Devastating Typhoon Hagibis

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Typhoon Hagibis was the worst storm to hit Japan for half a century, when it made landfall in mid-October 2019.

Devastating Typhoon Hagibis
Date & Time
08 October 2019 00:16 UTC–12 October 12:00 UTC, 13 October
Sentinel-3, Himawari-8, NOAA-20
True Colour RGB, Day Night Band, Airmass RGB, Infrared, Total Suspended Matter product

By Jochen Kerkmann and Hayley Evers-King (EUMETSAT), Ben Loveday (PML), William Straka III (CIMSS) and Sancha Lancaster (Pactum)

Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan on 12 October with wind speeds of 22 5km/h (140 mph). At least 70 people were reported to have died and more than least 200 people were injured or missing.

More than 1 m (3ft) of rain fell in the town of Hakone, the highest total ever recorded in Japan over 48 hours. The areas that had flooding were around Nagano, around Tokyo, in the Fukushima Prefecture, and in the Miyagi Prefecture (see the VIIRS/AHI flood map and full analysis). As a result of the typhoon several Rugby World Cup matches had to be cancelled, along with other sporting events, such as the practice session for the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix. In addition, the flooding was so severe that the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) requested the International Charter Space and Major Disasters to be activated. The Charter allows Charter members, such as EUMETSAT and NOAA, to provide satellite imagery for disaster monitoring purposes.

The 19th named storm and the ninth typhoon of the 2019 Pacific typhoon season, Hagibis developed on 2 October, from a tropical wave located around 200 miles north of the Marshall Islands.

The system reached tropical storm status late on 5 October as it travelled westward, and was officially named Hagibis by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). Soon afterwards Hagibis underwent a period of rapid intensification and on 7 October became a super typhoon, developing a pinhole eye and top wind speeds of 260 km/h (160 mph), clipping the uninhabited island of Anatahan in the Mariana Archipelago, as well as impacting the island of Saipan. Figure 1 (top right, click to expand) shows the storm at Super Typhoon intensity, as seen by the OLCI instrument on Sentinel-3.

The moonlit imagery from the NOAA-20 Day Night Band (Figure 2) showed what you’d expect of an intense tropical cyclone: a well-defined eye along with copious amounts of tropospheric gravity waves, as well as some intense convection in the feeder bands. One other feature of the NOAA-20 pass is that the eye was not completely in shadow, with some mesovorticies within the eye, again a feature of an intense system. This can easily be seen in the zoomed in imagery of the eye (Figure 2, right).

NOAA-20 image comparison
NOAA-20 Day Night Band, 9 October 16:26 UTC Zoomed in NOAA-20 Day Night Band, 9 October 16:26 UTC
Figure 2: Comparison of two NOAA-20 Day Night Band images from the same time, with the right hand image being zoomed in, highlighting the very clear eye of the storm.

After maintaining the peak intensity for about three days, Hagibis began to weaken, but was still a strong Category-2 equivalent storm when it made landfall along the Izu Peninsula.

Figures 3 and 4 are the Himawari-8 Airmass images of the typhoon a few hours before and a few hours after it made landfall. Figure 3, in particular, shows how large and widespread the system was. Figure 4 clearly shows the asymmetric structure of Hagibis as it made landfall, with the high level clouds in the west and north quadrants, with very few high clouds south and east of the storm. This was due to the influence of the mountains on the northern and western part of Honshu, the main island of Japan, slowly weakening the storm as it took away moisture from the centre of circulation.

Figure 3
Figure 3: Himawari-8 Airmass RGB, 11 October 12:00 UTC
Figure 4
Figure 4: Himawari-8 Airmass RGB, 12 October 12:00 UTC

The animation (Figure 5) shows Hagibis making landfall — the cyclone centre passed only just west of Tokyo. The impressive upper-level cirrus outflow on the western and northern sides is nicely shown. Most of the precipitation fell along the track of Hagibis and in the mountains west the track. The rains in the mountains caused flash flooding, including the loss of ten high speed trains of Hokuriku Shinkansen Line in the city of Nagano, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Figure 5: Himawari-8 infrared animation, 12 October 00:00 UTC–10:30 UTC

After leaving a trail of destruction, Hagibis became extratropical the following day, with the remnants eventually influencing the Bering Sea a couple of days later.

The results of flooding caused by Hagibis can be seen in the impacts on nearshore turbidity in the ocean south of Tokyo.

In the True Colour RGB from 9 October (Figure 6, left), clear skies allowed for the OLCI instrument aboard Sentinel-3 to capture an image showing blue ocean around Japan, prior to the arrival of the cyclone. The second True Colour RGB, from 13 October (Figure 6, right), shows the same area after the cyclone. In this image the impact of the flooding caused by rainfall during the storms passage is clear as plumes of brown, sediment-laden run off from the coast into the ocean.

Sentinel-3 image comparison
Sentinel-3 OLCI enhanced True Colour RGB, 9 Oct Sentinel-3 OLCI enhanced True Colour RGB, 13 Oct
Figure 6: A comparison of Sentinel-3 OLCI enhanced True Colour RGB images before and after the cyclone made landfall.

The images in Figure 7 show estimates of the concentrations of total suspended matter derived from the same data used to create the images in Figure 6. The darker brown colour indicates higher derived estimates of total suspended matter, after the cyclone caused devastating flooding on land.

Before and after comparison
Sentinel-3 OLCI Total Suspended Matter product, 9 October Sentinel-3 OLCI Total Suspended Matter product, 13 October
Figure 7: A comparison of Sentinel-3 OLCI Total Suspended Matter product
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