Super typhoons in store as seas warm

Kyodo News

A super typhoon stronger than the deadly Hurricane Katrina that devastated the southern United States in 2005 could hit Japan in the latter half of this century if global warming continues, according to a study by a Japanese research team made available Monday.

Typhoons packing winds of at least 241.2 kph are often called super typhoons, but the one feared by the researchers could blow as strong as 288 kph on the ground, the team from Nagoya University and the Meteorological Research Institute said.

Several super typhoons may also develop between 2074 and 2087 due to a projected 2-degree rise in sea temperatures in the Western Pacific south of Japan, the study showed, based on a scenario drawn up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in which average global temperatures will rise about 3 degrees from preindustrial levels by the end of the century.

“Given that global warming is under way, it is little wonder that typhoons develop in an extreme way,” Nagoya University associate professor Kazuhisa Tsuboki said. “The point is how we will forecast them and take disaster control measures.”

Using the Earth Simulator supercomputer, the team predicted in detail the occurrence and development of typhoons around Japan during the 2074-2087 period.

A rise in sea temperatures generally makes typhoons more powerful because they develop by taking energy from warm seas. Such typhoons would also bring heavy rain because warmer temperatures will increase water vapor in the air.

If global warming is arrested, super typhoons are less likely, the team said.

One of the expected super typhoons could have a minimum atmospheric pressure of 866 hectopascals at its center and maximum winds of 288 kph on the ground, which is stronger than Katrina at 902 hectopascals or the devastating typhoons that have struck Japan.

It could have a short, steep decline in central pressure and rapid development, according to the team.

Another predicted typhoon could bring more than 1 meter of rainfall to the Tohoku region, according to the simulation.