Typhoon Lan Poised To Be Northern Hemisphere’s Next Megastorm In The Western Pacific

The tropical Atlantic Ocean has witnessed one of its worst hurricane seasons on record, but the western Pacific Ocean — historically home to some of the planet’s most powerful storms — has been strangely quiet. That could change, in a heartbeat.

Typhoon Lan has developed between the Philippines and Guam and is set to intensify explosively over the next two days. The official forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is that Lan will reach super typhoon intensity by Friday — meaning its top winds will reach at least 150 mph.

The storm, possessing peak winds of 75 mph, is over “extremely warm” sea surface temperatures around 88 degrees as well as “notably high ocean heat content,” the Joint Typhoon Warning Center said. Overall, it described conditions for intensification as “very favorable.”

Lan should easily reach Category 4 or Category 5 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, which spans from 1 to 5. Typhoons, which are the same kind of storms as hurricanes but have different names, share an identical rating system.

After peaking in strength Friday or Saturday, Lan is likely to threaten Japan early next week. Before that, it could make a close brush with Okinawa over the weekend, although the storm’s core — containing its most violent winds — should pass just to its east.

While the storm will be moving over colder waters and weakening some, it could still be a significant typhoon when it nears Japan. It could also lose its tropical characteristics and transition into a powerful nontropical storm or former typhoon by the time it arrives.

It is too soon to pinpoint Lan’s exact location five days from now because of low confidence in the long-range storm track, but the entirety of Japan should monitor the storm.

Lan has a good chance to end a month-long period (Sep. 16 to Oct. 17) in which not a single major typhoon (Category 3 or higher) has formed in the western Pacific. According to Phil Klotzbach, tropical weather expert at Colorado State University, such an absence in major storms hasn’t occurred since 1984.