Skip to content
The link between climate change and Super Typhoon Mawar threatening Guam: NPR

Super Typhoon Mawar approaches the U.S. territory of Guam on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.


hide caption

toggle caption


The link between climate change and Super Typhoon Mawar threatening Guam: NPR

Super Typhoon Mawar approaches the U.S. territory of Guam on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.


Super Typhoon Mawar is heading towards the US territory of Guam. It pushes a wall of water in front of it and packs strong enough winds to snap power poles and uproot trees.

Climate change makes storms like Mawar more likely.

The ocean absorbs most of the additional heat trapped near the Earth’s surface by human emissions of greenhouse gases. Warmer ocean waters are the fuel for storms, helping them grow big and powerful like Mawar. As the storm approached Guam and the Mariana Islands on Tuesday, the National Weather Service described Mawar as a “triple threat” with strong winds, torrential rains and a “life-threatening storm surge.”

Mawar quickly gained strength as he moved earthward. In a single day, it went from a Category 1 storm, with winds that could knock off a few shingles, to a Category 4 storm with strong enough winds to rip roofs off entirely.

Such rapid escalation is increasingly common. And storms that quickly gain strength can be extremely dangerous because there is less time to warn people of danger. Last year, Hurricane Ian developed into a devastatingly powerful storm shortly before hitting Florida. In 2021, Hurricane Ida strengthened just before making landfall in Louisiana.

Typhoons are the same as hurricanes and cyclones. Different parts of the world use different words for spinning storms. The term super typhoon is similar to the term major hurricane. It refers to storms with very strong winds.

Climate change could make rapid intensification more likely

Scientists are actively studying the link between human-induced climate change and rapidly intensifying cyclones around the world.

Because heat is the fuel of hurricanes, it makes sense that consistently warm water on the surface of the ocean helps fuel large and powerful storms. But wind conditions also affect how quickly a storm strengthens, making it harder for scientists to determine the effects of climate change on storm formation and predict long-term trends.

Yet a growing body of research suggests that storms are more likely to grow in strength rapidly as the Earth warms. A 2019 study found that storms that form in the Atlantic are more likely to become powerful very quickly as the Earth warms. A 2020 study found a similar trend in the Pacific.

Typhoon Mawar moved over abnormally warm Pacific waters as it intensified. Oceans around the world are experiencing record temperatures this year.

Climate change makes flooding more likely and more dangerous

As dangerous as Super Typhoon Mawar’s winds are, it’s the water that poses the greatest risk. Storm surges can travel across the land, washing away buildings, vegetation, and anything in its path.

As Mawar approached Guam Tuesday evening local time, forecasters predicted between 6 and 10 feet of storm surge, or even higher water if the eye of the storm passes very close to land. This would cause life-threatening flooding.

On top of that, forecasters are warning that Mawar will bring torrential rains of up to 20 inches which will cause flash flooding further inland.

Climate change is making both storm surges and inland flooding more severe. Storm surge is more dangerous due to rising sea levels. The water along the coast is higher than it was in the past, increasing the damage caused by the storm surges. Guam and the Mariana Islands are particularly vulnerable to rising seas because they are low-lying island territories.

And a warmer Earth also makes torrential rains more likely, because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. When a storm hits land, all that water vapor falls as rain. Research has already shown that past storms have dropped more rain due to climate change.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.