Climate risks: super typhoon Nanmadol causes widespread destruction

One of the most powerful storms to hit Japan in recent years, super typhoon Nanmadol, has caused severe destruction and led to widespread evacuation orders.

Nanmadol has brought gusts of up to 234km/h (145mph), and some areas were forecast 400mm (16 inches) of rain in 24 hours.

Nanmadol has been categorised as a super typhoon by the US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC), a term applied to storms with sustained wind speeds of 240km/h (150mph) or more. It is the equivalent of a category four or five hurricane.

The super typhoon made landfall near the city of Kagoshima, on the southern tip of Japan’s most southerly island, Kyushu, on Sunday morning (18 September) and was forecast to pass over the main island of Honshu in the next few days.

Tens of thousands of people were forced to reside in emergency shelters, and almost 350,000 homes were left without power as infrastructure was severely affected and business disrupted, with the country preparing for extensive flooding and landslides.

Bullet train services, ferries, and hundreds of flights were cancelled. A number of shops and other businesses were also forced to close.

Nanmadol is the most severe storm to hit Japan since Typhoon Hagibis in 2019.

study published in the journal Climatic Change earlier this year said that of the approximately $15 billion in damage caused by Typhoon Hagibis in Japan, an estimated $4 billion can be attributed to global warming, including record rainfall. 

The storm was forecast to turn east and pass over Japan’s main island of Honshu before moving out to sea by Wednesday. 

The capital, Tokyo, has experienced heavy rain, with the Tozai underground line suspended because of flooding.

A level-five alert, the highest on Japan’s disaster warning scale, was issued for more than 500,000 people in the Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Oita, Kumamoto and Yamaguchi areas.

A total of around nine million people were ordered to evacuate parts of the Kyushu, Shikoku and Chugoku regions after a level four alert.