Online typhoon hazard map helps people learn when strong winds will strike

Kyodo

An online typhoon hazard map has been helping people learn the risks of strong winds that could hit their area depending on where typhoons travel.

Created by Hironori Fudeyasu, a Yokohama National University associate professor of meteorology, the map is available in Japanese and can be accessed by smartphone free of charge.

Users can select a town or city and see the locations of typhoon centers that are likely to bring the strongest winds to the selected area.

Once users select an area in Japan, a circle with a 500-kilometer radius, separated into dozens of colored cells, appears over a map.

Each cell indicates the direction of the typhoon’s winds with an arrow, and the expected strength of the winds is shown using different colors including red, yellow, green and blue. Red marks the strongest wind while blue indicates the weakest.

For example, by choosing Yokohama, a user will learn that strong winds are expected in the city when typhoons pass over Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures located to its west.

The city of Niigata, meanwhile, has the opposite tendency, with strong winds arising when a typhoon travels to its east, according to the map.

In addition to the diagram, the website also details what kind of damage and accidents people should expect, such as power outages, train service disruptions or overturned vehicles. The map can be found in the wind disaster information section of the Life Ranger weather website, in the disaster prevention category.

Fudeyasu created the map by simulating over 800 typhoons using information about past typhoons to produce data on average winds for each area.

“I want people to know the characteristics of the areas where they live” before a typhoon hits, said Fudeyasu.

He said he is continuing his research on the amount of rain, which tends to vary according to the typhoon and is therefore difficult to predict, and is working on a hazard map for tidal waves as well.

Japan is hit by dozens of typhoons every year during summer through autumn, and wind and torrential rain carried with them often claim many lives on the archipelago.

The nation is currently bracing for two typhoons this week as its western prefectures reel from torrential rain in July, which was brought by a long-standing seasonal rain front and a typhoon traveling near the archipelago.

Experts highlight the importance of learning about the risks of different disasters from hazard maps; those created by local authorities accurately predicted the flooding and mudslides triggered by the recent rains in western Japan.

The flooding of the Mabicho district of Kurashiki in Okayama, one of the hardest-hit areas, was mostly predicted in the hazard map, while mudslides in Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures were also in line with hazard map predictions.

More than 220 people lost their lives, mostly in Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime prefectures, in the rain disaster, according to the National Police Agency.