Tropical Storm Could Screw Alaska

NSFW forecast. (Image: National Hurricane Center)

Things that look unintentionally like dicks will never not be funny. And so I present to you, dear reader, the map above that depicts the odds of topical storm-force winds from Tropical Storm Walaka.

Let’s talk about how Alaska could improbably be hit by the dongicane — or at least its remnants — early next week.

Tropical Storm Walaka already occupies a special place in history as the last named storm on Central Pacific’s list. But Walaka could go out with a bang by pursuing a weird track. After shooting to the west of Hawaii, the storm has continued its run northward. Walaka will tilt northeast over the weekend, which is how you end up with the phallic-shaped map of wind probabilities pointed squarely at Alaska.

It’s expected to transition to an extratropical storm or even just remnants as it cruises into the Gulf of Alaska, but Walaka seems very likely to hit the state in some form. The National Weather Service office in Juneau is forecasting that it will reach the state late this weekend with winds near 55km/h. Because it will still have a tap of tropical moisture, it should also bring a good amount of rainfall to the southern panhandle, though there’s still some uncertainty.

Typhoons in the northwest Pacific regularly make a huge C-shaped curve from China and Japan back toward Alaska, generating some of the Bering Sea’s most explosive storms. But storms such as Walaka, which formed in the central Pacific, rarely find their way this far north or curving back this far east.

“You have to have a perfect confluence of conditions,” Brian Brettschneider, a climate researcher with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, told us.

“You need a strong hurricane west of Hawaii that is tracking north. The position of the subtropical ridge has to be just right to cause the storm to recurve north and northeast. It has to be picked up by an upper-level trough but without being absorbed right away.”

Waters in the Gulf of Alaska are also nice and toasty for this time of year, running up to 3C above normal. That will also lend a hand to Walaka’s strength and longevity.

Bettschneider highlighted the remnants of hurricanes Ana and Ignacio in 2014 and 2015, respectively, as storms that made the trip from the eastern Pacific to Alaska. But an unnamed storm in 1975 and Hurricane Oho in 2015 are among the only storms on record from the central Pacific to reach the Last Frontier, both as extratropical storms. That 1975 storm was closest a tropical storm has come to Alaska.

So Walaka is in rare territory, which is pretty cool. But also, the wind map looks like a dick.

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