Noru became a super typhoon in 6 hours. Scientists say powerful storms are becoming harder to forecast
Residents on the small resort island of Polillo are accustomed to severe weather – their island sits in the northeastern Philippines, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean where storms typically gather strength and turn into typhoons.
But even they were stunned by the intensity of Typhoon Noru, known locally as Typhoon Karding, that turned from a typhoon into a super typhoon in just six hours before hitting the region earlier this week.
“We’re used to typhoons because we’re located where storms usually land,” said Armiel Azas Azul, 36, who owns the Sugod Beach and Food Park on the island, a bistro under palm trees where guests drink coconut juice in tiny thatched huts.
“But everything is very unpredictable,” he said. “And (Noru) came very fast.”
The Philippines sees an average of 20 tropical storms each year, and while Noru didn’t inflict as much damage or loss of life as other typhoons in recent years, it stood out because it gained strength so quickly.
Experts say rapidly developing typhoons are set to become much more common as the climate crisis fuels extreme weather events, and at the same time it will become harder to predict which storms will intensify and where they will track.
“The challenge is accurately forecasting the intensity and how fast the categories may change, for example from just a low-pressure area intensifying into a tropical cyclone,” said Lourdes Tibig, a meteorologist and climatologist with the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.
The same happened in the United States last week when Hurricane Ian turned from a Category 1 storm into a powerful Category 4 hurricane before making landfall along the southwestern coast of Florida on Wednesday.
Such rapid intensification, as it’s known in meteorological terms, creates challenges for residents, authorities and local emergency workers, including those in the Philippines, who increasingly have no choice but to prepare for the worst.
From storm to super typhoon
When Azul received warning that Typhoon Noru was approaching the Philippines last Saturday, he began his usual preparations of setting up his generator and tying down loose items.
At that stage, Noru was predicted to make landfall on Sunday as the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane.
But as the storm grew closer, it strengthened into a super typhoon, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, making landfall Sunday evening with ferocious winds that lifted waves and lashed properties on the shoreline.