A Massive Super Typhoon Is Heading for Southwest Japan

Satellite image of Super Typhoon Neoguri taken on July 7, 2014.

Japan is bracing for what could be the strongest typhoon to ever strike the country during the month of July, as Super Typhoon Neoguri buffets the Okinawa Islands on Monday. The storm is currently packing maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, making it the equivalent of a strong Category Four hurricane, and it is forecast to intensify slightly during the next 24 hours.
The storm is on course to make landfall on July 9 local time in southwest Japan, on the island of Kyushu near the city of Nagasaki, before moving rapidly northeastward. This track would take it across the main island of Honshu, bringing heavy rain and strong winds to large cities such as Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagano, Tokyo and Fukushima. The worst winds, highest waves and the heaviest rains, however, are expected to be confined to the Kyushu and Shikoku islands.

Pacific Satellite

Infrared satellite image of the Pacific Ocean, showing the large and dangerous Super Typhoon Neoguri in the center-left portion of the image.
According to Satoshi Ebihara, the head of the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA), the storm could be "one of the largest typhoons to hit Japan in July," a report in the Wall Street Journal said.
Near-Term Track Forecast

The Japanese Meteorological Agency track forecast for Super Typhoon Neoguri, showing the direct hit on the Miyako Islands before the storm moves toward Kyushu and Honshu.
The storm, known as a Super Typhoon due to its intensity, is already starting to be felt in Okinawa, which is home to 1.3 million people, including a major U.S. military base that is home to the largest combat wing in the Air Force. According to Kadena Air Force Base's Facebook page, officials have taken steps to secure the area in anticipation of hurricane force winds. The base will be in the most intense region of the storm, which is the right front quadrant, but the track forecast has consistently shown that the storm will most likely pass just far enough to the southwest of the island to avoid a disastrous direct hit.
Kadena's weather forecasting unit is anticipating that the base will see maximum sustained winds of about 65 miles per hour, with higher gusts, at the height of the storm.
The Miyako Islands, which are located southwest of Okinawa, look to be worse off. 
Japan has issued its highest weather alert for these islands, anticipating major damage.
Japan has issued its highest weather alert for these islands, anticipating major damage. Specifically, the JMA issued its first-ever "emergency weather warning" for Miyakojima Chiho, which is expected to be close enough to the storm to experience its eyewall, where the worst winds and highest waves will be located. Waves of 45 to 50 feet in height may hit the Miyako Islands, with similar wave heights possible in Okinawa, depending on the storm's exact path.

The emergency weather warning criteria was established last year, and indicates that the JMA anticipates the damage will far exceed those from most extreme weather events. The JMA website states:
"JMA issues various warnings to alert people to possible catastrophes caused by extraordinary natural phenomena such as heavy rain, earthquakes, tsunami and storm surges. In addition to such warnings, advisories and other bulletins, JMA started issuing emergency warnings to alert people to the significant likelihood of catastrophes if phenomena are expected to be of a scale that will far exceed the warning criteria.
Emergency warnings are intended for extraordinary phenomena such as the major tsunami caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, by which 18,000 people were killed or left missing; the 1959 storm surge in Ise Bay caused by Typhoon Vera, by which more than 5,000 people were killed or left missing; and the 2011 heavy rain caused by Typhoon Talas, by which around 100 people were killed or left missing.
The issuance of an emergency warning for an area indicates a level of exceptional risk of a magnitude observed only once every few decades. Residents should pay attention to their surroundings and relevant information such as municipal evacuation advisories and orders, and should take all steps necessary to protect life."
Neoguri is the Pacific's eighth typhoon so far this season. As it curves northwestward and then to the north-northeast over the next few days, the storm will begin moving over cooler ocean waters and also encounter stronger upper level winds, both of which are factors that suggest it will weaken slowly but steadily after its encounter with Okinawa and the Miyako Islands.
Sea surface temperatures

Ocean temperatures in the Northwest Pacific ocean, showing that waters are cooler near Japan.
The World Meteorological Organization names tropical cyclones, which is a broad term that describes hurricane and typhoons, in accordance with common names in the regions where they take place, in order to make sure the names will be recognizable to those in the storms' path. In this case, Neoguri is the Korean word for raccoon.

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