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Extreme Rapid Intensification of Typhoon Vicente (2012) in the South China Sea


One of the primary challenges for both tropical cyclone (TC) research and forecasting is the problem of intensity change. Accurately forecasting TC rapid intensification (RI) is particularly important to interests along coastlines and shipping routes, which are vulnerable to storm surge and heavy seas induced by intense tropical cyclones. One particular RI event in the western North Pacific Ocean with important scientific implications is the explosive deepening of Typhoon Vicente (2012). Vicente underwent extreme RI in the northern South China Sea just prior to landfall west of Hong Kong, China, with maximum sustained winds increasing from 50 kt (1 kt = 0.51 m s−1) at 0000 UTC 23 July to 115 kt at 1500 UTC 23 July. This increase of 65 kt in 15 h far exceeds established thresholds for TC RI. Just prior to this RI episode, Vicente exhibited a near-90° poleward track shift. The relationship between the track and intensity change is described, and the authors speculate that the passage of an upper-tropospheric (UT) “inverted” trough was a significant influence. An analysis of real-time numerical model guidance is provided and is discussed from an operational perspective, and high-resolution global model analyses are evaluated. Numerical model forecasts of the UT trough interaction with the TC circulation were determined to be a shortcoming that contributed to the intensity prediction errors for Vicente. This case study discusses the importance of considering UT features in TC intensity forecasting and establishes current modeling capabilities for future research.

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