Climate Change is Pushing Tropical Cyclones Poleward

By Roni Dengler | October 22, 2018 6:00 pm
typhoon photographed from international space station

Tropical cyclones are drifting northward thanks to climate change. (Credit: ESA/NASA-A.GERST)

Typhoons are becoming more destructive at northern latitudes, according to the first long-term study to document how the storms in East Asia are drifting toward the poles. As climate change expands the tropics and warms sea surface temperatures, those conditions are triggering cyclones to form further north, scientists say. That means devastating typhoons will increasingly threaten cities and towns once at the edge of the storms’ influence.

“These areas are more sensitive to typhoon impacts because of a lack of experience-based adaptation strategies,” said Jan Altman, a forest dynamics expert at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Pruhonice, who led the new research.

Tropical cyclones go by different names depending on their location. In the Atlantic Ocean, they’re called hurricanes, whereas typhoons are cyclones that develop in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. Wherever they form, cyclones typically spin storm systems with strong winds and spiraling thunderstorms. And when they make landfall, heavy rains, gusting winds and flooding inflict considerable damage to coastal areas.

Recent research suggested tropical cyclones are moving toward the poles. But these analyses used data collected from instruments over a relatively short time period and the results sometimes disagreed with each other. Altman and the team of scientists wanted to find out how tropical cyclone activity changed over a long time and what ramifications the storms had.

Moving Mayhem

Homes aren’t the only things impacted by cyclones, forests also get heavily damaged. Hurricane Katrina, for example, was estimated to have killed or seriously injured around 320 million trees. The team used that damage to determine the impact of changes in tropical cyclone activity. The researchers analyzed tree rings from six forests in northeastern Asia. The study areas traverse a latitudinal gradient from the southern tip of South Korea northward to costal Russia. The team examined tree rings from 54 species for tree growth and disturbance. Then they compared the data with a 40-year historical record of tropical cyclones in the region.

The farther north the researchers assessed, the more scientists realized cyclones were increasingly damaging trees over the past century, the team reports today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The findings provide evidence that northward tropical cyclone track migration caused more frequent forest disturbances during the last century in the western North Pacific,” Altman said.

“Local authorities and foresters should develop mitigation and preparedness activities to reduce typhoon impacts as increasing threats in these areas can be expected in the future,” he added.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
  • OWilson

    Shouldn’t that mean the huge population masses to the South will experience less deadly typhoons?

    • JohnnyMorales

      You point out how such research seems oblivious to the positive flip side of so much research dedicated to painting global warming as a horrible thing.

  • Uncle Al

    increasingly threaten cities and towns” DO SOMETHING!, beginning with global taxation, NOW! By 2600 AD the Earth will be a burning frozen Hell, one giant desert under water, with violently windy still air. DO SOMETHING!, beginning with global taxation, NOW!

  • Rabid Run

    I just did a comparative of storm tracks since 1880 till now. There has been no substantial change in hurricane origins, tracks, intensity or travel patterns. I don’t know why this article was printed at all, since the premise can be so easily refuted. In fact, if there has been a recent,”trend”at all, it has been for hurricanes to track increasingly eastward into open water within the last 6 years which refutes the “increasingly threaten cities and towns”claim. 6 years is hardly a valid climatological sample space, and falls within the historical sample space since 1880.

  • JohnnyMorales

    I’m waiting for the scientific community to have its collective epiphany re climate change. An epiphany that will be caused by the increasing # of articles about it that actually portray positive changes, but are always portrayed in the most negative way possible to conform to the belief that overwhelmingly, dominant philosophy shared among environmental scientists that anything man does to alter the nature is inherently evil, and anything that is a product of the natural process inherently good.

    Today about 40% of the Northern Hemisphere is basically unlivable for humans, plants and animals. Aside from a few specifically adapted species like polar bears or dwarf willows, Tundra and Arctic regions are deserts for life of all kinds unless you’re some sort of bacteria or archea. Then the place is teaming with life. When you add the desert regions, well over 50% of the Earth’s land surface is very hostile to life save for a few well-adapted plants and animals forcing the vast majority of plants and animals (including humans) to make due on the less than half remaining.

    It’s strange that people think having 40% of the world’s land surface locked in deep freeze is the natural ideal considering that only a tiny
    fraction of Earth’s geologic history is like it is today.

    For most of geologic history, the Earth has been what warming panic types call a hothouse world, and life did splendidly well.

    People need to step back and drop the notion that everything related to humanity is necessarily evil and wrong.

    If they did, they’d realized that 1st. we are technically still in an ice age.

    For most of the Earth’s geologic history there have been no glacier covered regions. Even when the Earth was at its hottest live was teaming. It was everywhere in abundance from the equator to the polar regions.

    Even more amazing is the Earth proved to be able to redistribute the
    increased warmth ensuring there were no places that became inhospitable due to heat. The atmosphere shunted it up to the polar regions and kept the mid-latitudes and equatorial regions comfortable.

    We see that happening today, but since we haven’t warmed up enough yet, there is enough cold in the polar regions to make some people panic when nature engages in the shunting of warmth to the polar regions displacing the cold to create northeasters and such.

    IN a century or so, the extreme swings will even out just as it always has in geologic history.

    The Earth then will have a wide tropical belt topped off with sub-tropics to the polar regions which will have a climate similar to Scotland.

    In such a world deserts will become much smaller thanks to the expanded rain belt sending hurricanes to water former dry zones (which the article is in all a panic about).

    We see this happening as we speak in Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia which have experienced major hurricanes dropping a year’s worth of rain in a single storm. In the last couple of years they’ve had more than one. Prior to this a hurricane was a once in a decade event if that.

    If this keeps up, once parched, dry, barren lands will start to turn permanently green. Is that really that bad?

    When you compare those times to today, it’s clear how much life, all life, has suffered due to this cold period.

    Science needs to drop its moralizing and judge warming strictly on what’s happening. The notion that a world in a deep freeze is the natural and good state of being for the world is a moral belief not a scientifically supportable one.

    It’s only bad for humanity if we do nothing to prepare.

    Even at its fastest, humanity has time to move to the vast amount of land that warming will make habitable. This will open more than enough land for animals as well.

    Global warming as far as life is concerned is a very good thing.

    It’s only a bad, evil thing for people who immediately equate the activities of humanity as inherently unnatural and evil.

    The irony of all this from a geologic historical perspective is the modern climate is still a frigid anomaly. I don’t think there has ever been a time in the entire history of the planet where 2 giant land masses were covered in glaciers miles deep like Antarctica and Greenland. (Snowball earth is a hypothesis, and NOT
    proven, but if it ever is proved, it happened 1x hundreds of millions of years ago.)

    The activities of human rapidly warming up the planet are actually bringing the climate back in line with how things have been on our planet for billions of years.

    If the theory of Earth being a living planet is true, our actions could easily be seen as Earth actively working towards returning
    to a much warmer state like Earth has been for most of geologic


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