12 Jun 2018

Clear evidence cyclones are more devastating - scientist

3:15 pm on 12 June 2018

It is becoming increasingly clear that cyclones are becoming more devastating, and human activity is one of the main drivers, a cyclone scientist says.

Empty desks - This school on South Epi in the Shepherd Islands will not hear children's voices anytime soon.

Empty desks - This school on South Epi in the Shepherd Islands will not hear children's voices anytime soon. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

James Kossin, from the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, last week published research that studied 68 years of cyclones, and found they had slowed by 10 percent globally.

That meant they were spending longer periods over areas in their path, exposing them to much more rain and longer periods of wind - as was seen with Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Cyclone Winston in Fiji.

Dr Kossin said other bodies of evidence also showed cyclones were getting stronger, the strongest storms were becoming more frequent, and they were increasingly common closer to the poles.

"I think that what we're seeing are multiple lines of evidence and mounting evidence that human beings are affecting the behaviour and they're doing it in ways that are very, very relevant to society,' Dr Kossin said.

"It's not a hard sell to convince people that tropical cyclones are very, very bad. So if we start [showing that they are] increasing their impacts on people that's a very, very important thing."

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