How could climate change affect typhoons, hurricanes and tropical storms and is it possible to calculate this impact?
Is typhoon Haiyan linked to climate change?
As the devastating storm has only just happened, it is too soon for any research to have been done on whether global warming influenced typhoon Haiyan. But there are good reasons for expecting that it has. Furthermore, the tools exist to determine how much climate change may have intensified the typhoon. These tools have already proved that climate change had dramatically increased the risk of heatwaves and floods, for example.
How could climate change affect typhoons?
Typhoons, hurricanes and all tropical storms draw their vast energy from the warmth of the sea. As Prof Will Steffen, at the Australian National University, says: “We know sea-surface temperatures are warming pretty much around the planet, so that’s a pretty direct influence of climate change on the nature of the storm.” Another key factor is the temperature difference between sea level and the top of the storm, as this gradient is the heat engine that drives storm. Scientists think that climate change is increasing this difference.
What does this mean for the loss of life and damage caused by the storms?
It will get worse. Rising sea levels already means that the storm surges — the huge waves that crash on to coastal areas and are the most deadly feature of cyclones — have a headstart. As climate change intensifies cyclones, the storm surges get bigger. The greater downpours during the cyclones also adds to the risk of flooding.
How are some extreme weather events directly linked to climate change?
It is called attribution and uses detailed computer modelling to replicate the heatwave, flood or other meteorological disaster. Then the models are run again — often thousands of times, but without the additional heat in the system trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted from fossil fuel burning. The differences between the results shows the effect of climate change.
— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013