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

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Storms: Global Warming Sets 21st Century Record


Hurricane off the shore of the U.S.

“The prognosis is for these marine storms to become more intense with time.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 2, 2017—-In the many years since global warming and climate change became recognized as a global problem, it has been forecast that severe storms would become more severe. The severity of hurricanes in the 21st Century supports this forecast.

North Atlantic Hurricanes

Hurricanes occur in many parts of the world’s oceans and go by different names in different regions.
In the North Atlantic and South Atlantic Oceans, they are called hurricanes. In the North Atlantic, the hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and most hurricanes occur during this period.

In 2017, the first storm to reach hurricane strength was Arlene on April 19, well before the normal season begins. It was only the second named storm to occur in April since records began. This year, in 2017, is the first time that two hurricanes of category four reached the United States. Both of these were Atlantic hurricanes. If the recent hurricane that struck Puerto Rico is included it raises that number to three.

South Atlantic Hurricanes

Hurricanes are rare in the Atlantic Ocean south of the equator. Many tropical lows develop in this region, but Hurricane Catarina, in 2004, was the first and only tropical depression in history to reach hurricane status in this part of the global ocean.


Heavy hurricane winds threaten the coast.

North Pacific Severe Storms

The northern Pacific Ocean is divided into two regions for naming severe cyclonic storms. North of the Equator and East of the International Date Line at 180 degrees, they are hurricanes. The eastern Pacific hurricane season begins earlier than does the Atlantic season. It runs from May 15 through November. In 2017, the first system to reach tropical storm status was Adrian and developed on May 9, the earliest on record. However, it did not reach hurricane strength.

The northwest Pacific region extends from 100 degrees East to the International date line. In this region the storms are referred to as typhoons. Most of the worst typhoons on record have occurred in the 21st Century. This is particularly true when fatalities indicate the severity. The Philippine Islands lie in the path of these storms. Between five and ten tropical cyclones make landfall in the islands each year. Haiyan, in 2013, was the most severe on record, taking more than 6000 lives and displacing several million people. The local name for the storm was Typhoon Yolanda. The first typhoon of 2017 formed on January 7. Typhoon Noru formed in July and became a Category 5, or super typhoon.


The eye of the hurricane

Indian Ocean Cyclones

In the Indian Ocean and western parts of the South Pacific region, these storms are called cyclones. In 2015 Cyclone Pam reached a Category 5 status with sustained winds of 160 mph

The Coming Years

Climate change, and particularly warmer water in the Pacific Ocean are most certainly contributing to the increased severity of the storm. The prognosis is for these marine storms to become more intense with time. 

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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.