Kong-rey and Walaka Storm Systems Simultaneously Strike the Pacific Ocean
October 5, 2018
Surprising Simultaneous Strikes
A pair of Category 5 tropical cyclones struck the Pacific Ocean this week. Kong-rey, a typhoon in the western Pacific, rapidly strengthened on Monday, reaching super typhoon strength with sustained winds of 160 mph by Monday evening. Walaka, a hurricane in the central Pacific, reached the same strength of 160 mph at the same time. This was the first time the globe has had two simultaneous category 5 storms since July of 2005, when Super Typhoon Haitang and Hurricane Emily roamed the Philippine and Caribbean Seas.
Ocean Heat Content
Conditions across the central and western Pacific Ocean have been primed for tropical activity all season, with a potential oncoming El Nino leading to above average sea surface temperatures in the region. In addition to the surface waters being warm, the depth of the warm water has been sufficient for rapid intensification to occur in some cyclones, which was the case for both Kong-rey and Walaka this week.
Kong-rey intensified from a middling tropical storm to a massive super typhoon in short order, reaching its 160 mph peak intensity from a 40 mph storm in just over 48 hours. The rapid intensification cycle for Walaka was even more impressive, with the cyclone strengthening from a65 mph tropical storm to a 160 mph Category 5 hurricane in just 24 hours.
Weakening of the Storms
Thankfully, neither Kong-rey or Walaka made landfall at peak intensity. In fact, Kong-rey displayed one of the most impressure weakening trends in recent memory as it passed across the cool waters in the wake of a previous hurricane in the region. Water temperatures much lower than normal in the path of Kong-rey caused it to weaken from its status as one of the strongest storms of 2018 to a weak typhoon in a span of 48 hours. The storm is currently making landfall in South Korea as a tropical storm before continuing to weaken across the Sea of Japan. Hurricane Walaka moved well west of Hawaii, having no significant impacts to any landmass.
What is Next?
Next week, attention in the tropics will return to the Gulf of Mexico, when disturbed weather across the western Caribbean Sea lifts northward. At the moment details are hazy, but a wary eye will be needed for portions of the central and eastern Gulf over the next 7 days.