Typhoon Prediction

It’s been a long, hot summer, and the warming ocean’s evaporation has begun to build tropical depressions one after the other. Typhoon season is upon us.

I’ve been studying meteorology lately, trying to learn how to follow weather maps issued by the JMA (Japan Meteorological Association). Out at sea these maps are the best source of weather info. Offshore there’s no internet without a satellite phone (very expensive), and VHF weather reports only reach out to 30 miles. Even 100s or 1000s of miles offshore though, weather maps can be received via a shortwave radio with SSB (single side band) capability and a laptop or smartphone. The radio receives a fax audio signal, which is read by the decoder software and displayed as a graphical map.

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It takes practice to learn to read these maps, so for the past week or so I’ve been checking the updates regularly on the JMA website. I watched as a TD (tropical depression) formed East of the Philippines, slowly moved northwest at 8 knots, and 3 days ago strengthened into a TS (tropical storm). On Friday it became a named tropical storm, 1609 Mindelle. Yesterday it was upgraded to a STS (severe tropical storm) or typhoon, and it’s right on track to hit Tokyo tomorrow. Gusts of up to 80 knots are forecast!

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This is the first full fledged typhoon to hit us since I launched Watari, so I felt it best to go out to Katsuyama today and check the lines, secure all her rigging, and close all seacocks. It’s a good thing I did, as the entire fishing fleet moved into the inner Harbour next to Watari’s berth, and I had to move her out from the seawall a few more feet.

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It’s interesting how they prepare for typhoons here. All the boats are moved into the inner harbour one by one in a predetermined sequence, and heavy lines strung from onshore across the harbour to the stern of each boat. The water is crisscrossed with a spiderweb of lines, so when done no boats can move. No one goes in or out till the typhoon has passed.

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There’s almost zero surge in this inner harbour, but I still worry about the wind knocking her around into the other boats. I wish I had larger fenders. Hope she’ll be all right!

One positive thing about typhoons are the amazing cloud formations and sunsets just before they hit! Kiwako took these:


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