DISCUSSION: There is no question that scientists and non-scientists alike from around the globe were mesmerized over the past week with the formation and intensification of Super Typhoon Wutip over in the Western Pacific Ocean basin. There were several things which greatly impressed the global atmospheric science community about this tropical cyclone. First off, it is worth noting that while it is certainly not impossible to contend with a strong tropical cyclone in the tropical Western Pacific Ocean during the month of February, it is certainly not something that is close to commonplace from a historical perspective in that part of the world. More specifically, Typhoon Wutip and then eventually Super Typhoon Wutip reached a peak intensity with top maximum sustained winds of 155-mph (i.e., the equivalent of a powerful Category 4 hurricane in the tropical Atlantic or tropical Eastern/Central Pacific Ocean basins). Moreover, at that peak intensity, Wutip intensified into what is now the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed north of the equator during the month of February over the past 70 years. There is a lot to be said for and a major reality check to be respected since it goes without saying that this was an unprecedented event over in the tropical Western Pacific Ocean basin. The fortunate aspect to the entire existence of Wutip is that it never impacted any landmasses in any legitimate capacity which was most certainly a major “breath of fresh air” in the context of corresponding emergency management agencies and organizations in that part of the world.
When events such as this one unfolds before the globally televised as well as social media platforms, there is an immediate inclination to get into a massive “digital frenzy” over whether such an event could be or should be viewed as a direct (or even an indirect) result of global climate change issues. The simplest response to that thought/question is that such an event can simply NOT be claimed as a result of climate change since climate change over the course of years, decades, centuries, and millennia. Thus, the notion for anyone to try to convince a media-based audience that such an event is a result (in any capacity) to the current and ongoing impacts from climate change are inaccurate and needs to be clarified.
One such clarification would be that from the most fundamental standpoint, tropical cyclones rely on the upper-most part of the global tropical ocean basins to have warm water over large regions in order to form and potentially intensify over some given period. Thus, with a gradually net warming occurring on a global scale and some of this warming being observed within the world’s oceans, there can most certainly be a measurable increase in the average amount of available “fuel” for tropical cyclone development and subsequent intensification. Hence, despite the robust nature of Super Typhoon Wutip as reflected in the image and brief infrared satellite imagery animation attached above, it is imperative to recognize and respect the reality that a single event (while very impressive to the scientific and non-scientific world alike) can never be attributed to climate change. But, nonetheless, there are always valuable lessons to be learned so disastrous impacts from landfalls of such powerful storms can continue to be mitigated in the future.
To learn more about other high-impact weather events occurring across Western Pacific Ocean, click here!
© 2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz