Super Typhoon Meranti reached an extraordinary peak intensity on Tuesday morning eastern time, becoming the strongest storm recorded anywhere on the planet this year, with estimated maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour.
It is also the strongest storm in the Western Pacific since Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in 2013.
Wind gusts in the storm's most intense inner core are estimated to be above 220 miles per hour, which would be capable of stripping trees of their leaves and producing catastrophic damage on most human-made structures.
Super Typhoon Meranti beat out Super Typhoon Nepartak, which had 180-mile-per-hour winds, and Cyclone Winston, which also peaked at 180 miles per hour, to become the strongest storm of 2016 so far.
Remarkably, the storm has had 185-mile-per-hour winds or greater for at least 18 hours, a feat only accomplished by two other super typhoons in that ocean basin since 1970, according to storm researcher Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University.
Meranti poses a serious threat to southwestern Taiwan, particularly the 2 million residents of Kaohsiung City, which is the second most populous city on the island. While the eye may stay just off the coast, extremely strong hurricane force winds will lash the coastline.
The storm is at its peak intensity in a part of the world that is one of the most reliable breeding grounds for powerful typhoons. A recent study found that the most intense storms in this region may be intensifying due in part to global warming, particularly due to warming ocean temperatures