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Super Typhoon Goni explodes into 2020’s strongest storm on Earth, and is slamming into Philippines

The storm in the western Pacific saw its peak winds reach 195 mph early Sunday morning local time, comparable to 2013′s Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Super Typhoon Goni landfall on Catanduanes Island early Sunday morning local time in the Philippines. (NOAA)
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This article was last updated on Saturday. For the latest on Super Typhoon Goni and its impacts on the Philippines through Sunday, see: Super Typhoon Goni, world’s most powerful storm in four years, smashes into the Philippines

In just a day’s time, Super Typhoon Goni transformed from an ordinary Pacific cyclone into the year’s most intense storm on the planet. The typhoon is now crashing into the Philippines, first striking Catanduanes Island, home to over 260,000 people.

Goni’s explosive intensification occurred over the warm waters in the western Pacific Ocean. Its peak winds catapulted from just shy of 100 mph to nearly 180 mph between Thursday and Friday night local time. By early Sunday morning, its winds had increased to 195 mph.

Typhoon Goni bears down on the Philippines with 180 mph winds

Its maximum sustained winds of 195 mph are the strongest in the western Pacific since Super Typhoon Meranti in 2016, which also had peak winds this strong. As it slams into Catanduanes Island early Sunday, east of the Philippines most populous island of Luzon, it may match the intensity of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the catastrophic storm that devastated Tacloban City in the Philippines in 2013.

Once its peak winds surpassed 150 mph, it qualified as a “super typhoon,” which is equivalent to a strong Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic. But it grew even more intense, comparable to a strong Category 5.

Typhoon Goni, 2020's strongest typhoon, hit the Philippines' main island on Nov. 1, an initial government report showed. (Video: Reuters)

Goni’s leap in strength occurred over waters around 86 to 88 degrees (30 to 31 Celsius), about 2 to 3 degrees (1 to 1.5 Celsius) warmer than normal. Such rapid intensification is made more likely by human-caused climate change, which has raised ocean temperatures globally.

On weather satellite, Goni displayed a sharply defined eye and near-perfect symmetry, characteristic of the most intense tropical cyclones.

Goni’s radical transformation, from a disheveled tropical storm into a powerhouse super typhoon, is displayed in the animation below:

Extreme or even catastrophic damage is likely when Goni strikes Catanduanes Island.

“Within the next 12 hours, violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall associated with the region of the eyewall and inner rainbands of the typhoon will be experienced,” wrote forecasters with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) early Sunday morning. “This a particularly dangerous situation.”

Goni is forecast to weaken passing over Catanduanes Island and the province of Camarines Sur before make landfall in central Luzon, east of Manila, Sunday afternoon

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicts that Goni will come ashore in Luzon with peak winds over 130 mph, which is equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane.

PAGASA has issued tropical cyclone warnings for much of central Luzon and the islands to its east. They are predicting “very destructive typhoon-force winds” and a storm surge of 6½ to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) or even higher that “may result in life-threatening and damaging coastal inundation.” They are also calling for “heavy to intense rains” capable of producing flooding and landslides.

Conditions on Luzon are forecast to rapidly deteriorate Sunday morning and improve late Sunday night into Monday. The storm is forecast to pass close Manila, a city of 1.78 million people, unleashing very heavy rain and the potential for damaging winds.

The Inquirer, an English-language newspaper in the Philippines, reported that tens of thousands of people are expected to shelter in government evacuation centers and that the country faced a “double whammy” from the storm and the novel coronavirus. Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, encouraged wearing face masks and social distancing and said evacuation sites should not be filled to capacity, the newspaper reported.

According to Reuters, the Philippines has the second most covid-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, only trailing Indonesia.

Goni is predicted to weaken as it passes over Luzon before emerging over the South China Sea. Additional weakening is forecast as it heads west toward Vietnam, as a result of hostile high-altitude winds and dry air. Landfall in Vietnam as a tropical storm is forecast for around next Wednesday.

The super typhoon is threatening the Philippines just days after Typhoon Molave struck the country, killing at least 22 people, mostly just south of Manila according to Reuters. Goni is following a similar path.

While the Philippines have been impacted by several tropical cyclones in 2020, overall storm activity in the western Pacific has been below normal. Storms have generated less than half the energy of an average season, according to Colorado State University. This is the opposite of the tropical Atlantic, which has seen record-setting storm activity.

While the Atlantic has raged with storminess, the Pacific has been strangely quiet