The Heat Is Online

Asian super-typhoons seen increasing in intensity and frequency

Super typhoons becoming more powerful and more frequent, new study finds

Sydney Morning Herald, Sept. 6, 2016

The most destructive categories of tropical storms to strike the heavily populated regions of east Asia are becoming more intense and increasing as much as four-fold in frequency because of climate change, according to new research by US-based scientists.

Since the late 1970s, typhoons making land in a region stretching from Vietnam and the Philippines to Korea and Japan have become 12 per cent to 15 per cent more intense.

Those hitting south-east Asia with a category 4 or 5 strength have more than doubled in number, with the increase even more for China and Taiwan and regions north, the paper published in Nature Geoscience on Tuesday found.

The increase in sea-surface temperature is key to providing extra energy to tropical storms, with the outcome for the megacities of the region looking grimmer.

"Our response to climate change bears on the future of our people and the wellbeing of mankind," Xi Jinping, China's president, said.

This year is well on course to becoming the hottest year on record with preliminary data for August revealing yet another month with record-breaking warmth in a row.

The north-west Pacific basin has both the largest data set of super typhoon-strength storms and the clearest trend towards intensification as the planet warms, Steve Turton, an adjunct professor at the Central Queensland University, said

This year has also been an active one for the region:

By contrast, the trends are not being replicated so far in the south-west Pacific, such as off north-eastern Australia.

"In the Australian region, it's pretty flat," Professor Turton said. "We are not seeing any trends at all. That outcome, though, is expected to change.

"With global warming of the oceans and atmosphere, we can expect tropical cyclones to increase in frequency and intensity in all the basins," Professor Turton said.

Damage from winds rise rapidly - as much as to the power of 4 of any increase in speed, he said.

Apart from the social and economic consequences of more intense storms, ecosystems such as forests are likely to suffer more destruction and take longer to recover or favour species more able to cope with disruption.

For hilly regions, such as Hong Kong or elsewhere in the storm tracks, populated areas may become more exposed to landslides from the intensifying storms, Professor Turton said.