WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Weather experts are warning that the destruction caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is just the beginning of increasingly violent cyclones to come as a result of rising ocean temperatures.
United Nations climate talks in Poland were dominated by discussion of the most powerful typhoon ever recorded making landfall in the Philippines on Friday. Authorities are warning that nearly 10,000 people may be dead.
“There is a tendency of (oceans) warming up and an increase in the intensity of cyclones is part of the risks,” Herve Le Treut, a Paris university professor and climatologist, told AFP.
Meteorologists estimated that surface ocean temperatures have risen 0.1 degrees Celsius each decade, and the upper ocean temperature increased during the first half of the 20th century. However, experts have not officially linked global warming to inclement weather, and debate continues whether or not the ocean temperature rise is part of natural global change or man-made.
The AFP reports that a United Nations-mandated panel on climate change concluded in a report that it was “virtually certain that the upper ocean … warmed from 1971 to 2010.” Fabrice Chauvin, a researcher at France’s National Centre for Meteorological Research, told AFP that prior to 1970 there were no satellites to track such phenomenon.
Heat energy produced from the surface of oceans feeds into cyclones – the higher the temperatures, the bigger source of heat.
“There will therefore be a tendency to have slightly more violent cyclones,” Chauvin told AFP, noting that computer-generated climate models are still predicting fewer super storms in the future.
The U.N. climate talks are pushing to cut greenhouse gas emissions that warm the Earth.
Philippine climate negotiator Naderev Sano pledged to fast at the climate talks until concrete changes have been made to help prevent future super storms similar to Haiyan that destroyed his home village.
“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw,” he said, according to AFP. “I speak for the countless people who will no longer be able to speak for themselves.”
President Barack Obama pledged support and aid for the victims, as the Filipino government scrambled for international relief efforts.
“The United States is already providing significant humanitarian assistance, and we stand ready to further assist the government’s relief and recovery efforts. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the millions of people affected by this devastating storm,” said Obama.
Search-and-rescue operations are already underway, and a contingent of Marines, water and generators have been dispatched to areas hit hard by the typhoon.