The National Weather Services is clearing the air after a viral social media scare had some typhoon-weary island residents worried about yet another tropical disturbance.
Guam – The National Weather Service by the airport is not given to flights of fancy, nor to amateur social media speculation. NWS meteorologists analyze qualified data from multiple primary sources under developing conditions and report their expert findings based on credentialed training.
So, given the red herring circulating on social media this morning, NWS was quick to set the record straight.
By now the image may already be familiar. A computerized satellite weather map showing Typhoon Mangkhut already past the Marianas while a quote “Tropical Disturbance Brewing” label accompanies an encircled cloud formation around Kosrae and the Marshall Islands, suggesting that perhaps yet another big storm could be blowing towards Guam and the Marianas.
The “goes.noaa.gov” website reference at the top of the image gives the appearance of legitimacy. But officials at NOAA’s NWS headquarters on Guam said they wouldn’t have presented the information in quite the same way, because the formation isn’t nearly as strong as Typhoon Mangkhut in its early stages.
So says Senior Forecaster Mike Middlebrook. “The disturbance initially appeared out to the east,” he said. “The model guidance was quite aggressive with it and developed it. And from model run to model run, from day to day, it was just a question of how fast it might develop and where it might go.
“But from the beginning, it showed the storm developing and heading in the general direction of the Marianas. This is not the case with this business here [the new formation in the Marshalls].
Middlebrook pointed to a satellite weather loop. “If you look carefully on the loop, you’ll notice that a lot of those bright white clouds in the middle are turning gray, and that just shows that the showers and thunderstorms are dissipating.”
According to Middlebrook, there’s really no need for concern just yet.
“If you look at our latest visible satellite loop here, you can see the typhoon here off to the west, and it’s a lot stronger now than yesterday, so we should be grateful for that. And then to the east here in the Marshall Islands and Kosrae area, there’s a tropical disturbance. The winds associated with that, however, are five to ten miles per hour. It is not yet considered a tropical depression.”
The US National Weather Service Guam posted a corrective image on its Facebook page to leave a less alarming impression of the formation in the Marshalls. It shows Typhoon Mangkhut past Guam and the Northern Marianas and labels a “Formation C” at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshalls as “No development currently expected”.
So Mike Middlebrook’s only point is you don’t have to believe everything you see and hear just because it’s on social media and has a fancy graphic. You’re better off going to the source: the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Tiyan, in central Guam. Or go to the Joint Information Center in Agana Heights, or even the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). There are trusted sources out there we can all rely on to learn accurate weather information.
Middlebrook says the cloud formation in the Marshalls isn’t nearly as intense as 26W was before 26W became Typhoon Mangkhut. And that the National Weather Service remains underwhelmed for the time being.
“JTWC is watching it, and, of course, we’re monitoring it, as well,” Middlebrook said. “And, in fact, I spoke with JTWC this morning about that, and right now it just doesn’t seem to have very much potential. The models do very little with it. In fact, one of the models just flat dissipates it in about two or three days.”
While Middlebrook says the formation may survive a weak circulation for a few days and fully acknowledges there’s always the possibility it could develop into something stronger, he says the pattern remains of low concern for the moment.
So if you see another questionable post on social media or hear another rumor “circulating”, always remember that checking with the experts for a second opinion never hurts, and may just spare you from unnecessary concern.