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Sinlaku. Typhoon

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Typhoon Sinlaku

Although the hurricane Ike in the The Gulf of Mexico seems to be the focus of most Western media, the Pacific has given birth to quite a storm of its own. It is called Sinlaku (or Marce,  if you prefer) and, depending on how you count, is the 9th to 13th typhoon of this cycle of the pacific typhoon season. Here follow two pictures, the first a forecast from this morning and the other a satellite photo from yesterday:

Source: Typhoon News

Source: Weather Underground

For those of you who have had no opportunity to familiarise yourself with this kind of weather, a typhoon is a tropical cyclone formed west of the international dateline and north of the equator. Tropical storms east of the dateline are called hurricanes instead, so the name indicates where the storm is. The ocean outside East Asia is prolific when it comes to giving birth to cyclones; almost one third of the annual share is formed here. They are named collaboratively by a number of countries being affected by the typhoon (from what I gather, Sinlaku is a goddess worshiped on a Micronesian island).

The energies involved in forming a typhoon are derived from moist air ascending into the atmosphere, thus cooling down and giving off heat. A low pressure area is then established, into which more warm and humid air is sucked. Coriolis forces due to the rotation of the Earth make sure that there is a slight twist, leading to a counter-clockwise rotation of the whole forming storm system (on the southern hemisphere it would be clockwise). Such a system can provide very strong winds and also waves calamitous to coastal areas. Fortunately, they also lose momentum quickly when the encounter land masses such as Taiwan, and since I live on the north-west coast, we are shielded from the worst effects of most storms.

Tropical cyclones are divided into five categories according to the Saffir-Simpson scale (see Wikipedia article for more information), one through five, with five being the severest possible with winds exceeding 250 km/h. Sunlaku is currently designated as a category 3 tropical typhoon, which means sustained wind speeds of 178-209 km/h. Gusts exceeding 225 km/h have been recorded during the night. For those of you who live in Sweden to use as a reference, the hurricane Gudrun, which hit Sweden in January 2005, measured sustained wind speeds of 126 km/h and gusts of 165 km/h. It was a category 1 hurricane. Typhoons are common in Taiwan, so even though this is my first, it will definitely not be the last.

So, what does all this mean? Boredom, mostly. As long as the typhoon is looming over Taiwan, most things are closed down (including schools, business and shops). The wind is constantly howling in the alley outside my window and the rain is pouring down. Most people advise against going outdoors in these winds, because of the risk of being hit by flying objects such as signs, parts of roofs or whatever. I can hear things clattering in the street below now and then.

This is boring because it confines me to my apartment. If that was not the case, I would have done three things I have been looking forward to: meeting a new language exchange person, trying the swimming pool and going to a Moon Festival party with Pei-ying. Still, none of these setbacks are permanent, but a small delay still feels bad. And since some of you have asked, no, I am not in the least worried by the typhoon. I would be if I had been caught out hiking three days from civilisation, but I am not, so I will probably be okay.

Some useful links
News article about the typhoon
Taiwan Central Weather Bureau
Weather Underground
(with nice satellite pictures)
Article about Sinlaku
Article on tropical cyclones

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