Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - Page 3 News List

South Pacific ocean temperature study predicts more severe storms for Taiwan

PARADISE WASHED AWAY:Scientists using coral reefs to gauge changing sea temperatures have noted major rises which could have a disastrous impact on the nation

Staff writer, with CNA

Divers from National Taiwan University drill into a coral reef core at Amedee Island, New Caledonia.

Photo courtesy of Shen Chuan-chou

More severe storms and heavy summer rains can be expected in Taiwan over the next 10 years, a team of researchers from National Taiwan University (NTU) said yesterday, citing a recent study they conducted in the South Pacific Ocean. The study found a correlation between rising temperatures in the vast ocean and increasing summer rainfall in Taiwan, said one of the team leaders, Shen Chuan-chou (沈川洲), a professor at NTU’s Department of Geosciences.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest in the world and plays an important role in climate change, he said.

In the study, the researchers analyzed strontium and calcium ratios in coral reef skeletons and used uranium-thorium dating methods on coral reef cores to reconstruct 350 years of sea surface temperature data in the Pacific dating from 1649 to 1999, Shen said. It was found that as temperatures in the South Pacific increased, it prevented cold air from settling, which weakened an atmospheric circulation system known as the Hadley cell in the southern hemisphere, Shen said. With a weakened Hadley cell, water vapor tends to shift north causing an increase in summer rainfall in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, he said.

After analyzing data, the research team determined that the sea surface temperature in the South Pacific has a cycle of between 14 and 19 years. The researchers concluded that if the climate change model does not change in the next 10 years, the ocean’s temperature will continue to rise. This would result in stronger storms and a greater likelihood of their occurrence in Taiwan, Shen said.

In addition, it is expected that over the next 10 years, seasonal summer rains in the region will become markedly more severe, he added. Shen suggested the Taiwan government should sek to implement disaster prevention policies and measures as soon as possible.

The research team’s findings and suggestions were published on June 24 in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

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