Super typhoon Halong among strongest storms ever seen on Earth

Caroline FloydMeteorologist

Halong is one of strongest storms on record in any ocean basin on Earth since the Dvorak technique entered use in the 1970s

Add another notable name to the list of 2019's tropical cyclones. Super Typhoon Halong -- the seventh super typhoon this year -- is now one of the strongest tropical systems observed since satellite coverage began in the 1970s, making it one of Earth's strongest storms on record.

The intensity of an strong Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, by Tuesday afternoon Halong had estimated max winds of nearly 290 km/h with gusts higher than 350 km/h. That makes it the third Category 5-equivalent in the Pacific this year, following in the footsteps of October's deadly Hagibis and February's Wutip.

While the United States deploys Hurricane Hunter aircraft to investigate storms in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific, they haven't regularly made flights into western Pacific typhoons since the late 1980s. Countries like Japan have, at times, undertaken similar projects, but the vast size of the Pacific presents some logistical problems for taking measurements within storms.

To judge the strength of storms like Halong and Hagibis, forecasters rely on satellite data, using a process called the Advanced Dvorak Technique (ADT). The ADT uses visible and infrared satellite images, comparing them with cloud patterns on record. The technique has some limitations but generally does an excellent job at a 'best guess' for storm strength, including wind speed and central pressure.

By using Tuesday afternoon's images, forecasters arrived at an ADT of 7.9, putting it into the top 10 of strongest storms on record in any ocean basin on Earth since the Dvorak technique entered use in the 1970s. By comparison, Hurricane Dorian had a peak score of 6.4. Hagibis topped out around 7.0.

Fortunately, this forecast track for this monster storm keeps it well away from land, curving back into the central Pacific as it weakens. That makes Halong more likely to impact our weather here at home than the weather in Asia as we go into next week.

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