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International

Typhoon Haiyan and climate change Q&A

How could climate change affect typhoons, hurricanes and tropical storms and is it possible to calculate this impact?

A man walks past a tree uprooted by strong winds brought by super Typhoon Haiyan.
Photograph: Stringer/philippines/Reuters

As the devastating storm has only just happened, it is too soon for any research to have been done on whether global warming influenced typhoon Haiyan. But there are good reasons for expecting that it has (see below). Furthermore, the tools exist to determine how much climate change may have intensified the typhoon. They have already been used on other extreme weather events, giving a clear scientific answer that climate change had dramatically increased the risk of heatwaves and floods, for example.

Typhoons, hurricanes and all tropical storms draw their vast energy from the warmth of the sea. As Prof Will Steffen, at the Australian National University, says: "We know sea-surface temperatures are warming pretty much around the planet, so that's a pretty direct influence of climate change on the nature of the storm. [ read more ]