Track of typhoons impact West Michigan weather

(Courtesy: CIMSS)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Since the 1950s, forecasters have noticed that the track of typhoons can be linked to temperature trends here in the United States. When a typhoon moves like Hagupit — which this weekend swept over the Philippines — we can see warmer weather in the eastern part of the U.S.

(Courtesy: NASA)

It all has to do with if the storm “curves” or not. Here is a look at several typhoon tracks. Notice how some “curve” and some barrel straight ahead (almost directly east to west).

(Courtesy: UNISYS)

Here’s the relationship:

  • Typhoon curves north of the Philippines?
    • Blast of cold felt in the Eastern US
  • Typhoon does not curve?
    • More likely to warm up in the U.S. Eastern U.S. (but not always)

This is Typhoon Hagupit’s track into the Philippines, where it made landfall this weekend. Notice it didn’t take a turn. It basically moved northwest its entire lifetime.

track hag
(Courtesy: CIMSS)

Now look at our temperature trend this week. Our average high temperature this time of year is about 36°. We could see 50° by the weekend.


So why do we see this happen? Well if we boil it all down, the typhoon changes our storm track (a.k.a. The jetstream). A typhoon is basically a giant blob of energy. If that energy curves north it can push the jetstream near Alaska north, and for us  in the eastern U.S. to dip south, flooding us with colder air.

jet 1

If the typhoon stays it’s course and doesn’t curve, the mass of energy keeps the jetstream more southerly around Alaska. This in turn pushes the jetstream north around us, letting warmer air creep in from the south.

jet 2

Like all relationships in the weather world, no relationship is perfect. Although the “curving typhoon” idea is a good nugget to use when we are making our extended forecasts, it isn’t the only thing that controls our weather, and it doesn’t always win.

In fact, it is just one piece of an incredibly complex puzzle that governs our weather. And just think, there could be dozens of relationships like this that are still waiting to be discovered across the globe.



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