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Why typhoons are now stronger

By: Floro Mercene

According to an extensive analysis of historical cyclone data, nearly 65 percent of typhoons now reach category 3 or higher, compared with around 45 percent just a decade ago, a study issued in Science Advances says.

The destructive power of the Pacific typhoons that wreak havoc across China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines has intensified in the past 40 years due to warming seas, says the study. The north Pacific produces some of the world’s most intense and most devastating tropical cyclones. The super typhoon Haiyan in 2013 was category 5 and had record winds that reached 200 miles per hour.

According to the study several factors influence tropical cyclones, such as air pressure, sea surface temperatures and localized differences in wind speed and directions, known as wind shear. The researchers were surprised to find that the variability in ocean temperature rather than atmospheric conditions were dominant in controlling the observed changes in typhoon intensity. The researchers showed that the intensification of typhoons making landfall occurred because warmer coastal seas provided more energy to growing storms, enabling their wind speeds to increase more rapidly.

The researchers warn that global warming will lead the giant storms to become even stronger in the future, threatening the large and growing coastal populations of east Asian nations.

People should be aware of the increase in typhoon intensity because when they make landfall these can cause much more damage. Stronger storms cause higher storm surges, more intense rains and floods, which often cause the most destruction and loss of life.

Action is needed to both prepare for future typhoons and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to curb warming, the researchers said.