rainfall totals reached between 200 to over 250 mm along Mindanao's east coast, NASA said.

Tropical storm Ondoy, meanwhile, dumped up to 475 mm of rain in parts of Central Luzon and Metro Manila in September 2009, according to NASA TRMM data.

Indications of a 'full catastrophe'

NASA's TRMM satellite monitored Pablo, which it dubbed as a super typhoon just before it made landfall in Mindanao Tuesday.

"This close to landfall, the TRMM satellite saw what could only be described as the 'full catastrophe' in terms of the eyewall indicators of a potentially destructive tropical cyclone," said Owen Kelley, a member the TRMM team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

The satellite's radar saw the typhoon's 2 'hot towers' both reaching 15.5 km high into the atmosphere. "TRMM studies have suggested that even a single hot tower exceeding a 14.5 km (9 mile) height may be sufficient to indicate intensification is ongoing," NASA said.

The radar also saw a double eyewall, 2 concentric rings of intensity storm cells exceeding a 12 km altitude.

NASA said the small inner radius of the typhoon's inner eyewall also indicated Pablo's "fearsome potential." "A compact eyewall means that the typhoon's eye contains only a relatively small volume of air that would need to be heated in order to lower the storm's ocean-surface central pressure, which in turn, would make is easier to increase the speed of the circling surface winds that determine the storm's 'headline' intensity," it explained.

The TRMM radar also saw 2 lightning flashes in the eyewall "hot towers." "Lightning flashes are relatively rare in eyewalls, even in the eyewalls of intensifying tropical cyclones," NASA said.

"For a reason other than the details revealed by TRMM, super-typhoon Bopha is impressive. Conventional wisdom has it that tropical cyclones can only form at least 5 or 8 degrees of latitude away from the equator," it said. "Tropical Cyclone Bopha has just broken this rule, with the TRMM satellite radar catching Bopha in the act of rapidly intensifying from category 3 to category 5 when approximately 6 degrees north of the equator."

NASA said it designated Pablo as a "supertyphoon" because it formed in the West Pacific and because it reached major cyclone status on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

The US Joint Typhoon Watch Center's projected track of Typhoon Pablo for the next few days. JTWC image