Intensification of landfalling typhoons over the northwest Pacific since the late 1970s

Journal name:
Nature Geoscience
Volume:
9,
Pages:
753–757
Year published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/ngeo2792
Received
Accepted
Published online

Intensity changes in landfalling typhoons are of great concern to East and Southeast Asian countries1. Regional changes in typhoon intensity, however, are poorly known owing to inconsistencies among different data sets2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Here, we apply cluster analysis to bias-corrected data and show that, over the past 37 years, typhoons that strike East and Southeast Asia have intensified by 12–15%, with the proportion of storms of categories 4 and 5 having doubled or even tripled. In contrast, typhoons that stay over the open ocean have experienced only modest changes. These regional changes are consistent between operational data sets. To identify the physical mechanisms, we decompose intensity changes into contributions from intensification rate and intensification duration. We find that the increased intensity of landfalling typhoons is due to strengthened intensification rates, which in turn are tied to locally enhanced ocean surface warming on the rim of East and Southeast Asia. The projected ocean surface warming pattern under increasing greenhouse gas forcing suggests that typhoons striking eastern mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan will intensify further. Given disproportionate damages by intense typhoons1, this represents a heightened threat to people and properties in the region.

At a glance

Figures

  1. Temporal evolution of various typhoon intensity metrics.
    Figure 1: Temporal evolution of various typhoon intensity metrics.

    ac, Annual number of category (cat.) 4–5 typhoons (a), ratio of the annual number of category 4–5 typhoons to that of all typhoons (b), and annual mean typhoon lifetime peak intensity (c) in the northwest Pacific as a function of time from the JTWC data (black curve) and adjusted (adj.) JMA 1-min wind data (red curve; see Methods). Green curve in a shows results for the original (orig.) JMA 1-min wind data (obtained using JMA 10-min wind data and a conversion used in previous studies). Thick dashed lines in each panel show linear trends during 1977–2014.

  2. Tracks and intensity evolution of typhoons in Cluster 1.
    Figure 2: Tracks and intensity evolution of typhoons in Cluster 1.

    a, Tracks of typhoons from the JTWC data (the JMA data show similar results). The colours show the intensity of tropical depression (grey), tropical storm (green), categories 1 and 2 (orange), and categories 3 to 5 (red). b, Annual mean typhoon lifetime peak intensity and annual mean typhoon intensification rate as a function of time from the JTWC (black curve) and adjusted JMA (red curve) data. Thick dashed lines show linear trends during 1977–2013.

  3. Tracks and intensity evolution of typhoons in Cluster 2.
    Figure 3: Tracks and intensity evolution of typhoons in Cluster 2.

    a, Tracks of typhoons from the JTWC data (the JMA data show similar results). The colours show the intensity of tropical depression (grey), tropical storm (green), categories 1 and 2 (orange), and categories 3 to 5 (red). b, Annual mean typhoon lifetime peak intensity and annual mean typhoon intensification rate as a function of time from the JTWC (black curve) and adjusted JMA (red curve) data. Thick dashed lines show linear trends during 1977–2013.

  4. Linear trends in potential intensity and SST.
    Figure 4: Linear trends in potential intensity and SST.

    ad, Spatial maps of linear trends in potential intensity (Pl, ms−1 per decade) calculated using observed SSTs and atmospheric reanalysis data during 1977–2013 (a), observed SSTs (°C per decade) during 1977–2013 (b), simulated SSTs (°C per decade) during 1977–2013 (c) and projected SSTs (°C per decade) during 2006–2100 under the RCP 4.5 scenario by CMIP5 models (d). Model spreads, represented as standard deviation, of linear trends in projected SSTs are shown in Supplementary Fig. 13a. The four boxes in a that gradually fade from black to light grey show the main intensification regions of typhoons in the four groups (see Supplementary Fig. 8).

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Affiliations

  1. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive MC 0206, La Jolla, California 92093-0206, USA

    • Wei Mei &
    • Shang-Ping Xie
  2. Department of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 3202 Venable and Murray Halls, CB 3300, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3300, USA

    • Wei Mei

Contributions

W.M. conceived and designed the study, performed the analyses, and wrote the paper. S.-P.X. contributed to the development of the idea and the writing of the paper.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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