Tropical Cyclones Increasing Strength in South Pacific

March 16, 2015

rahms_cycOceanographer Stefan Rahmstorf tweets from a 2013 study showing increasing cyclone strength in the South Pacific since 1982.

The paper, published in the Journal of Climate,  notes:

Dramatic changes in the frequency distribution
of lifetime maximum intensity (LMI) have occurred
in the North Atlantic, while smaller changes are evident
in the South Pacific and South Indian Oceans, and the
stronger hurricanes in all of these regions have become
more intense.

12 Responses to “Tropical Cyclones Increasing Strength in South Pacific”


  1. Even without the graph it should be pretty obvious by now. Last year we saw some big ones near Japan and the year before Haiyan of course. Yet some politicians like Jim Inhofe only tend to look in their own backyard for these things very well illustrated this winter with his snowball that he only looks in his own backyard. Well, the world is a bit bigger than that, so with climate change and global warming and big storms the only place to look is at the entire planet.

  2. redskylite Says:

    As far as I’m concerned climate change affecting weather and weather events is becoming very obvious, temperatures have been above normal in my country this summer and after Cyclone Pam disappeared we are back to higher than normal temperatures for March. Unfortunately we have gotten used to a barrage of doubt and need to keep pointing out links, which should be obvious.

    In this interesting article in today’s Carbon Brief, Professor Kevin Trenberth confirms Professor Stefan Rahmstorf’s tweet. I see no reason to doubt these talented and knowledgeable scientists.

    “While strong storms aren’t unusual for the region, Cyclone Pam was exceptional. Prof Kevin Trenberth, expert in climate change and extreme weather at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research, tells Carbon Brief:

    “In the large area around Vanuatu the sea surface temperatures were one to two degrees Celsius above normal … So the atmosphere all around there has some 10 to 20% more moisture in it than a comparable storm in the 1970s would have had.”

    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/03/cyclone-pam-untangling-the-complex-science-on-tropical-storms-and-climate-change/

    • uknowispeaksense Says:

      I arrived in north Queensland a few of years after Cat 5 Cyclone Larry devastated the town of Innisfail in 2006. The locals always talk about cyclones because of the major effects they have on all aspects of their lives. One thing they said was that they don’t really get the big ones all that often. With this in mind, they have a quirky habit of measuring the timing of important events around significant cyclones. For example someone might mention that a particular child was born “2 years after Winifred” or they bought a new car “3 years before Larry”. One thing I was told when I arrived was that in my 3 year stint up there I was “very unlikely to see a big cyclone like Larry because they aren’t that common.” That was until Yasi devastated Innisfail, Tully and Cardwell and all but wiped the coastal towns of Tully Heads and Hull Heads off the map in 2011. So, that was two category 5 storms in 5 years and that has been followed up by Cat 5 Cyclone Marcia a few weeks ago that hit a little further south making it 3 in 9 years to strike the Queensland coast. Friends and former colleagues still in north Queensland who previously could have been classed as fence-sitters now talk about climate change being undeniable and are now wondering how soon the next big one will appear.


  3. The issue of superstorms is certainly close to my heart, as I live in Taiwan which is firmly inside the typhoon belt. Typhoon Morakot hit us hard in 2009, killing over 700 persons in Taiwan, and we just caught the tail end of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) which caused more than 8000 deaths in the Philippines in 2013.

    Looks like these exceptional “100 year storms” are going to be with us every couple of years. I guess the only upside is that we’ll be getting more rain (though not necessarily when we need it). This puts a whole new angle on the old “when it rains it pours” cliche.


  4. I have a question that just occurred to me concerning the very low rate of hurricanes in the Atlantic these last couple of years. Could it be possible that with so much melting ice in the Arctic, and seeing that only major outlet for all of that cool water is through the combined Greenland & Norwegian Seas, and to a smaller extent, Baffin Bay, that cooler water from that melt has cooled the Atlantic waters just enough to inhibit the creation of hurricanes?? If anybody has an answer, that’d be great. If I’m off base on my posit, no big deal. Thanks.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “Could it be possible….?” The short answer is “no”, but the full answer is way too complicated and lengthy for a comment here. Hurricanes are formed (“created”) in the tropics and move into the north Atlantic, and the effects of AGW on the temperature gradients and winds in the tropics is what is believed to be the cause of fewer of them.

      What happens to them when they get “way up north” may be impacted somewhat by what you suggest in terms of their ultimate strength and where they are “steered”, but is part of what happens as their lives end, not begin.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      the way the hurricane canard is usually expressed is in the number of cyclones that have made landfall in the US, – but of course, there have still been a close-to- normal number of caines that have spun up in the atlantic.
      the meme works for the average Fox viewer who is unable to imagine much beyond their county line.


  5. http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/accumulated_cyclone_energy.asp:

    “1. There is no evidence of a systematic increasing or decreasing trend in ACE [Accumulated Cyclone Energy ] for the years 1970-2012.”

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/ahead/south-pacific/tc.shtml:

    “2014–15 South Pacific Tropical Cyclone Outlook
    Near average tropical cyclone season likely for the South Pacific
    Near average tropical cyclone numbers are most likely for the South Pacific region this season.
    However, there is a shift in the odds towards lower than average tropical cyclone numbers in the western region.”

    http://www.weather.com/storms/typhoon/news/cyclone-pam-vanuatu-south-pacific:

    “The University of Wisconsin estimate is lower (stronger) than all but two Atlantic hurricanes all-time (Wilma ’05: 882 millibars and Gilbert ’88: 888 millibars). The all-time lowest pressure measured on the Earth’s surface was in Super Typhoon Tip (870 millibars) in October 1979. Without reconnaissance aircraft to provide a direct measurement, we’ll never know the actual lowest central pressure of Cyclone Pam.”

    “In reliable records dating to 1970, there have been nine other Category 5 cyclones in the southwest Pacific Ocean basin, according to hurricane specialist, Michael Lowry. Cyclone Ului was the last to do so in March 2010 well west of Vanuatu in the Coral Sea. Based on that, one would expect “about one Cat. 5 (cyclone) every five years” in the southwest Pacific basin, says Lowry.”

  6. Paul Magnus Says:

    so does that mean the freq of intense cyclones are increasing.

    This nonsense about global warming does not increase cyclone activity is.. nonsense.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      As I said, it’s not simple. I’m not expert on this, but I recall reading that we may see fewer Atlantic hurricanes, but more of the ones we see are more likely to be stronger. Cyclones in the western Pacific—-perhaps more of them and likely a higher %-age of stronger ones.

      We don’t yet know all we need to know. The number of cyclones has remained fairly constant at 90 (=/- 10) for quite a while and I don;t think they know why that is so either. Look here for some info:

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/hurricanes-global-warming-intermediate.htm

  7. redskylite Says:

    Good discussion by Kerry Emanuel ( professor of meteorology currently working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge) in RealScience today

    “Thus the weight of evidence points to increasing potential intensity in the region where Pam developed, and consistent with this, increasing intensity of the highest category storms based on satellite-derived measurements. ”

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2015/03/severe-tropical-cyclone-pam-and-climate-change/


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