Just a reminder, our automated real time hazards tracking system is online at http://tracking.methaz.org, currently monitoring tropical cyclones (hurricanes), earthquakes, and volcanoes, as well as monitoring soil moisture conditions in key agricultural areas around the world. Currently we are tracking one tropical cyclone. There have been 14 earthquakes above magnitude 5, and 6 active volcano eruptions in the last five days.
This isn’t too unusual, as human forecasters often pick up on things that objective models do not. But sometimes, as with Neoguri, the human forecasters are seeing things that are not there :). In this case, the track guidance is fairly tightly clustered,on Luzon, but the intensity forecasts are divergent. JTWC thinks that the wind shear will decrease and the storm intensify to a strong Category 2 or minimal Category 3. If that happens, we are looking at a over $1 Billion USD in impacts to the Philippines, which would be a pretty bad event. If the HWRF intensity forecast pans out, impacts are likely to be well under $50 Million. We should have a better picture late Sunday, when we will see if the storm is starting to get organized and intensify.
Noon ET Update: The depression is now a named tropical storm called Rammasun. JTWC track didn’t change much. JMA is showing it becoming a hurricane. HWRF still shows it not gaining much strength before landfall.
A shallow 6.8 quake (Updated: 6.5) occurred just offshore from Japan, about 125km/78 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi NPS. A small tsunami, one meter or less, should have just hit the shoreline (about 4pm EDT, 5am Japan time). Damage should be light, however, the acceleration forces on the contaminated water storage tank “shantytown” was in the neighborhood of .05g, which might cause problems with the piping and connections, as well as sloshing around and causing damage that way. Probably nothing major unless something broke that shouldn’t have – which, given the history of the site, is not comforting.
The track guidance out to five days is in the northern Philippines or Taiwan with a variety of intensities and, therefore, damage potentials. The Japan Meteorological Agency Ensemble keeps the storm weak, the UK MET office model kills it entirely within 36 hours, whereas the HWRF model takes it to Category 3 on the Saffir Simpson Scale before hitting the Northern Philippines, causing over $100 Million in damage. Will have a better picture of the potential impacts in a couple of days, when it will be about 3 days out from major landfall.
Typhoon (now a transitioning tropical storm) Neoguri is moving north off the east coast of Japan, dumping a lot of rain, over 30 cm (1 foot) in places). There have been landslides and flooding, but at least the winds have died down a lot. One of the concerns is for the tsunami damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and in particular the hundreds of storage tanks of contaminated water on site. Here’s a recent satellite view of the plant:
They shouldn’t experience severe wind or waves. One question is how much of a problem the rain itself will be. In looking at the data, it doesn’t seem like that much unless something breaks that shouldn’t (which, given the track record for the site, isn’t really comforting). Let’s take a look at the “data”. I have “data” in quotes, because this comes from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and I’m honestly not sure I trust it very far. For one thing, they keep shifting sample locations, techniques, and intervals, and to top it off the English vs. Japanese sites seem to have different data sets. This is using the data file from the Japanese site, for a location in front of the “impermeable wall” (which is obviously at least somewhat permeable) near the Unit1 water intact channel. This plot is looking at one of the by-products of fission, Cesium-137. Cs-137 is a serious health concern because it is water soluble and concentrates in soft tissues. The WHO guidance for “drinking water” quality is 10 Bq/L, USA EPA limits are 7.41 Bq/L, the Japanese regulators apparently allow 90 Bq/L. Here are the numbers for the last year:
So is there a relation between rainfall and the Cs137 levels? There doesn’t seem to be much of one. The raw correlation for changes peaks on day one after the rain event, and where there was more than 5mm of rain is about 0.2. That means at best only 4 percent of the variation is explainable by rainfall alone. If all observations are included, there is essentially no correlation. Here is a plot of the change is Cs137 readings vs. rainfall:
Lots of “gotcha’s” to this quick look analysis. Note the biggest rainfall events in the last year were only in the 6-8cm range. Since the tsunami, the peak rainfall event seems to have been 9.18 cm. Neoguri could dump two or three times that amount.
I’m still looking at other measurement locations, as well as trying to make sense of their hashwork of measurements. To paraphrase Mr. Scott, analysis is easy; reading Japanese, now that’s difficult.
Although Typhoon Neoguri fell apart from a wind and coastal storm surge standpoint, it is dumping a lot of rain across the main Islands of Japan. Will be posting more on that aspect later today. Direct wind related damage is probably not bad, on the order of $100 Million, but damage from landslides and rainfall induced flooding is probably 4-5 times that amount. The Japan Times is reporting seven dead and 50 injured. Here’s the wind swath and forecast track:
Neoguri will be making landfall in a few hours. The estimated economic impacts using the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) track and my TARU and ISTANU models, are in the $200 Million range, although rainfall induced flooding is an issue, and the models that factor in riverine flooding are pushing $1 Billion in impacts.
There could be 30cm (about a foot) of rain across the southern islands. The ground is already saturated there, and landslides are flooding are inevitable.
Typhoon Neoguri has hit Okinawa as a strong Typhoon, 160kph winds (about 100mph). There are injuries and at least one death reported, but no major damage reported. On issue is that the storm is in a turn towards the northwest, and windy conditions have remained over the islands longer than would be typical for a passing storm.
Everybody seem to be in agreement that the storm will hit Kyushu as a minimal hurricane. Damages estimates are now clustered at well under $1 Billion – the 20 to one differences seen yesterday morning when JTWC was forecasting at Category 3 landfall are gone. Here is the TARU/ISTANU map, based on the Joint Typhoon Warning Center track:
Wow. The latest US Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC, responsible for the West Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Southern Hemisphere) forecast, which has been an extreme outlier for the impacts of Neoguri, changed dramatically in the 5pm ET/21Z forecast:
That’s a change from a landfalling Category 3 to a minimal hurricane – and as for damage, from a $30 Billion dollar storm to under a Billion. There has been a major disconnect between the JTWC and the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) forecast for the last couple of days; JMA saying minimal storm, JTWC saying major landfall. To quote JTWC:
THIS FORECAST HAS SEVERAL PHILOSOPHY CHANGES AS MODEL GUIDANCE, RECENT OBSERVATIONS, AND SATELLITE IMAGERY SUPPORT A CHANGE. THE PRIMARY CHANGE IS ASSOCIATED WITH THE INTENSITY FORECAST. THE PREVIOUS FORECAST INDICATED AN EYEWALL REPLACEMENT CYCLE WAS UNDERWAY, AND THIS FORECAST SHIFTS TO A STEADY WEAKENING TREND WITH NO EXPECTATION OF AN INCREASE IN THE INTENSITY OVER THE NEXT 12 TO 24HOURS. ADDITIONALLY, THE WEAKENING TREND WAS ACCELERATED AFTER TY 08W MAKES LANDFALL. THE SECOND CHANGE IS TO THE TRACK SPEED BEYOND TAU 36. BASED ON THE MODEL GUIDANCE, TRACK SPEEDS HAVE BEEN DECREASED AT THE TAU 48, 72 AND 96 TIMES.
I’ve rarely seen such a disconnect, or an about face, in such a short time, less than two days before landfall. Just reinforces the fact that we have a lot to learn about these storms . . .
The impact estimates using the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) forecast are still the most enthusiastic, at $24 Billion in this run. Areas along the Inland Sea could see storm surges of over 3 meters. Will publish a detailed surge map when the storm gets closer. Here’s the wind swath based on the JTWC forecast:
The HWRF model, by contrast, crashes the storm intensity to minimal hurricane/tropical storm status, with damage of “only” $2.7 Billion USD. The impact estimate based on the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) track, is also much lower than the JTWC track, in the $1-$2 Billion USD range.
So what about the Fukushima site? If the JTWC track and intensity forecast are correct, the site should experience mainly offshore winds, so storm surge flooding is not a problem. Sustained winds are likely to at 55mph/88kph, with gusts to 70mph/112kph possible. The biggest issue is likely to be rain. While the storm will be picking up speed as it moves north, our latest run showed about 15cm (6″) along the coast. That’s not great for a site that already has water management problems.
I’ve already seen some apocalyptic claims what Neoguri might do to Fukushima, including carrying radiation to the west coast of the US. That’s 99% “garbage”, to be polite. Sure, some radioactive particles will be swept along with the storm. But just because something is detectible doesn’t mean it’s a problem. If there is increased spillage, even some compromised containers, it will more than likely be a local problem, or a regional (eg Japan) problem at the worst, and even that is more of a chronic problem such as increases in the rate of long term cancers or birth defects. Tragic as that is, talk of a global catastrophe or acute affects is just scare mongering.