a collision of two giant monsters (tropical cyclones and mesoscale eddies)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

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.”

To read this ar­ticle in its en­tirety, click HERE.


Photo of one of two giant monsters, here the super-typhoon Mangkhut.

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.)


Leave a Comment