Tropical cyclones will be less frequent but more intense

Super Typhoon Haiyan
Super Typhoon Haiyan approaching the Philippines from the east - image taken by the Japan Meteorological Agency’s MTSAT-1R at 0630Z on November 7, 2013

Upcoming tropical cyclones will be less frequent but more intense all because of global warming!

As the temperature on Earth rises, tropical cyclones, also known regionally as typhoons or hurricanes are predicted to be less frequent but with increasing intensity.

Cyclones are fueled by the boiling motion of air rising from the ocean surface to the atmosphere. Computer models used in the study to simulate the physics of tropical cyclones suggest that as the oceans temperature rises, cyclones in the future will become stronger and more powerful.

This trend hasn’t been conclusively observed by meteorologists as a detectable, normal occurrence just yet. However, recent cyclones were observed to grow more intense like the Category 5 Super Typhoon Haiyan that killed more than 6,300 people in the Philippines in 2013.

According to a new scientific review paper published in the journal Science, the warming effect of greenhouse gases on cyclones is masked partly by the sunlight-reflecting effect of air pollution. Another challenge is natural variability. Cyclones are rare at an average of 90 per year and satellite records only go back until the 1970s.

The scientists also described a shift in tropical cyclone tracks in response to global warming. Cyclones are now moving towards the margins of the tropics in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Due to thermal expansion and the disintegration of the ice caps, the sea level will also rise. These plus storm surges will cause coastal flooding. It is also expected that there will be an increase in the amount of rainfall with the tropical cyclones due to increased water vapor.

By using computer models and observations, lead author of the study, Adam Sobel, a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and School of Engineering and his team were able to better understand tropical cyclone behavior and how climate affects extreme weather.


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