An intensifying tropical cyclone in the southwestern Pacific Ocean will pose a grave threat to Vanuatu on Friday night. The cyclone could pack winds of 165 MPH when its eye brushes the country's capital of Port Vila, located about 1,200 miles northeast of Brisbane, Australia.
Over the past week or so, models have consistently shown a powerful tropical cyclone approaching either Fiji or Vanuatu, and unfortunately, the situation is playing out as predicted. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center and the Fiji Meteorological Service both expect Pam's eye to clip Vanuatu, which should spare them the most intense winds, but any slight jog to the west would mean a direct hit.
The GFS model shows the power of the winds that will affect Vanuatu—especially Port Vila—as it moves south through the region. Above is a wind map from this morning's run of the model, showing the model's forecast strength and track of Pam through the weekend.
Here's the latest forecast map from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which is the tropical cyclone forecasting branch of the U.S. military. The group's meteorologists expect the cyclone to strengthen to a monster with 165 MPH winds as it passes very near to Port Vila at 12z on Friday (which would be 11:00 PM Friday, local time).
Aside from serving as a popular tourist destination and tax haven, Americans may be most familiar with Vanuatu as the setting for the ninth season of Survivor, a crappy reality show that films middle-class Americans as they sit on a beach and snipe at each other for a large sum of money just a few miles away from tens of thousands of native residents who are actually struggling to survive.
You can follow updates on this cyclone (and others around the world) with products issued by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. For more localized updates on Pam, the region is covered by the Fiji Meteorological Service and the Vanuatu Meteorological Services.
[Model Images: GREarth | Satellite: CIMSS | Forecast: JTWC]