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Rising sea temperature (2)

By: Floro Mercene

The northwestern Pacific produces some of the world’s most intense and most devastating tropical cyclones, called typhoons in the Pacific and hurricanes in the Atlantic. In 2013, typhoon Haiyan, the strongest land falling typhoon on record, hit the Philippines, killing at least 6,300 people and affecting 11 million.

A study found that the destructive power of the typhoons in east-Asian countries have intensified by 50% in the past 40 years due to warming seas.

Climate models project ocean waters off the coast of China and south-east Asia to continue to warm up. So that means that stronger and deadlier storms are likely to occur in the future. Researchers warn that the giant storms will become even stronger in the future, threatening the large and growing coastal population of China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines.

The researchers showed that the intensification of typhoons making landfall occurred because warmer coastal seas provided more heat – therefore, more energy to growing storms, enabling their wind speeds to increase more rapidly.

The intensity of a typhoon is measured by the maximum sustained wind speed, but the damage caused by its high winds, storm surges, intense rains and floods increases disproportionately, meaning a 15% rise in intensity leads to a 50% rise in destructive power. Stronger storms cause higher storm surges, which often cause the most destruction and loss of life.

The research was published in Nature Geoscience. Prof Wei Mei, at the University of North Carolina who led the new work said: “We want to give the message that typhoon intensity has increased and will increase in the future because of the warming climate.” He said action was needed to both prepare for future typhoons and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to curb warming: “Understanding intensity change is very important for disaster preparation.”