Climate Change is making our familiar monsters bigger, stronger and more dangerous.
Supertyphoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) blew past the definition of a Category 5 storm. It looks like it's time to create a new category, just as Australia has created a new category for fire alerts - we now have 'Catastrophic' sitting above the old 'Extreme' Fire Warning.
The diagram above shows how warming oceans provide the energy that makes cyclones/typhoons/hurricanes bigger, stronger, and more damaging.
Professor Will Steffen, a researcher at the Australian National University, says
scientists understand how a hotter, moister climate is already affecting storms such as Haiyan.
Once cyclones form, they get most of their energy from the surface waters of the ocean. 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. Prof Will Steffan.
Data compiled from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows sea temperatures were about 0.5 to 1 degree above normal in the waters to the east of the Philippines as Haiyan began forming. The waters cooled in the storm's wake, an indication of how the storm sucked up energy.
So, when someone says, "We can't say that climate change made that storm worse," you can reply, "We can say that climate change is making tropical storms worse. It's a brave person who would claim that doesn't apply to this particular storm. Especially when, like Haiyan, it is the biggest storm ever to make landfall."
Without strong action to reduce emissions, we are ensuring there will be ever-bigger monsters battering our children.
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