Typhoon Hunters in the Western Pacific and Why They Need to Return

The discussion about Typhoon recon like the Hurricane Hunters in the Atlantic has re-emerged yet again recently over the actual intensity of Typhoon Halong. Which was located in the North Pacific on November 5th 2019 and based on Satellite analysis may have been one of the strongest storms on earth in 2019. Yet with no reconnaissance flights to document the storm accurately this title was not given to it.

This is nothing new though, for about 30 years now storms have come and gone in the Western Pacific peaking out over the open ocean. Most notable was Typhoon Haiyan which based on Satellite analysis may have been one of the strongest storms of all time. JMA and the Joint Typhoon Warning center both called the storm a violent and super typhoon respectively with JTWC maxing out the winds at 230kph based on satellite analysis and a pressure of 895hpa from JMA.

But in 2011 Typhoon Megi which also hit the Philippines had a pressure of 885hpa. Why ten hectopascals lower you ask? Because a hurricane hunter from the USA apart of the (ITOP) program. This was a one time experimental flight to study typhoons in the western pacific. And with this one storm a pressure of 890hpa was measured.

A clear example of why recon flights in the western pacific would be useful not only for forecasting but also for science.

With that said, their used to be typhoon hunters in the western pacific. Planes that flew inside the heart of typhoons from 1944 to 1987. This was the 54th weather reconnaissance squadron based out of Guam, which by the way their 1950s insignia about as awesome as one I have ever seen.

It was the direct result of this squadron that we had the strongest storm on earth in recorded history measured in the North Western Pacific. 1978’s typhoon tip which was clocked in at a incredible 970hpa.

In fact the image belo from Digital Typhoon is a list of the of the strongest typhoons based on pressure on record since 1907. Notice a trend here? They all take place between 1944 and 1987.. outside of the previously mentioned typhoon Typhoon Megi in 2010.

So obviously the strongest storms in the last 110 years did not only take place in that time frame. And I would argue with warming oceans many of them probably took place in the last 20 years.

That is why the WMO or the world meteorological organization has been pushing for more recon in the western pacific. If at the very least for science. In fact after recon flights stopped in the late 80s there was a noticeable drop off in the accuracy of typhoon forecasting. Since then Satellite analysis has improved but still it does show how much better it would be if recon was available.

Over the past few years Taiwan has stepped up in this flying recon around storms with their DOTSTAR program much like NOAA does in the Atlantic. And Japan has been flying recon around storms in collaboration with the University of Okinawa but that is data not released to the public and is only slated to run until 2020.

Japan Recon Flight

With the large amount of US Military based in Japan and Guam it would be relatively simple to re-start the 54th Recon Squadron, but also I’m surprised China has not stepped up with a simialer program given their recent military expansion in to the South China Sea and across the oceans of the Western Pacific.


Unrelated note, I continue to job search in Japan. It’s home for me which is one reason why I continue to put these updates out, if you know of any weather positions open in the country please let me know!

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Lastly for more information on me please check https://www.robertspeta.com

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