The study also notes that, with around 90 cyclones per year, they are a relatively rare occurrence compared to volcanic eruptions or earthquakes, so trends are harder to spot. Nonetheless, the team working on typhoons are confident they have found the clear sign of warmer surface waters powering far stronger storm cycles, although they are oddly reluctant to point the finger at man-made climate change just yet.
However, the links between warming surface waters and greenhouse gases are very clear, and the oceans are capable of locking up a lot of heat. In fact, 90 percent of the extra heat produced by human activity in the last 100 years has gone into the oceans, not the atmosphere, and the shallow caches of that heat will be powering some pretty terrifying cyclones both now and in the future.
The damage that Typhoons Lionrock and Namtheun have caused are already clear to see, and now we know part of that is down to warming ocean waters most certainly linked to man-made climate change. As many are beginning to spot, hurricanes are also becoming not just stronger, but stranger, with two back-to-back cyclones streaking into Hawaii recently for the first time in recorded history – something that was blamed partly on unusually warm surface waters linked to climate change.
This study is another example of how climate change nightmares are not only awaiting the next generation or two, they’re happening right here, right now.
Some of the damage caused by Typhoon Lionrock. Kyodo News/Getty Images