Weatherwatch: Carbon released in the Philippines might never be recovered
Millions of uprooted trees will bump up global warming, by adding carbon to the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Haiyan has brought environmental disaster too. Millions of uprooted trees will bump up global warming, by adding carbon to the atmosphere. It is too early to say how much carbon, but calculations for previous tropical cyclones show the figures can be huge. In 2005Hurricane Katrina released an estimated 105 teragrams of carbon (well over half the amount absorbed annually by forests in the US), by tearing up around 320m trees. Haiyan's tally may be even higher, as the Philippines has greater average tree cover than the eastern US.
But longer term forest regrowth may recapture the lost carbon. A recent study published in Environmental Research Letters shows that hurricane activity caused a net release of carbon in the eastern United Statesduring the latter half of the 19th century (due to a string of large storms and the existence of larger forests), but became a carbon sink by the 20th century (as regrowth outweighed hurricane damage).
Climate projections suggest tropical cyclones may become stronger and more frequent over coming decades. If that is the case then the carbon released by Haiyan and subsequent cyclones may never be recovered.