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Succeeding a season with the strongest typhoon in recordable history, near-normal numbers are expected for the 2014 West Pacific typhoon season. However, the onset of El Niño will intensify the storms that develop in this basin.
With roughly 28 tropical storms, 18 typhoons and 5 super typhoons predicted for the West Pacific basin this season, AccuWeather.com's long-range forecast team foresees coastal China and the Philippines to be at the highest risk for significant impacts from either tropical storms or typhoons.
As five to seven significant impacts are expected for both coastal China and the Philippines, Japan will also need to remain on high alert as meteorologists expect more storms to make landfall on the island nation this season.
"Last year there were only one or two significant impacts on Japan, but this year we expect storms, at least in the later part of the season, to re-curve before reaching China," AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said. "So, Japan may be impacted more this year than in the last few years."
For the 2014 season, Japan can expect approximately four to six significant storm impacts.
While storms moved east to west last year, frequently impacting the Philippines, Taiwan and China, this season Taiwan can anticipate between three and five significant impacts.
Although the number of potential impacts differ per country, Kottlowski expressed that not every storm is going to necessarily have separate impacts, as one storm can effect more than one place.
This season, the onset of El Niño in late summer or early fall will influence the opportunity for tropical development in the basin.
"This year we are expecting an El Niño during the summer and a full El Niño pattern during the heart of typhoon season," Kottlowski said. "What that does is create more opportunity for tropical development in the West Pacific."
Opposite of the Atlantic basin, the arrival of an El Niño reduces the wind shear across the West Pacific. During peak typhoon season from late July through October, warm ocean water, combined with a lower wind shear, give tropical storms a better chance for development.
"We believe this season will be a little more active compared to last and that there will be more intense storms this year," Kottlowski said.
With strong westerly winds expected to be farther north this season, storms may often re-curve before reaching China and Taiwan. Despite re-curving, however, the Philippines will still be vulnerable for multiple impacts.
Last November, Typhoon Haiyan hit the island country becoming the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving parts of the country completely leveled, including Tacloban. While forecasting the strength of potential typhoons far in advance is nearly impossible, it's not out of the question that another strong typhoon could hit the Philippines again this season.
While typhoons can be extremely destructive when they make landfall, slow-moving tropical storms can also cause substantial damage.
"A lot of times slow-moving tropical storms can cause very heavy rainfall that can cause major flooding," Kottlowski said. "It doesn't take a strong typhoon to cause major damage."
Tropical storms can drop anywhere from 254 millimeters (10 inches) to 508 millimeters (20 inches) of rain.
With the season already underway and the threat of tropical storms lasting the entire year, AccuWeather.com meteorologists urged citizens to prepare for the worst case scenario and begin preparations now.
Typhoons can induce storm surges, a pile-up of water that moves ahead and along with a typhoon and rises quickly before crashing along the coast, which can wash away entire neighborhoods. Typhoon Haiyan demonstrated the power of a storm surge in November 2013, nearly washing away Tacloban, Philippines.
Damaging winds are yet another dangerous element of typhoons that can induce extensive damage to affected areas.
"People should be aware when a typhoon is heading towards their area and they should have a plan in advance," Kottlowski said. "Have an emergency kit together and available that includes food, water, copies of housing documents, insurance papers and a safety kit. They should also know where they are going to evacuate to."
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