The Philippines hammered by yet another typhoon

Typhoon Haiyan which is thought to now be the largest storm to make landfall hit the Philippines last Friday and than travelled on towards Vietnam and China. In just the Philippines alone it is thought to have killed over 10,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

As the world continues to warm it is unclear if storms such as these are going to become much more frequent, but studies show that the devastation that the storms leave behind at the very least do leave their own carbon footprint as they bump up global warming.

This is due to the fact that massive storms leave a trail of uprooted trees behind them along with massive environmental devastation. The large destruction means that an extra pulse of carbon is pumped into the atmosphere helping to speed up the rate at which global warming climbs.

It is too soon after Haiyan to estimate how much carbon might have been released by its trail of destruction, but if other tropical cyclones are used as a predictor the figures are likely to be very large. A study in 2005 found that about 105 teragrams of carbon were released in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the US east coast. In this example about 320 million trees were uprooted, and the number is expected to be much higher in Haiyan’s case.

Interestingly enough, most of the carbon damage is done in areas where lower wind strengths exist because these winds tend to affect a much larger area. For this reason, sometimes a large but less intense storm can do more damage than one that is strong but very concentrated. Forests can slowly start to capture back some carbon as they grow back after a storm hits but this tends to take a long time and depends on how many trees were affected in a region.