`Tropical cyclones to rise in next 20 years`
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Last Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 20:00
  
Washington: Despite a projected drop in the frequency of tropical cyclones, the risk they pose is likely to rise over the next two decades, with the number of people exposed to these storms increasing nearly 12 percent every year, a new study has claimed.

Scientists have already suggested that while the overall global frequency of tropical cyclones might drop in the future, they might strengthen in intensity, thanks to global warming.

To see what impact this shift might have in the future, a group of researchers took into account how many people will live in vulnerable areas, the levels of poverty there, and the levels of government action.

They found many unknowns in terms of the risk people may face from tropical cyclones due to a lack of global data.

In the absence of such global data, the researchers looked at proxies such as poverty, which indicated that people might not have the means to build high-quality structures.

The fact that both human populations and tropical cyclone intensity are projected to increase over the next 20 years suggests there will be a rise in the number of people exposed per year to these storms of nearly 12 percent.

"Regardless of climate change, the increase in population is the main trigger that will increase exposure to tropical cyclones," study author Pascal Peduzzi, an environmentalist at the United Nations Environment Program, told OurAmazingPlanet.

Their findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggested that approximately 150 million people will be threatened by tropical cyclones by 2030, compared with about 133.7 million now.

The highest increase in annual exposure to these cyclones will take place in Asia, with a rise of 10.7 million exposed people along its Pacific Rim and 2.5 million along its Indian Ocean coast.

Tropical cyclones -- hurricanes and typhoons -- usually form in the world's tropical regions and each spins around a centre known as an eye. They can wreak havoc with extreme winds, torrential rains, high waves, extensive coastal flooding and damaging landslides.

The past 50 years or so have seen the highest death tolls and greatest damages on record for these kinds of storms. "All exposed governments should take actions for reducing disaster risk," Peduzzi said.

"Early warning systems, including storm surge warnings, should be improved; building codes and shelters should be also improved. International efforts on mitigating climate change by lowering greenhouse gas emissions should be pursued. Critical and vulnerable infrastructures should be reviewed and retrofitted if they are located in tropical-cyclone-prone areas."

Peduzzi also said that the researchers would like to continue working with climate change scenarios, "including sea level rise and related beach erosion in relation with potential impacts from storm surges".

"The potential role of ecosystems in mitigating these impacts," Peduzzi said, "such as the role of coral reefs, mangroves and other marine and coastal systems, would be interesting," he said.

"I'm not saying that ecosystems can solve all the issues, but so far, most of the efforts for protecting coastal infrastructures and populations are mostly based on engineering solutions, whereas we don't know how much we can do by protecting or restoring ecosystems," he added.

PTI


First Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 20:00


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