Super Typhoon Sanba (Bagyong Karen) attained its peak Category 5 intensity and continues to remain powerful cyclone as it moves across the Philippine Sea. Sanba was last located approximately 840km south southeast of Okinawa or about 840km east of Basco, Batanes. Maximum sustained winds are at 280kph with gusts of up to 330kph. Sanba is currently moving northward at 15kph.
As of 5pm this afternoon, Kadena Air Base is now under TCCOR 3 and is expecting winds of 50kt to begin impacting the area within 48 hours. Furthermore, JMA has also issued Storm Surge and High Waves Advisory for much of the Ryukyu Region.
IR Image from NRLMRY
Latest satellite image suggest that Sanba may have leveled off now and could be undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle. Infra-red image above showing the size of the storm has lessened, including its eye which continues to contract. Furthermore, cloud tops surrounding Sanba's eye has warmed for the past 12 hours suggesting further weakening of convective activity. We are also watching an area of dry air which is slowly making its way across the circulation of Sanba.
Despite these satellite observations, one must not underestimate the power of Sanba. This system is still very much a powerful Super Typhoon and is still a big big threat for Okinawa and eventually for the Korean Peninsula. In fact, the outflow of Sanba is starting to enhance some thunderstorms across Okinawa and nearby islands. These showers will be scattered in nature and the "main event" isn't really expected to begin until tomorrow afternoon.
Forecast Track (NOT OFFICIAL!)
Latest forecasts continue to be in very good agreement although the consensus has slightly shifted eastward and is now bringing Sanba right into Okinawa Island by early Sunday morning. Depending on the weakening that will occur tonight and tomorrow, Sanba may either be a Category 5 Super Typhoon or a Category 4; either way a very powerful and violent system! Based on latest trends and current projections, Tropical Storm winds of around 65kph may begin for Okinawa tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) accompanied by widespread rains. Weather will continue deteriorating overnight with typhoon force winds expected to being by midnight on Sunday.
Peak winds of 220kph to 260kph may be felt in Okinawa between the hours of 4am and 9am Japan Time. Due to the compact nature of Sanba, it will pretty much be stronger than Bolaven which hit the region roughly 2 weeks ago. Heavy rains will continue throughout Sunday with amounts of 200 to 300mm possible. Winds will subside by Monday morning as Sanba heads to the north.
Before that though, Sanba will begin weakening as it encounters increasing vertical wind shear courtesy of an approaching trough; the cooler waters of East China Sea will also induce weakening. Still, Sanba is forecast to retain Category 2 or even a Category 3 intensity by the time it makes landfall in South Korea. Sanba is forecast to make landfall roughly 100 to 150km west of Busan on the early morning hours of Monday. It will rapidly weaken as it crosses the Peninsula, perhaps moving into the Sea of Japan by early Tuesday as a Tropical Storm.
This is a very dangerous storm. Please heed all the warnings and make precautions now especially if you are in Okinawa! As always, continue to check out JMA, Kadena Weather, and KMA for the latest OFFICIAL warnings and forecasts for your area.
We'll have another update tomorrow, stay safe!
Issued (09 UTC) 5pm PhT 091412