2014 East Pacific: It’s 17 and counting!

Projected track for tropical storm RACHEL as of 25 September 2014 (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory based on NOAA data)
Projected track for tropical storm RACHEL as of 25 September 2014 (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory based on NOAA data)

Tropical storm RACHEL, the seventeenth-named tropical cyclone of the 2014 East Pacific hurricane season is now active off the coast of Mexico, moving NW and expected to make a gradual turn to the north and eventually the northeast toward, yet again, Baja California.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 25 September 2014 showing tropical storm RACHEL off the Pacific coast of central Mexico
Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 25 September 2014 showing tropical storm RACHEL off the Pacific coast of central Mexico

The 2014 East Pacific hurricane season is already the 3rd busiest of record in the 158 years that we have been keeping track of cyclonic activity in this basin. It is possible that the 2014 season may continue to break records, as there continue to be considerable disturbed weather activity in the region from central/southern Mexico to the Gulf of Panama off the coast of Central America

Projected track for tropical storm KAMMURI as of 25 September 2014 (Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory based on NOAA data)
Projected track for tropical storm KAMMURI as of 25 September 2014 (Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory based on NOAA data)

Ten thousand kilometers to the west of Tropical Storm RACHEL’s  current location, in the extreme Northwest Pacific between the northern Philippines and Taiwan, Tropical Storm KAMMURI the seventeenth-named storm of 2014 in that basin is moving generally NNW and strengthening.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image of 25 September 2014 over the northwest Pacific Ocean showinh tropical storm KAMMURI
Color-enhanced infrared satellite image of 25 September 2014 over the northwest Pacific Ocean showing tropical storm KAMMURI

Including one named tropical cyclone in the Central Pacific, so far in 2014 there have been 35 named storms in the northern Pacific.

It is the Philippines…again in 2014!

Based on the historical record the far northwestern Pacific ocean is by far the most active cyclogenesis basin on Earth. Including the Philippines Sea, the South China Sea, the Yellow Sea, and the balance of the northwestern Pacific region consistently generates the largest number of tropical cyclones on an annual basis.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 18 September 2014 showing tropical storm FUNG-WONG over the northern Philippines
Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 18 September 2014 showing tropical storm FUNG-WONG over the northern Philippines

Smack in the middle of this region sits the archipelago of the Philippines, making it the most hurricane-vulnerable country in the world. Just last week the northern Philippines were hit by typhoon Kalmaegi, and no sooner had affected communities assessed their damage and initiated recovery efforts than a new storm, Fung-Wong began battering much of the same region. Even more worrisome is the large cell of disturbed weather that is currently following in Fung-Wong footsteps aiming in the same general direction of the Philippines.

Projected track for tropical storm Fung-Wong (by the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory based on NOAA data)
Projected track for tropical storm Fung-Wong (by the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory based on NOAA data)

Many will remember super-typhoon Haiyan, named Yolanda by Philippine authorities, which hit dead-on in the middle of the Philippines Islands in November 2013 as the strongest tropical cyclone of record anywhere, causing upward of 6,200 death and more than US$ 3.0 billion in physical damage.

In the past ten years alone, since 2004, the Philippines have sustained at least nine major typhoon hits, which have left more than 15,000 deaths in their wake, and billion of U.S. dollars in damage  In addition this nations had seen many times that number in terms of impacts by weaker storms.  On the average the Philippines are hit by tropical cyclones 6 – 9 times per year, with most of those hits taking place in the northern regions of the country.

A characteristic of tropical cyclones generated in this region, and of those affecting the Philippines, is that they generally are rather “wet storms” meaning that they generated vast amounts of rain. As a result flooding, from flash floods in mountainous terrain, river overtopping their banks, and from storm surge, is a major damaging component and contributor to the death toll.