Monday, July 22, 2013

Typhoon Soulik: A Foul Wind Blows into Taiwan

Typhoon Soulik on a collision course with northern Taiwan
We’ve lived here now about four years, and we have weathered a number of typhoons.  But we have been surprised at how mild they were.  A typhoon is the same as a hurricane but instead of being on the Atlantic Ocean, a typhoon takes place on the Pacific.  Most of the typhoons begin around an island called Chuuk and beeline toward the China Sea.

Usually, the nations of South China, Viet Nam, The Philippines and, of course, Taiwan are the places where typhoons hit.  The most recent typhoon to impact Taiwan was called Typhoon Soulik. 

I always look forward to typhoons with a kind of excitement.  We’re not used to extreme weather in Southern California.  But mostly I’ve been disappointed by the actual blandness of the typhoons.  Once, my daughter Emily and I took the car and went looking for the typhoon, but we were disappointed.  We never even found evidence that much of anything had happened.  In fact, we came across a bridge that was loaded with tourists at the very time the typhoon was supposed to be wreaking havoc on our lives. 

So we were expecting more of the same with Typhoon Soulik; maybe a bit of rain, some scattered winds, hot humid air.  That was our experience with a typhoon, but this one was different.  This was the first time we’d experienced a “Typhoon Day.”  That’s when the government closes down work and school and tells everyone to stay home.  Of course, people leave work and drive immediately, uh to the mall where they hang out until the storm passes.  They were expecting landfall about three o’clock actual landfall was closer to six pm.  Then the winds started to strengthen and gust.  It started to rain and the typhoon roared into town.

According to the Central Weather Bureau website,, the winds were expected to reach speeds of 186 km/hr (114 mph) with gusts up to 226 km/hr (140 mph).  In fact for a time the typhoon was classified as a “Super Typhoon.”  I’m not sure what the actual wind speeds were because our power went down during the typhoon and stayed down for about seven hours. 

The winds were so loud that it was unbelievable.  It was like living at the airport as the winds gusted up and literally screamed past the window.  My window was on the backside of our building, away from the wind.  My daughters’ rooms were facing the storm and the winds actually drove water through the tiny spaces between the windows and the walls.

It was massive it even caused our apartment to rock, a bit.  It was wild.  My thoughts are okay, now I’ve experienced one.  I can go back to bland weather.  Yeah, right…I have to say, IT WAS COOL!  Taiwanese people are pretty relaxed about typhoons.  I heard scooters going by in the wildest moments of the typhoon. Amazing!

There was quite a bit of damage in our neighborhood from the typhoon.  It was mostly broken trees or trees that were knocked down.  There were a number of construction fences that were knocked down and just plain blown away The next day, though they were hard at work cleaning up the mess.  They even mobilized the military to do cleanup work.


Other posts you may be interested in:

Here it Comes:  Typhoon Conson
Taiwanese Weather:  Monsoons and Typhoons
Storm Chasers:  Driving into the Belly of the Beast

Photo Credit:  Satellite Photo:

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Trees are Alive with the Sound of Music...Sort of!

We left about three weeks ago to travel to the US.  On our return we found that the trees were alive with the sound of music.  It’s not like they were playing jazz or anything but apparently we returned right into the middle of the most recent emergence of cicadas.

According to the National Taiwan University Insect Museum there are 65 different species of Cicadas in Taiwan.  They range in size from two to five centimeters but some can get as large as 7 centimeters, that’s 2.75 inches for you Americans.  That sounds like either a large bug or a small bird.  Fortunately, they don’t feed on human or animal flesh, although, I have no idea how I would react if a three inch bug landed on my shoulder.

Cicadas feed by attaching their proboscis into a tree and sucking the sap from under the tree branches.  They make a species specific sound to attract a mate.  That’s the sound that we are hearing, day and night, night and day, light and dark, dark and light.  It’s pretty noisy around here right now.  In fact, there is one species of cicada that makes a sound at 120 decibels.  That’s loud enough to cause hearing damage near your ear.  So imagine that three-inch bug on your shoulder YELLING at you at 120 decibels.  That might be a tad startling.

How'd you like to turn your head and see this dude yelling at you at 120 dB
Cicadas don’t make sounds like crickets.  Crickets rub their legs together to produce their sound.  Instead they click their exoskeleton to make sound.  Built into their abdominal exoskeleton are some small flexible membranes between thick ribs called tymbals. As they contract their tymbalic muscles their bodies produce a click, when those muscles are relaxed it clicks again.  Cicadas contract and relax the muscles very quickly to produce their sound.

As you might imagine cicadas have very few predators.  Mostly birds and sometimes squirrels eat them.  In my fertile imagination I can see a dogfight in the skies over Bade between a swallow and a three-inch cicada and I’m not at all sure who would end up the winner.  They have two methods of protecting themselves from predators.  The first is called the predator satiation method.  In this method so many cicadas emerge at one time that the predators can’t eat them all.  The predators eat so many that they become satiated and have no more interest in eating cicadas.  Another name for this might be the, “What cicadas for dinner again?” method.  The other method involves deception, as they emerge from the ground they shed their nymphal exoskeleton and leave it sitting around.  Birds attack the discarded exoskeleton while the actual cicada is up in the tree eating and looking for a mate.

Platypleura Kaempferi:  A species of Taiwanese Cicada
Cicadas mate and then the female cuts slits in the twigs or small branches of the tree, she may lay several hundred eggs.  When the eggs hatch the cicada nymphs fall to the ground and burrow.  They will remain there until they are ready to emerge from the ground and begin the process all over again.  A cicada nymph may remain in the ground for as long as 13 to 17 years, but more commonly, two to five years before emerging and going up into the tree to eat and find a mate. 

Photo credit:  NTU Insect Museum
Video Credit: iceanajenn

Other Posts you may find interesting;

Taiwanese Lifestyles:  Hanging at the Park
Taiwan Travelogue:  The Traditional Market
Taiwanese Weather:  Monsoons and Typhoons