Monica Ortiz' study shows Philippines will have more extreme tropical cyclones

Philippines affected by more extreme tropical cyclones says Grantham Scholar

Tropical cyclones in the Philippines are more extreme and cause greater amounts of devastation, a new study from Grantham Scholar Monica Ortiz has shown.

“Growing up in the Philippines myself, I understand the catastrophic loss of life and damage to property that extreme weather can cause.” Monica said, explaining the importance of this study. “By analysing this data from the past up to the present, we can better adapt to further climate change and prepare for future disasters.”

Observed trends and impacts of tropical cyclones in the Philippines is published in the International Journal of Climatology. (Find it here: You can keep up to date with all Monica’s publications by following her on Twitter.

More hazardous tropical cyclones

The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.
The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.

Geographers from the University of Sheffield (TUoS) analysed annual data from 1951 to 2013. And they saw a slightly decreasing trend in the number of smaller cyclones (above 118kph) that hit land in the Philippines. This was particularly so in the last 2 decades.

However, more hazardous tropical cyclones (above 150kph) were shown to be on the increase. Unfortunately, the northern island of Luzon is frequently affected by these weather events and associated rainfall.

Previous research suggests that the increase in intense tropical cyclones could be due to rising sea-surface temperatures. These have been rising since the 1970s as a result of climate change. However it is too early to draw conclusions that will influence tropical cyclone projections. So this remains an active part of research on extreme climate events.

Philippines at risk to extreme weather

According to the United Nations University (UNU) World Risk Report 2014, the Philippines is one of the most at-risk nations to dangers such as tropical cyclones, monsoon rains, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Many large communities live in typhoon-prone regions and low-lying coastal zones. When Typhoon Haiyan hit in 2013 at least 6,300 people died in the Philippines. Haiyan was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.

Researchers plan to use this analysis to help the country better adapt and become more resilient to extreme weather events and the challenges of climate change.

Action on climate change

Professor Colin Osborne, Associate Director of the Grantham Centre put the study into context. “Monica and her colleagues have helped to show the devastating impact that climate change is having on communities around the world. This study is further evidence of the need to take action on climate change and develop new ways for societies to live sustainably.”

The project is a collaboration between TUoS, the national meteorological agency of the Philippines (PAGASA), the Oscar Lopez Centre for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management (OML Centre).

Edited by Claire Moran. The main image shows Monica Ortiz.