Meteorologists around the world were intrigued by a wrinkle seen in the image above, like a tail coming out of the eye of the storm. These “cloud cliffs” are sometimes seen in strong cyclones but nobody knows what causes them. “It’s a kind of odd feature that’s got people talking,” says Brian McNoldy from the University of Miami in Florida.
Although it looks like a scar where there are no clouds, McNoldy says it’s really a sudden drop in their height, casting a shadow on the lower clouds. He says it might be caused by ice being thrown up particularly high in the atmosphere near the eye by intense thunderstorms, and then being spread in just one direction as the storm turns.
As it has come unusually early, McNoldy says we should expect similar typhoons this year. “This is just the first time that all the conditions were falling into place. There will probably be more,” he says.
Typhoon Neoguri is probably the biggest storm in decades to hit Japan so early, says Hiroyuki Murakami from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. “Normally, the peak typhoon season for Japan is between September and October.” He says the strength and the timing of the storm is likely to be a result of the likely El Niño later this year.
The warmer water in the eastern Pacific is pulling their genesis that way, Murakami says, giving them more time to grow in strength by the time they make landfall around Japan.