“INCREASINGLY POWERFUL TROPICAL CYCLONES in the North Pacific Ocean may be fueling a powerful north-flowing ocean current, helping to boost the amount of heat it ferries to northern latitudes. By enhancing the speed of some ocean whirlpools called eddies, and suppressing the spin of others, the passing storms may be accelerating the heat-carrying Kuroshio Current and that could warm the planet further.
Researchers have long predicted that climate change would increase the intensity of tropical cyclones around the planet. Some observational data, including a recent study of tropical cyclone intensity over the last four decades, suggest that this supercharging of storms is already happening.
Yet tropical cyclones’ own influence on the climate isn’t generally included in most climate simulations. The interaction of these relatively short-lived storms with a calm, quiescent ocean has been considered insignificant in the long-term climate picture, says Yu Zhang, a physical oceanographer at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao.
But, in reality, the ocean is anything but quiescent, she says: It is full of energetic eddies, large swirls of water that spin off of large, fast-moving currents. These swirls, known as mesoscale eddies, tend to persist for perhaps a few months, span 10 to 100 kilometers across and can extend more than 1,000 meters deep. That makes the ephemeral eddies key players in mixing up and redistributing the ocean’s heat, salt, and nutrient content.
‘The collision of these two giant monsters—tropical cyclones and mesoscale eddies—will probably lead to dramatic climatic impacts that are far beyond our imagination,’ Zhang says.”
The above was lifted from “How more powerful Pacific cyclones may be fueling global warming” by Carolyn Gramling for Science News (May 28, 2020). The sub-title is “Stronger storms seem to be speeding up the Kuroshio Current, which ferries warm water north.”
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FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is super-typhoon Mangkhut, which swept past the Philippines on September 12, 2018, as a Category 5 storm. Collisions of such powerful tropical cyclones with spinning ocean whirlpools called eddies may be accelerating heat-carrying ocean currents like the Kuroshio. (Photo by Lauren Dauphine for NASA Earth Observatory.)