Has scientific research made a link between climate change and more severe cyclones?
Yes. Prof Myles Allen, at the University of Oxford, says: “The current consensus is that climate change is not making the risk of hurricanes any greater, but there are physical arguments and evidence that there is a risk of more intense hurricanes.” A Nature Geoscience research paper from 2010 found that global warming will increase the average intensity of the storms while the total number of storms will fall, meaning fewer but more severe cyclones. It also found that rainfall in the heart of the storms will increase by 20%.
A 2013 study by MIT’s Prof Kerry Emmanuel agreed that the most intense cyclones – category 3 to 5 – will increase, but the work suggested smaller cyclones would also increase. It also found that “increases in tropical cyclones are most prominent in the western North Pacific”, ie where typhoon Haiyan struck.
In 2011, a synthesis report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that the average wind speeds in cyclones are likely to increase, as was the frequency of heavy rainfall, but it noted the difficulty of linking changes in complex events like cyclones to climate change.