Forecaster Blog: Twin Typhoons to Slam Japan And The Philippines With Epic Surf

18 Aug 2015 0

Ben Macartney

Chief Surf Forecaster

While Japan isn’t exactly high on the list of surf-travel destinations for Australian surfers, we all know the place pumps – particularly during Typhoon season, which happens to be right now.

Likewise the Philippines are well known for perfect surf and although it’s undoubtedly far more frequented by intrepid Australian surfers, most of us would only need a couple of fingers to list the number of well-known breaks nestled within this diverse archipelago.

So, if you’re familiar with either of these destinations or if you’ve always dreamed of venturing into the unknown, then the coming week looking like a really, really good time to go.

As depicted above week two intense Typhoons (Goni and Atsani) developed over the northwest Pacific Ocean this week and they are pretty much locked into trajectories highly conducive to pumping surf – not only across Japan and the Philippines, but also throughout the northwest Pacific basin.

This infrared satellite image depicts Typhoon Atsani and it's forecast trajectory over the next few days. Source: CIMSS.

This infrared satellite image depicts Typhoon Atsani and it's forecast trajectory over the next few days. Source: CIMSS.

Typhoon Goni
The first system, Typhoon Goni, is currently positioned about 840 nautical miles ENE of Manila and is forecast to track slowly WNW over the next couple of days before intensifying as it verges on the Luzon Strait, bounded by Taiwan in the north and the Philippines in the south. 

Remember, in the northern hemisphere low pressure systems rotate anticlockwise, so the gale to hurricane force winds generated by the system also rotate counterclockwise around the eye of the system – and it follows that resulting wave-field radiating from the system are similarly skewed.

Apart from this, a typhoon is just another name for a tropical cyclone and as such Typhoon Goni is generating super-strong core wind-speeds ranging from 35 to 130 knots. However, as is typical of tropical storms the wind-field is confined to a relatively small body of water, roughly bounded within 100 nautical miles of the typhoon’s eye. The knock on effect is widely varying swell-impacts depending on proximity and exposure to the core-winds. At one end of the scale Typhoon Goni is set to generate a huge run-up in NE storm-swell as it approaches the far northern Philippines on Thursday, producing a spike in wave energy topping out in the 30ft range early on Friday.

In contrast, the more southern Philippine islands will benefit from a far more accessible round of ENE groundswell that will transition to the NE and NNE as the system tracks further west. This will produce several days of clean 2 to 4ft surf across the region as Typhoon Goni draws in strong offshore SW winds along it’s lower flank.

This image shows Typhoon Goni's forecast track, taking it towards the northern Philippines before curving northward along Taiwan's east coast later this week. Source: JTWC.

This image shows Typhoon Goni's forecast track, taking it towards the northern Philippines before curving northward along Taiwan's east coast later this week. Source: JTWC.

This chart depicts significant wave height, showing the phenomenal seas and swell generated by Typhoon Goni (left) as it approaches the northern Philippines on Thursday. Another, larger swell looms for the region as Typhoon Atsani approaches later in the week. Source: FNMOC.

This chart depicts significant wave height, showing the phenomenal seas and swell generated by Typhoon Goni (left) as it approaches the northern Philippines on Thursday. Another, larger swell looms for the region as Typhoon Atsani approaches later in the week. Source: FNMOC.

This GFS model run depicts forecast surface winds for Saturday, 23 August, depicting the compact wind-fields wrapping counter-clockwise around Typhoon Goni (left) and Typhoon Atsani (right).

This GFS model run depicts forecast surface winds for Saturday, 23 August, depicting the compact wind-fields wrapping counter-clockwise around Typhoon Goni (left) and Typhoon Atsani (right).

Typhoon Atsani
There now appears little doubt Japan’s exposed Pacific coastline will feel the wrath of the second and larger Typhoon Atsani later this week. The system is forecast to continue intensifying as it tracks steadily WNW on Wednesday and Thursday before curving northwest, taking it on a trajectory that should place it roughly 450 nautical miles southeast of Japan’s capital, Tokyo on Monday.

According to latest GFS model runs, the good news (both for surfers and the Japanese population alike) is that Typhoon Atsani is then projected to stall offshore early next week before gradually drifting away to the east as it weakens during Tuesday/ Wednesday next week. This would spare Japan from coastal destruction and inundation while simultaneously delivering days of pumping SE groundswell to the Japanese coastline – and unlike the Philippines, this is looking like the real-deal: a deepwater swell peaking in the 15ft range at peak intervals of 16 to 17 seconds across Japan’s south-east facing coasts this weekend – with light and variable winds producing epic conditions.

So if you’ve got the time and the budget and a good working knowledge of the Japanese language, now’s a good time to be jumping on a plane bound for Japan.

Typhoon Atsani is forecast to generate peak wind-speeds of 170 knots as it curves northwest towards Japan over the next 48 hours. Source: JTWC.

Typhoon Atsani is forecast to generate peak wind-speeds of 170 knots as it curves northwest towards Japan over the next 48 hours. Source: JTWC.

This forecast swell map for Sunday 23 August depicts the huge signficant wave heights generated by Typhoon Atsani as it stalls southeast of Japan on Sunday. The island nation benefits from several  days of powerful SE and ESE groundswell this weekend. Source: FNMOC.

This forecast swell map for Sunday 23 August depicts the huge signficant wave heights generated by Typhoon Atsani as it stalls southeast of Japan on Sunday. The island nation benefits from several days of powerful SE and ESE groundswell this weekend. Source: FNMOC.


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