Super Typhoon Vongfong is churning in the western Pacific Ocean this afternoon with winds of 180 MPH. The typhoon's ferocious winds are the strongest in the world so far this year. Vongfong is expected to weaken before hitting Japan as the equivalent of a strong category two this weekend.

According to Dr. Ryan Maue, Vongfong is the strongest tropical cyclone to form anywhere in the world since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines last November. Haiyan packed winds of 195 MPH at its peak strength, and the typhoon's winds and flooding killed more than 7,000 people when it struck the central Philippines.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center, a group of military forecasters who provide tropical cyclone forecasts for U.S. government interests around the world, predicts that Vongfong will begin to slowly weaken this week as it turns north and begins heading towards Japan. The latest forecast from the agency shows Vongfong making landfall at 1200z on the 12th on Amami Oshima—an island in southern Japan that's home to more than 70,000 people—with winds of around 100 MPH.

The forecast's cone of uncertainty is quite large, so Vongfong could wind up anywhere within (or outside of) the cone during the forecast period. Interests in eastern Asia should keep a close watch on this system as it progresses through the week.

Vongfong is currently the only major system in the world, which is typical for early October. In the eastern Pacific, Tropical Storm Simon is about to degenerate into a non-tropical, remnant low as it moves into Mexico's Baja Peninsula.

Given the tropical nature of the region, typhoons can develop during any time of the year in the western Pacific. However, the most active portion of the season runs from mid-spring through mid-autumn.

Update, 555 PM EDT: Vongfong has further strengthened and now has winds of around 180 MPH. The JTWC expects the storm to strengthen even more tomorrow, expecting peak winds of 190 MPH with gusts to 230 MPH. This would place Vongfong among the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. The title and lead have been updated accordingly.

[Images: JMA, JTWC]

You can follow the author on Twitter or send him an email.