Study highlights growing threat of intense tropical cyclones hitting East Asia

Jan 15, 2014
From his vantage point high above the earth in the International Space Station, Astronaut Ed Lu captured this broad view of Hurricane Isabel. Credit: NASA

The intensity of tropical cyclones hitting East Asia has significantly increased over the past 30 years, according to a new study published today.

The coastlines of China, Korea and Japan in particular have experienced increasingly stronger cyclones, which the researchers have attributed to increasing and a change in patterns over the coastal seas.

According to the study, the changes in sea surface temperature and wind flows meant that cyclones were more likely to track along coastal seas from the South China Sea upwards, meaning that by the time the cyclones hit the north-east coast of Asia they had gathered more energy than usual and were at their maximum intensity.

The study, which has been published today, 16 January, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, involved an analysis of five separate data sets that documented the evolution of tropical cyclones across the north-west Pacific between 1977 and 2010.

The researchers also found that in south-east Asia, in countries such as Taiwan and Vietnam, there was no substantial change in the intensity of tropical cyclones. Here, they found that tropical cyclones had started to generate too close to land in the South China Sea to gather enough energy to reach maximum intensity as they approached land.

In addition to increasing sea in the western Pacific, which have notably warmed over the past 30 years, the researchers also attributed the changes to the strengthening of the Walker circulation—an ocean-based atmospheric circulation system that exists over the Pacific.

According to the researchers, the Pacific Walker circulation strengthens as the difference in sea surface temperature between the warmer western Pacific and the colder central-eastern Pacific increases. The result is that the wind flows associated with the circulation pattern force the tropical cyclones towards the north-east coast of Asia, where they reach maximum intensity.

Although the study only accounts for natural variations in sea surface temperature and the Walker circulation retrospectively, over the past 30 years, the researchers do predict that the tropical cyclones hitting East Asia will only strengthen under human-induced climate change.

Professor Chang-Hoi Ho, from Seoul National University, said: "Noticeable increases of greenhouse gases over the globe could influence rising temperature and change large-scale atmospheric circulation in the western North Pacific, which could enhance the intensity of tropical cyclones hitting land over East Asia.

"If the past changes of large-scale environments are evidence or a result of global warming, it can be assumed that, in the future, more catastrophic will strike East Asia than ever before.

"The next stage of our research is to use climate models to predict future tropical cyclone landfall intensity in these regions."

Explore further: Hurricanes could increase over western Europe as climate warms

More information: 'Growing threat of intense tropical cyclones to East Asia over the period 1977-2010' Doo-Sun R Park, Chang-Hoi Ho and Joo-Hong Kim 2014 Environ. Res. Lett. 9 014008, iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/1/014008/article

Related Stories

Soap bubbles for predicting cyclone intensity?

Jan 08, 2014

Could soap bubbles be used to predict the strength of hurricanes and typhoons? However unexpected it may sound, this question prompted physicists at the Laboratoire Ondes et Matière d'Aquitaine (CNRS, France) ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...