Super Typhoon Soudelor is the strongest storm on Earth this year
Super Typhoon Soudelor has rapidly intensified in the Northwest Pacific, with sustained winds of 178 miles per hour, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). As of 4 p.m. ET, the storm had estimated wind gusts to a horrific 218 miles per hour, or 190 knots.
This makes the typhoon the strongest tropical cyclone anywhere in the world so far in 2015. Remarkably, it is predicted to continue intensifying, potentially peaking at a 184-mile-per-hour monster, before slowly weakening as it approaches Taiwan and China by the end of the week. The storm is already stronger than Cyclone Pam was, which had maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour.
Since Soudelor reached the equivalent of a Category 5 intensity storm, with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour or greater, it has become the sixth such storm on Earth this year. The average number of these fierce storms is just 4.6 per year.
One factor that helps to account for the five Category 5 storms (the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Intensity Scale) is a strengthening El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is boosting ocean temperatures across the area.
Another recent study found an increase in the number of storms in the Northwest Pacific, as sea surface temperatures warm in response to global warming.
Hurricanes and typhoons (which are the same type of storm, just referred to by different names) play a role in the climate system by transporting heat from the tropics to the poles. This heat-transport function may help explain why, with sea surface temperatures at an elevated level, there have been an unusually high number of powerful typhoons.
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