Climate change could boost the power of tropical cyclones, study says

Written by By Sarah Lau, CNN

If tropical cyclones gain globalisation or become more intense in the future, parts of Asia could face twice the destructive power they currently do, a team of American scientists has found.

Their study, published in Scientific Reports on January 7, used models to look at how climate change, changes in global air circulation patterns and the loss of tropical vegetation might affect cyclones in the future.

Using the largest system of climate change simulations known, they found an 18-fold increase in storm intensity was possible by 2080, the researchers said.

At the same time, temperatures in the tropics could continue to rise at a pace that would lead to rising sea levels and a shift in the wind patterns that create tropical cyclones, they added.

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“Tropical cyclones are basically the lifeblood of the large expanses of the Indian Ocean and eastern Pacific, as they produce most of the renewable energy and were important enough to not only name them, but also to fund their future research,” said Eran Elhaik, a co-author on the study and lecturer at Ohio State University.

“The message is that anything that increases the amplitude or strength of the convective topography of the atmosphere, increases the power of cyclones. So, from a global point of view, we need to be more mindful of the consequences.”

Change in wind patterns

The findings of the study follow the dramatic increase in wind speed recorded during 2017’s super typhoon Yutu.

Typhoon Yutu killed more than 900 people and damaged property estimated at $7.2 billion in the Philippines, authorities have said.

Elhaik said that while Yutu, recorded by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center as a category 5 storm, was exceptional in its intensity, extreme wind speeds were not limited to a single storm.

“We were surprised by the large increase in wind speed at the South China Sea where the strongest winds were recorded in 2018,” he said.

“If climate change leads to more extreme hurricanes, why not cyclones?”

According to the study, even though storms could increase in power, more scientists are likely to be monitoring them, thanks to sophisticated satellites that can gather data on how tropical cyclones behave.

Elhaik cited as an example the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) 1.5 billion yen Soteki-1 and 1.1 billion yen H-2A satellites, which transmit data about the weather to ground control almost every second of the day.

“The satellites are able to collect information and predictions down to microsecond that would only previously have been recorded in real time,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the race to develop new technologies, meteorologists are pushing to reduce the physical impact of a storm.

One of the biggest changes that can be made in the future is to reduce the amount of fuel needed, Elhaik said.

“For example, drying out the pools of water can reduce the mass of water to essentially generate power to power water pressure.”

He added that seawater desalination for producing fresh water for cities could also reduce the amount of fuel needed, so global cities could save billions of dollars and thousands of lives by becoming more resilient.

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