Korean Peninsula Braces for Second Typhoon in Less Than a Week

A buoy became that untethered during heavy swell brought by Typhoon Maysak overnight on a beach in Busan on September 3, 2020.

A buoy became that untethered during heavy swell brought by Typhoon Maysak overnight on a beach in Busan on September 3, 2020.
Photo: Ed Jones (Getty Images)

Typhoon Maysak slammed South Korea early on Thursday and then made a second landfall in North Korea, killing at least two people, decimating homes, causing a power outage for a quarter million people and knocking over trees and telephone poles. Residents are still recovering, but they’ll have to stop and brace for another powerful storm hurtling toward the region.

Typhoon Haishen, has strengthened into the first super typhoon of the year with maximum sustained wind gusts as fast as 155 mph (250 kph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. That’s just shy of being s Category 5 storm. By Friday night, it’s expected to strengthen even further as churns in the Pacific and plows into Japan’s Ryukyu Islands on Saturday into Sunday. Haishen is expected to bring nearly unprecedented levels of rainfall, as well as rough waves and high tides. Its winds are forecast to weaken as it moves north and clips the Japanese island of Kyushu, though the storm will still likely be the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane. It should reach South Korea by late Sunday or early Monday. Strong winds, heavy rains, and storm surge flooding are all likely in store.

Right now, the metropolis of Busan is square in the middle of the forecast track, though that can change in the coming days. But it’s expected that Haishen will ravage some of the same areas that Typhoon Maysak hit earlier this week, posing severe complications to recovery plans.

The storm is expected to maintain intensity as it traverses the Korean Peninsula, eventually striking North Korea. If it reaches the impoverished nation, Haishen will mark the fifth typhoon to hit it this season, which marks a new annual record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As if that’s not notable enough, if Haishen makes landfall in South Korea as a minimum Category 2 storm, it will only be the seventh such storm to do so in recorded history.

This has been the year of back-to-back weather catastrophes. Just last week, the U.S. Gulf Coast took a glancing blow from Tropical Storm Marco (which had previously been a hurricane) before being slammed by the much more dangerous Hurricane Laura. And currently, California is bracing for its second major heat wave in a three-week period.

While some of that is serendipity, climate change has also made background conditions that can feed into dangerous weather. In the North Pacific, where Haishen is spinning, research has shown that hotter oceans are contributing to more rapidly intensifying storms prior to landfall.

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