When Super Typhoon Vongfong grew to a category 5 storm on October 7, it became the fourth storm of 2014 to reach the top wind-scale classification. It also became the largest storm anywhere on Earth so far in 2014. The name Vongfong means wasp in Cantonese.
By October 9, the typhoon had weakened somewhat. But the storm also turned north and appeared to be on track to sting Japan by the weekend. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image of Vongfong at 1:25 p.m. Japan time (0425 Universal Time) on October 9. By 0600 Universal Time that day, the storm churned the Philippine Sea with maximum sustained winds of 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour.
Large, well-defined features in the eye and eyewall are common in storms of this magnitude, noted research meteorologist Scott Braun of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Meteorologist and blogger Jeff Masters reported on October 9 that the storm had developed two concentric eye walls. That means the inner eye wall would likely collapse and be replaced by the outer eye wall—a process expected to cause further weakening. Still, forecasts called for a daunting storm to approach Okinawa and southwest Japan by October 11.
The storm follows less than one week after Super Typhoon Phanfone charged ashore in Japan's Shizuoka Prefecture. The copious wind and rain spurred sediment plumes that were visible from space.
Research shows that between 1971 and 2000, there was an annual average of 26.7 typhoons that developed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea. Of those, an average of 10.8 reached within 300 kilometers of Japan and 2.6 made landfall each year.
Typhoon season in the Western and Central Pacific begins June 1 and runs through November.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.