Bracing for super typhoons

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Bracing for super typhoons

The violent windstorms from Chan-hom, the ninth typhoon of the year, meant restless nights for Koreans. Although it has noticeably weakened after passing through the West Sea in comparatively low temperatures, the typhoon was accompanied by strong gusts of wind and torrential rain. The 11th typhoon Nanka - originating in the warm waters southeast of Okinawa - is also poised to cross the Korean Peninsula. If you include the 10th typhoon Linfa, which dissipated over waters off Hong Kong last Friday, that means three typhoons developed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean at the same time, which while not unprecedented, is rare.

Typhoon Chan-hom is a blessing for Korea, which was afflicted with a severe drought this year. However, the change of the sequence between monsoon season and typhoon could be an ominous sign for us. As it turns out, typhoons hit Korea even before the seasonal rain front moves up to the central region of the country. The Japan Meteorological Agency has come up with a frightening long-term forecast that the monsoon rains will not be able to move northward beyond the area between Okinawa and Shanghai by 2075 - a deadly warning that the monsoon season could disappear altogether as a result of global warming.

An average of 27 typhoons develop in the waters above the Northwest Pacific annually and three to four of them affect the Korean Peninsula. On average, 7.6 typhoons develop until the end of July, but 11 of them have developed already. Even a hurricane from the East Pacific moved westward to morph into a typhoon this year. Climatologists attribute it to El Nino, which is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific.

A bigger problem is the frequent occurrence of super typhoons triggered by a massive accumulation of heat energy from mature tropical cyclones staying longer in the warm waters of the southern hemisphere when El Nino occurs. Super typhoon Haiyan, which carved a destructive path through the central Philippines in November 2013 before killing 7,000 people, swept the island nation at an amazing speed of 230 kilometers (143 miles) per hour. With the surface temperature of waters between the Philippines and Taiwan already hovering over 30 degrees Centigrade (86 degrees Fahrenheit), more super typhoons are destined to develop.

The peninsula is under attack from “dry monsoon season” and a severe drought. It is time for the government to draw up a mid- and long-term strategy to effectively deal with it, including the enhancement of the accuracy of its weather forecasts and concocting ways to conserve water in the absence of the monsoon season. Without preparation, no country can avoid a natural disaster.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 13, Page 34

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