Typhoon Committee holds annual session

The Typhoon Committee, a joint body of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the World Meteorological Organization, has just held its 53rd annual session, continuing the long-term commitment to protect lives and property from tropical cyclones and typhoons in Northwestern Pacific Ocean.

The virtual session, which concluded on 25 February 2021. was hosted by Japan and attended by more than 100 participants from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and national disaster risk reduction agencies. Hasegawa Naoyuki, Director-General of the Japan Meteorological Agency, was elected as the Chairperson to succeed Dr Cheng Cho-ming, Director of the Hong Kong Observatory.

The three-day event reviewed the 2020 typhoon season and discussed how to further strengthen regional collaboration and cooperation which has spanned more than half a century. It discussed activities on meteorology, hydrology, disaster risk reduction and training and research, as well as updates to strategic and operating plans and manual to tackle typhoon hazards.

“Tropical cyclones are amongst the most destructive natural phenomena. Their impact, especially with respect to damage to life and property is a major social and economic disaster for many countries. This is exacerbated by associated events such as storm surges, flooding, and landslides,” said WMO Assistant Secretary-General Wenjian Zhang.

“I strongly believe the governments and decision-makers will benefit much more from our impact-based monitoring, warning and forecasting services, strengthening social, economic and environmental resilience,” he said.

WMO’s Earth System approach will enhance further global and regional monitoring, forecasting and services capabilities for the provision of better services to Members, he said.

Johan Stander, Director of Services Department of WMO showcased initiatives to provide further synergy and support to the Committee, embracing weather to climate, flood forecasting to integrated freshwater management, impact based sectoral services, maritime to space weather services, in order to meet evolving needs of societies.

2020 season

On top of the disruption and catastrophic impacts caused by COVID-19, the Asia-Pacific region was hit by successive hazards in 2020. There were 23 named tropical cyclones, of which 10 reached typhoon intensity. This was below the 30-year average, and for the first time since 1951, no tropical cyclone was named in the month of July.

The strongest tropical cyclone of the season was Super Typhoon Goni, which made landfall over northern Philippines on 1 November and caused many casualties and economic costs. The Philippines was hit by five named tropical cyclones in 2020.

In a rare occurrence, the Korean peninsula was directly affected by three tropical cyclones in the space of a short time. Typhoon Maysak making landfall near Busan on 3 September, followed by Haishen on 7 September. Both tropical cyclones led to significant flooding on the Korean Peninsula and in western Japan, and 41 lives were lost when a ship sank off western Japan during the passage of Maysak.

Viet Nam was hit by six named tropical storms in less than two months, and was impacted by two more. This caused widespread and prolonged flooding.

The Committee decided the replacement of typhoon names who retired in 2019:

  • Yutu by Yinxing,
  • Kammuri by Koto,
  • Faxai by Nongfa,
  • Phanfone by Nokaen,
  • Hagibis by Ragasa,
  • Lekima by Co-May.

The Committee also requested to retire the following typhoon names: Linfa, Vongfong, Molave, Goni and Vamco. The replacement of these five names will be decided in the next session of the Committee.

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