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Titanic typhoons are in the forecast

If history is any guide, warming subsurface water expected to fuel bigger storms

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2:00pm, May 29, 2015
Typhoon Haiyan

TITANIC TYPHOONS  Powerful storms such as Typhoon Haiyan, pictured in this composite image, can cause extensive devastation in the western Pacific Ocean. The average intensity of typhoons like these will rise significantly by the end of the century, new research predicts.

Warming waters will boost the destructiveness of future typhoons, new research predicts.

Studying 60 years of typhoon activity in the western Pacific Ocean, researchers spotted a clear trend: A typhoon’s ultimate intensity largely depends on the temperature of deep seawater churned upward as the storm passes overhead. Projecting their finding into the future, the researchers predict online May 29 in Science Advances that Pacific warming will hike the average typhoon peak wind speed 14 percent by the end of the century. That’s enough to turn a Category 3 storm into a Category 4, notes lead author Wei Mei, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

Faster winds spell trouble for anyone in a storm’s path, says Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at MIT who was not involved with the research. “A 14 percent increase in wind speed

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