Super Typhoon Jebi, churning across the western Pacific Ocean, is the strongest storm observed on the planet so far in 2018.
Although it has levelled off from its earlier explosive intensification, when its sustained winds reached nearly 290km/h, Jebi is still an intense Category five storm, packing winds of a little over 273 km/h.
The storm is travelling westward at a brisk pace, tracing a path along the edge of a large area of high pressure anchored to its north. A turn to the northwest and then north is expected through the weekend and into early this week as it heads toward Japan.
Per recent forecasts from the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, the storm is expected to reach Japan between Tuesday and Wednesday. It will do so as it interacts with the mid-latitude jet stream and as it is transitioning into an extra-tropical storm.
Although it is unlikely to be nearly as violent as it is now when it reaches Japan, a track that may target the Kyoto-to-Tokyo region could be a high-impact event given major population areas.
Over the next day or two, environmental conditions for the storm remain "very favourable," according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, which forecasts Jebi to remain an extremely intense typhoon.
Over the very warm waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean, Jebi is right about where we might expect to see the strongest storm on Earth.
Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with Weather.us and an expert on tropical systems, said there are typically several Category five storms in any year, and the most likely location for them is either in the western Pacific or the southwestern Pacific, to the east of Australia. Jebi is the fourth Category five globally this year, Maue said.
As Jebi heads north toward Japan, it will run into cooler water and more wind shear, which tend to weaken storms. However, the storm's fast forward speed and interactions with the jet stream may help it maintain its strength longer than it otherwise would.
The European model (shown above) predicts a relatively intact tropical system just offshore Japan, so this is certainly a system to continue to watch. Japan has already dealt with a few tropical cyclones this year, including Typhoon Prapiroon, which brought historic flooding to parts of the country this summer.
As with the Atlantic Ocean, the heart of the season for tropical cyclones still lies ahead.