WHILE the Philippines was being battered by Typhoon Ompong, the United States was also being hit by Super Storm Florence. According to the National Hurricane Center of the US-NOAA, Ompong is the strongest storm seen on Earth so far in 2018. On September 16, Ompong (Mangkhut) lashed Hong Kong with 195 kph winds, the strongest typhoon to hit the city in nearly 40 years. Florence on the other hand made landfall as category 1 storm with sustained winds of 145 kph.
When I was a kid, super typhoons are rare. At most, there was signal No. 3 typhoon. Today, strong typhoons are becoming more frequent. Looking at the records of the deadliest and most destructive typhoons in the Philippines in Wikipedia, it can be noticed that most of them happened in the last 15 years.
There was Yolanda in 2013, the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record that killed at least 6,300 people and damaged P 90 Billion worth of crops and properties. There was Pablo in 2012, the strongest tropical cyclone to ever hit of Mindanao, Pedring in 2011 and typhoons Pepeng and Ondoy in 2009. Ondoy was dubbed as the second most devastating tropical cyclone in the 2009 Pacific typhoon season while Pedring and Pepeng brought record floods in the Philippines.
Is Climate Change to blame? Yes, according to a study done by the University of Sheffield, a university based in the United Kingdom. The study confirms that hazardous tropical cyclones in the Philippines are increasing in intensity. This could be due to rising sea-surface temperatures since the 1970s as a result of climate change.
The study, published in the International Journal of Climatology, is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Sheffield, the national meteorological agency of the Philippines (Pagasa), the Oscar Lopez Centre for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management (OML Centre).
There's another study that supports the theory that Climate Change causes stronger and wetter typhoons. According to an overview of current research results published in the website of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory of the NOAA (https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes/), tropical cyclone rainfall rates will likely increase in the future due to human-caused warming and accompanying increase in atmospheric moisture content.
The report says that tropical cyclone intensities globally will likely increase on average (by 1 to 10 percent according to model projections for a 2 degree Celsius global warming). There are better than even odds that anthropogenic warming over the next century will lead to an increase in the occurrence of very intense tropical cyclones globally.
We have to brace ourselves for stronger typhoons and prepare Climate Change adaptation plans.
September 20, 2018
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