Tropical cyclones could be much stronger



Written by By Staff Writer

Editor’s Note — “Outsider: Asia’s Changing Nature,” Tarek Fattal, is co-author of the recently published book “Better Than Before: Pacific and Southeast Asia’s Breakthrough Populations.”

Tropical cyclones in the Asia-Pacific region could have twice the destructive power by the end of the century, according to a newly published study.

By contrast, tropical cyclones in the northeastern United States could see no overall increase by 2100.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed the projected impacts of climate change in the two regions.

More than a million people die annually from tropical cyclones worldwide, with the highest death rates occurring in the Pacific.

As a relatively unpopulated area, northeastern U.S. coastal states are protected from major storms, limiting the impact on humans.

“This suggests that tropical cyclones in the United States have more room to grow before their power becomes worrisome,” co-author Jay Famiglietti, a climate scientist at NASA, said in a press release .

Meanwhile, a fresh wave of damaging storms in the Indian Ocean region could send sea levels rising several centimeters — a factor both in hurricanes and cyclones, which researchers say could put many coastal cities at risk.

Worlds apart

In Hawaii, the toxic storm system of Hurricane Lane decimated more than 300 homes in the Big Island on March 7, while taking at least a dozen lives.

The storm caused $800 million in damages and affected about 175,000 people. After hitting Hawaii, the hurricane made landfall across the Central Pacific. The storm, which began as a tropical depression on February 26, killed at least 13 people and left thousands homeless.

Manai, located in the center of the Andaman Sea in India, is expected to soon follow Hurricane Lane’s path. Satellite images show the country is already starting to experience flooding and landslides. One study indicates climate change could increase typhoon intensity by 10%, and will likely see severe storms increasing in frequency.

Famiglietti and colleagues have found a number of parallel research projects that focus on weather patterns on the Pacific.

They studied the global intensification of Pacific cyclones since 1950, looking at similar analysis results in North America and Europe.

They found that the long-term track-change trends in the eastern hemisphere diverged substantially.

Famiglietti explained that the dynamic led to a different ecosystem (e.g. ocean species) in these regions — and this shift has some social implications, he added.

He said climate change has been contributing to storms and damaging sea level rise, with more rainfall on average expected in the years to come.

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