Typhoon Haiyan is perhaps the strongest ever to make landfall. With wind speeds of up to 315 km/ h swept through the Philippines and leaving a trail of death and devastation. Authorities estimate that about 2500 people were killed. Are we seeing a trend of increasingly more powerful tropical storms – and if this is so, is it a result of global warming?
What creates a tropical storm ?
A tropical storm occurs under very special circumstances . It starts with seawater in an area reaching a temperature of at least 26.5 ° C down to at least 50 meters deep. There also has to be high humidity and rapid cooling in the height. The heat causes a rapid evaporation at the surface. Water vapor rises rapidly and condenses into water in the face of cold air. This has created a natural heat engine that quickly develops enormous power .
Researchers at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research has estimated that a tropical cyclone releases the same amount of energy on a day as if you blow nukes at 10 megatons every 20 minute.
In Typhoon Haiyan the pressure dropped to 858 millibars, that is an extremely low pressure. According old statistics there might have been even stronger wind speeds in a few storms in the sixties. But scientific methods at the time were significantly less precise than today, so probably Haiyan was the strongest tropical storm making landfall.
But is it global warming?
When my interest for climate issues was kindled in the 1980s I discussed the issue with Lloyd Timberlake, who was secretary of the Brundtland Commission. Lloyd wrote books and articles on the basis of the Commission’s material, in which he argued that future weather would be “wetter , hotter and wilder ,” and he added, it is the poorest who will be hit hardest.
With storms like Katrina and Haiyan it seems that Lloyd Timberlake was right .
There is an ongoing academic discussion on details of the impacts of global warming on weather patterns in which the last word has not been said. But there are ample reasosn to be worried and wary .
There is solid data that there is an ongoing global warming. The trend is very clear in all measurements, but it is not linear. The warmest year so far has been 1998, but all the years since then have been among the warmest ever recorded.
However, the air temperature is only part of the story. The oceans are warming. It is slower, because water has a much higher heat capacity than air , but for that very reason also keeps the water warm much longer.
The ocean is a giant heat reservoir. 93.4 % of global warming goes to heating up the se , while only 2.3 % goes to warm the air. This means that the heat built up in the water now, will give a feedback effect in the atmosphere for a very long time .
And as we already have mentioned, the essential prerequisite for the appearance of tropical storms is warm seas. So while the jury is still out as to how this will turn out in detail; there are a few things that should be quite clear:
- Anthropogenic climate change is already in progress and creates death and destruction.
- They are mainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere (which also gives more acid oceans) .
- Politicians do almost nothing of importance to prevent emissions from growing .
So the weather will definitely be wetter, hotter and wilder. Hurricanes like Katrina and Haiyan will wade through the poor neighborhoods killing, maiming and destroying at random; while oil companies spread disinformation to corrupt politicians.
The sponsors of global warming lining the pockets
So it is no surprise that at the socalled Climate Conference in Poland, COP 19, we find some of the biggest polluters on the planet among the sponsors; with the World Coal Association in front roe appreciating the pragmatic policy of the Polish government seeing that
”…coal can continue to play its role in delivering on economic development goals, affordable energy and industrial growth while managing the expectations of people worldwide on climate change and other environmental challenges.”
The logical next would be to ask the Medillín cartel and the ‘Ndrangheta to sponsor an international conference on the fight against drugs.