So far, October has been a calmer month for tropical cyclones. While many tropical storms have formed, they have subsided just as quickly, without many show-stopping cyclones causing extensive damage.
Paul and Rafael Bring Wind and Rain to Coastal North America
Over the past week, Hurricane Paul made landfall in Baja California, causing strong winds and a Tropical Storm Warning, but the hurricane’s power weakened significantly when it encountered land. In the Atlantic, the edges of Hurricane Rafael brushed Nova Scotia, Canada this week. Although the remains of Rafael have merged with a front, there are still dangerous ocean conditions in the area.
Prapiroon and Maria Swing Over Japan
Typhoon Prapiroon brought rain to Japan this week. The storm was notable for its long reach, and it extended over many of the islands of Japan. Tropical Storm Maria is moving away from Japan, and wind shear is moving its rainfall even further east.
Why Does Japan Experience So Many Cyclones?
Tropical cyclones, or typhoons, seem to visit Japan regularly. In fact, typhoon is a Japanese word that has made its way into popular usage as the name for tropical cyclones in the western part of the Pacific Ocean. Why does Japan have so many cyclones?
Japan experiences about ten cyclones a year. Typhoons happen in areas that have warm water, since the energy of the storm comes from air moving from this water. The warm air begins to spiral, creating an area of low atmospheric pressure in the center, accompanied by high winds, heavy rain, thunder and lightning.
Typhoons form over the ocean, and they tend to lose power when they hit land. Japan’s land mass is made up of islands, and as an island nation, it tends to experience more typhoons, while landlocked countries, or countries with a large land area away from the ocean, do not tend to experience as many typhoons.
The Coriolis force also moves typhoons around the Pacific. This force is caused by the rotation of the earth and causes tropical cyclones to bend in their path, which can send typhoons toward Japan as well.
Typhoons, Hurricanes, and Tropical Storms
Although this week’s worldwide storms have produced mostly wind and rain, as opposed to serious damage, an average of ten typhoons sweep close to or over Japan every year – though not all of these make landfall. Okinawa tends to be one of the hardest hit areas of Japan, and it sits in what is called Typhoon Alley. Although tropical cyclones bring challenging weather, these storms also refill reservoirs and irrigate crops.
NASA. NASA Hurricane Resource Page. (2012). Accessed October 19, 2012.
Japan Meteorological Agency. RSMC Tokyo Typhoon Center. (2012). Accessed October 19, 2012.