Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations

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Extreme Storms: The recent bomb cyclone in the United States and tropical cyclones in southeast Africa

Climate change causes severe weather.

“In all probability it is a result of climate change and indicative of things to come.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

A Bomb Cyclone Forms in the US Midwest

A bomb cyclone is a low pressure system in which the central pressure rapidly drops by at least 24 millibars (mb) in 24 hours or less. On March 12-14 winter storm Ulmer moved over the Midwest and Southeastern United States. In Ulmer the central pressure dropped 26 mb in 16 hours. All time low pressure records were set in Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. The central pressure dropped to 968 mb on March 13. The extreme pressure gradient in the storm created winds of 100mph or more over in Texas and New Mexico. Blizzard conditions and whiteouts occurred over a wide area. Thunderstorms and tornadoes were widespread during the storm.

An EF 1 tornado hit Dexter, NM. This was the earliest tornado ever recorded in a calendar year in the state of New Mexico. The storm produced damaging winds in Texas as well.. As the storm moved south and east over two days it spawned widespread tornadoes.

Climate change increases the likelihood of severe weather.

Tropical Cyclones in Southeastern Africa

The storm season in the Indian Ocean so far in 2019 has been extensive. There have already been more than the usual number of storms. Mozambique on the southeastern coast of Africa had not experienced a tropical cyclone since satellite monitoring of the earth began. That changed big time this spring when Cyclone Idai came ashore. It turned out to be among the most destructive weather events to occur in Africa, if not the southern hemisphere. The storm had winds measured at over 175 km/h (105 mph) as it reached shore near the port city of Beiria, Mozambique. The storm produced widespread flooding which added to the wind damage. A stretch of land 50km (30mi) long adjacent to the Buzi River was flooded. In places the flood water was six meters (19 1/2 feet ) deep. Parts of Zimbabwe and Malawi were also effected.

The government of Mozambique announced a confirmed death total of 200 and an estimated 100,000 people needed rescuing from the flood waters near Beira. Some of those rescued were without food or drinkable water for as many as three days. Families were split up, some members dying in the flood. The death toll may have exceeded more than 1000. In Zimbabwe a government statement indicated at least 98 died and another 200 missing. Following the storm the president of Mozambique declared three days of mourning.

Only a few weeks later Cyclone Kenneth came ashore in Mozambique It is the first time since records have been kept that two cyclones reached the country in the same season. Again there was extensive flooding.

Our Changing Climate

The big question is whether this event is indicative of climate change or just a matter of chance. In light of storm activity in the Indian Ocean in all probability it is a result of climate change and indicative of things to come.

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Climate Change in the 21st Century: Pacific Hurricanes, Super Typhoons, and Extreme Cyclones

The increased frequency of super storms

Super Storm Haiyan

If the past several decades are any indication, and if current trends in global warming continue, the probability of more frequent and severe super storms will continue to increase.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 25, 2014—Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones have been familiar events in weather lore for a very long time. In the past several decades, a new weather event has entered the picture. This is the extreme ocean storm. The 21st Century has given rise to some previously uncommon events. One of these is the super typhoon. Summer 2014 is no exception.

Super Storms

The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the world’s oceans. Because of its size, it is the scene of many cyclonic storms. The larger cyclonic storms are referred to as super storms. The term super hurricane or typhoon has been in use for 35 years and was coined by the US Military Joint Typhoon Warning Center. It was defined as a storm with sustained winds of over 150 mph (194km/h) for at least one minute. This is the most frequently used measure of a super storm, but not the only one.

Super storms go by several different names, depending on where in the Pacific Ocean the storm occurs. Pacific hurricanes are those that occur east of the International Date Line and north of the equator. West of the International Date Line and north of the equator they are called super typhoons. In the southwestern Pacific and the Indian Ocean, they are called extreme cyclones. These super storms are more common in the Pacific and Indian Oceans than in the Atlantic. Storms in the northern Pacific normally begin to weaken if or when they turn toward the North Pole. While they occur someplace in the Pacific every few years, only three super hurricanes have been documented in the Atlantic ocean in the past century.

Super storms are becoming increasingly more frequent.

The speed and size of a hurricane can be accurately detected by satellites.

Categorizing a Super Storm

In the United States, a category 5 hurricane is defined as one with winds of 158 mph. Thus, a super hurricane is an upper category 4 or category 5 depending on the difference in wind velocity between 150 and 158 mph. However, one can argue that it does not matter which definition is used to describe a given storm, it is still a severe storm. Often with severe storms, instruments collecting data may be inaccurate or damaged because of the high level of wind speeds, with more accurate data available from satellite images.

Super typhoons have occurred in each of the past three summers. In 2013, Super storm Haiyan was believed to have had the highest wind velocities ever recorded in a typhoon. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated the highest sustained winds for one minute reached 195 mph (315 km/h). Another agency estimated sustained winds for a 10 minute period reached 170 mph (275km/h). Gusts reached 235 mph (378 km/h). Due to the path it took over the Philippine Islands, the storm took more than 8000 lives and did a tremendous amount of damage.

A number of other recent typhoons have nearly reached the category of being super-typhoons. These include Genevieve, Jelawat, Ramasson, and Vongfong. Typhoon Vongfong in October was the strongest storm on the planet in 2014. Wind gusts were recorded at approximately 195 mph. The eye of the storm was 26 miles across at its peak. The storm may have reached category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale for a short time.

The Increased Frequency of Super Storms

If the past several decades are any indication, and if current trends in global warming continue, the probability of more frequent and severe super storms will continue to increase.