Climate change blamed for typhoon's severity

Climate Cast
Every Thursday, we talk about the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences we're seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.
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Recent research that shows the earth's temperature rising faster than expected is significant more from a public-relations standpoint than from a scientific one, says a local climate scientist.

John Abraham, professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas, explained that the latest study attempted to fill in gaps in the global temperature data gathered by sensors placed around the world. Areas with incomplete sensor coverage included the polar regions.

"When you add the poles, the North and South Pole, our earth's temperature is rising about twice as fast over the last decade as previously expected," Abraham said.

"It matters from a rhetorical standpoint, because there are a lot of myths out there about climate change. And one of the myths is that we're in a pause, where temperatures haven't risen much in the last decade," he said. "And this report shows that pause is, well, I guess a faux pause."

"The good news is there's something that we can do about it," he said. "It turns out that it is cheaper to take action to reduce emissions than to just adapt to the changing climate. Superstorm Sandy, this recent typhoon in the Pacific, the drought last year, the floods in Duluth, the floods in Colorado, have tremendous costs and those costs are going to go up significantly in the coming decades. It is cheaper to take action now to reduce emissions than to just pay to rebuild our cities and our agricultural communities when climate change happens. And that's a clear message that's been out for a couple of decades."

Typhoon destruction
An aerial shot shows devastation in the aftermath in the aftermath of Supper Typhoon Haiyan that smashed into coastal communities on the central Philippines in Iloilo on November 9, 2013.
AFP/Getty Images

Abraham said the typhoon that devastated parts of the Philippines last week likely had some relationship to climate change, if only because tropical storms draw strength from warm water. The ocean was warm along the storm's track in the Pacific, he said.

"Would the hurricane have happened without climate change? Maybe, maybe not," he said. "Would it have been as bad as it was? I doubt it."

The new temperature study found "global surface warming since 1997 has happened more than twice as fast as the HadCRUT4 estimate," wrote Dana Nuccitelli for The Guardian.

A summary of the data:

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