The Neverending Deluge: Pacific Heat + Fixed Jet Stream Parks Anomalous January Cyclone Lingling Over Philippines For Two Weeks

The vulnerable island chain that is the Philippines already sits on the firing line of tropical storm devastation. During a typical year, about 20 tropical cyclones roar ashore, wrecking all sorts of havoc. In a typical year, this amazing parade of such cyclones begins in June.

But now it appears that weather in the Philippines, which was already rather extreme, has gotten much worse. For so far, this island nation has been treated to a tropical storm season that hasn’t ended for at least 20 months. The storm season didn’t end in 2013, when January 1rst saw the formation of that year’s first tropical cyclone. And the season didn’t end with the winter of 2014 when the devastating rainmaker that was Tropical Storm Lingling formed on January 10th.

Lingling_2014_track

(Lingling Track. Image source: Commons)

Lingling developed to the east of the Philippines over a pool of abnormally hot and deep warm water. Temperature anomalies for this region ranged up to 2.5 C above average. Perhaps more importantly and more ominously, the depth of this abnormally warm water extended far below the surface.

In a Deepening Pool of Hot Water

Such strange and anomalous conditions are expected under a regime of intensifying human-caused warming. In the hottest regions of the ocean, evaporation is expected to intensify as warmth increases. Eventually, the surface water becomes saltier as it becomes hotter, causing it to sink. This mechanism transfers heat deeper and deeper into the world’s tropical oceans. This process is the start of a dangerous ocean turnover. One related to hypoxia, ocean current changes, and stratification. And it appears that just such a perilous heat transfer is beginning in a region of the Pacific east of the Philippines.

We won’t go too far into detail about the initial signs of tropical ocean warming and turnover or its other hazards and implications here. However, suffice it to say that a deepening hot water pool in this region of the world appears to, at this time, be having a profound impact on storm formation and strength. Namely, it has spawned the almost constant progression of storms mentioned above. A hurricane season without end for two years. It is also the mechanism that, according to NOAA fueled the extraordinarily powerful Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record, which devastated the Philippines in November of 2013.

Now the same zone has spawned the epic rainmaker that is Lingling to again harry the Philippines just two months later.

The Storm that Wouldn’t End Forces More Than a Million to Flee

Lingling formed over this anomalously deep, hot water then marched in through the southern reaches of the Philippines where it has been dumping copious amounts of rain over the islands ever since. You can note the almost zero movement of the cyclone from January 11 to January 23 in the MODIS image sequence below:

Lingling January 11

Lingling Janary 16

Lingling January 23

(Lingling January 11, 16 and 23. Image source: Lance-Modis)

By January 22nd, over the course of 11 days of near-biblical flooding, the storm had inundated some parts of the Philippines with an astonishing 52 inches of rainfall, more than the amount New York receives in an entire year. By today, the never-ending deluge had resulted in 1.14 million evacuated, 63 missing, and over 54 lost lives. Numerous bridges and dams were also destroyed by the flooding, along with hundreds of homes. This, just two months after the strongest tropical cyclone ever to make landfall struck the northern part of this vulnerable island chain.

And with the anomalous January formation of a devastatingly persistent Lingling, there is simply no respite.

Jet Stream Lag, Stalled Fronts, and Hot, Deep Water

Lingling’s persistence over the Philippines for so long can be attributed to numerous factors. First, the storm was caught up in a stalled frontal boundary whose tail end had snagged over the Philippines for about 15 days running. The front itself was caught up in a Jet Stream trough shoved south by a disrupted and collapsing polar vortex (one that currently appears to be in the process of getting ripped in half). So Lingling became indirectly linked with polar amplification related events further north.

The stalled frontal boundary and related Jet Stream lag also resulted in Lingling remaining parked over hot Pacific waters of great depth. Normally, the cyclonic action of the storm would pump cooler, deeper waters to the surface and result in the storm’s weakening. Unfortunately, the deeper waters were also quite warm, so Lingling maintained enough strength to continue dumping epic amounts of rain over the Philippines for two weeks straight.

Lingling front entagled 20 Jan

(Lingling, lower left, entangled in frontal system stretching all the way across the western Pacific on January 20, 2014. Front entanglement in a fixed Jet Stream pattern and related stalled frontal boundary helped result in Lingling’s 2 week persistence. Image source: Lance-Modis.)

This combination of conditions: hot, deep water, exceedingly early tropical storm formation (such that there is essentially no end to the Pacific cyclone season) and a lagging, persistent Jet Stream pattern resulting in an entirely abnormal storm event are unlikely to have occurred without the added weather forcing of human caused warming.

Unfortunately, the Philippines, at least for this year as in 2013, are likely to expect storm formation and impact to continue on throughout the year. Water conditions are certainly warm enough. So we will likely see the current 20 month storm season continue for another 11. A shift in winds, blowing the warmer waters east with an El Nino might bring some brief respite. But with human caused climate change pushing temperatures ever higher, we are likely to see the waters continue to warm, eventually over-riding such variability. In the end, the Philippines is indeed likely to see a never ending storm season.

Links:

Four Feet of Rain Floods the Philippines

More than a Million Forced From Their Homes by Lingling

NASA Lance-Modis

Commons

NOAA: Deep, Warm Water Fuels Haiyan Intensification

Through the Looking Glass of the Great Dying

190 mph Monster Cyclone Now the Strongest Hurricane Since 1980

Arctic ‘Heat Wave’ to Rip Polar Vortex in Half

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

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34 Comments

  1. The western pacific looks to be particularly vulnerable to climate change. Sea level rise is already having an impact there in addition to the weather phenomena presented in this article. A recent PBS documentary on Typhoon Haiyan poignantly illustrated the devastating effects to the Philippine city of Tacloban.

    Reply
  2. Robert A. Vella /
    Much talk about climate change drowning the Maldives first , and other locations. My money is on the Philippines . One other place on the planet has the shotgun of climate change pointed at it’s face like the Philippines.

    RS –
    Thanks for this post.

    Reply
  3. Warmer Pacific worsened cyclone risk for E. Asia

    (AFP) – Jan 15, 2014

    Paris — China, Korea and Japan have been placed in the firing line of powerful tropical cyclones by a warming of water in the western Pacific, according to a three-decade study published on Thursday.

    Researchers led by Chang-Hoi Ho from Seoul National University in South Korean looked at five sets of background data for tropical cyclones that occurred in the northwest Pacific between 1977 and 2010.
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hhiVq1Sy5Sux2Y87SQebBGGtQC8g?docId=1477e1d3-9cb6-487b-8145-e1e1c1e3ea7f

    Reply
  4. Jan 23, 2014

    Scientists to examine Pacific’s “global chimney”

    Even though few people live in the western tropical Pacific Ocean, these remote waters affect billions of people by shaping climate and air chemistry worldwide. Next week, leading scientists will head to the region to better understand its influence on the atmosphere – including how that may change in coming decades if storms over the Pacific become more powerful with rising global temperatures.

    With the warmest ocean waters on Earth, the western tropical Pacific fuels a sort of chimney whose output has global reach. The region feeds heat and moisture into huge clusters of thunderstorms that loft gases and particles into the stratosphere, where they spread out over the entire planet and influence the climate.
    http://environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/yournews/55987

    Reply
    • Excellent article/research. Thanks for this one, Bob.

      Reply
    • I’m glad to see the NCAR guys and gals on this. They produce some of the best models.

      Reply
    • Those tropical thunderstorms are also the driver of Hadley cells which transfer heat to the subtropics at about 30 degrees latitude. Global warming may be expanding those cells, and causing associated desert regions to grow in size. I wonder if this has anything to do with the current extreme drought conditions in California.

      Reply
      • Those towering storms also transfer quite a lot of heat into the upper atmosphere. I’d really like to see what NCAR does with this.

        Reply
  5. james cole

     /  January 25, 2014

    Sea water temperature and salinity have a strong effect on how sound behaves in sea water. Many years ago I was in the US Navy and involved in anti submarine warfare. This article about salinity and heat brought to mind something many Navy ships and submarines did as a matter of routine when operating actively in exercises or real life tracking and searching for Soviet Submarines. Every day, several times a day, depending on how far one moved in a day, a measure was taken of the temperature and salinity of the water down to the limit of submarine crush depth, which I can not reveal. But it was deep enough for a good profile to be made. I wonder, since this was done from the 1950’s up to today, would a scientist not be able to pull some interesting information out of these readings from across the fleet and across the decades. I do not know if the Navy kept or filed all these records. I am sure any scientist who studies the effect of global warming on the seas would find these hundreds of thousands of readings a useful tool.
    I am of the opinion that most people look at global warming as a rise in air temperatures, yet the real monster is the heat, i.e. energy, that the sea takes up. Most of the surplus heat global warming causes to stay on earth by the greenhouse effect, ends up in the seas. The sea and it’s currents to a large degree determine climate in particular regions. This rapid warming of the seas is going to whiplash back on weather systems, and then take over climate zones. Perhaps the measure of heat in the oceans is the real thing to keep an eye to, rather than the more popular surface air temperatures?

    Reply
    • The Navy does do a bit of climate research, but I’m uncertain if they keep a long term record of all the ASW observations. You’re certainly right, though. They’d make an excellent resource for scientists studying temp and salinity. Did observations include the chemocline as well?

      Dr Wadhams spent decades on British Navy subs making just those kinds of observations around the Arctic.

      I think the oceans certainly bear watching, as they contain most of the heat you mention. But also due to the fact that so many ocean changes are in store with even just a little warming. In any case, when PDO switches again, there’s a heat tsunami bound up in the oceans that’s going to come on with a brutality we haven’t yet seen and I am not looking forward to it.

      But atmosphere is important as well. Very important, as it’s what’s trapping the heat in the first place.

      Reply
  6. Dear Robert
    A few years ago I helped raise over $80,000 dollars for the people in Haiti . The way we did it was through a charity called Shelter Box from Cornwall , England.
    It’s a large plastic tote with a 10 man tent , and enough resources inside to not die on day 8 of the disaster you are living through. I highly recommend it.

    Reply
  7. It’s all about the box
    We ask ourselves at ShelterBox: What would a family need to survive if they lost everything? We then fill abox with the most essential items. The contents have changed over the past decade as we have evolved and the result is the ShelterBox solution we see today.

    http://shelterbox.org/about.php?page=9

    Reply
  8. james cole

     /  January 25, 2014

    Robert, We, in my time ,did not take Chemocline readings. But I would tend to believe that in this era, they may very well be measured and recorded by the Navy. Any waters in which Submarines would be likely to operate are studied intensely by the modern Navy. But this is information that would not be made public, any other nation would love to know sea profiles that the USN has built up over the decades. In a Submarine, knowing this information is life and death in an ASW environment.

    Reply
    • Might be useful for the navy to keep as staff a small cadre of climate scientists who go over the classified ASW data for scientific purposes and then produce broad, non tactically useful, reports based on their findings to the broader science community.

      I am also working on a more involved response for ccwebmaster’s very insightful post about the issues surrounding h2s risk…

      Reply
  1. Another Week in the Ecological Crisis, January 26, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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