Tropical Cyclone Seroja Hits Indonesia

Cyclone Seroja. Image: Zoom.earth.us

by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

Rescue efforts are underway across several islands in eastern Indonesia and East Timor after Tropical Cyclone Seroja struck the region last week. The storm’s heavy rains and powerful winds led to flash flooding and landslides, damaging homes and roads. At least 8,424 people have been displaced by the storm, and at least 128 have died. On Lembata island, the downpour from the cyclone dislodged pieces of hardened lava on the side of a volcano, wrecking homes below. Seroja is the 15th storm in the Australian region cyclone season. 

Why This Matters: Devastating storms like Seroja can completely upend peoples’ lives, and warming oceans are making storms more dangerous, with stronger winds and more rain. In Indonesia, tropical cyclones used to be rare, according to weather agency head Dwikorita Karnawati.  

Seroja is the first time we’re seeing tremendous impact because it hit the land. It’s not common,” she told a news conference, noting that climate change could be the reason.

Since climate change leads to tropical storms with heavier rains — as the U.S. saw during last year’s hurricane season — the devastating floods and landslides that have already caused much damage are also making rescue efforts more difficult. 

 

Warmer waters, wetter storms

The connection between warming temperatures and increased precipitation is one of the best-understood weather impacts of the climate crisis. As Yale Climate Connections explains, “Simply put, the warmer the air is, the more moisture it can hold and the more rain it produces.” Every 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature means the atmosphere can hold about 7% more moisture. (So keeping within the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees C also means stopping the atmosphere from taking in 10% more moisture.) 

In a hurricane or cyclone, the effect is even stronger, creating a massive increase in rainfall. Research by MIT’s Kerry Emanuel, a meteorologist and climate scientist who studies cyclones, finds a sixfold increase in the chances of a rain-drenched storm like Hurricane Harvey since the late 20th century. 

 Go Deeper: How can scientists detect the footprint of climate change in extreme weather events? Through the quickly developing field of attribution science!

Up Next

Interview of the Week: Dr. Carolyn Kousky

We recently wrote that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced a new pricing structure for its federal flood insurance program in an effort to improve the equitability of flood insurance. Disaster insurance and preparedness is a topic that is becoming an all too familiar topic as extreme weather events cause billions of dollars in […]

Continue Reading 213 words
NOAA Announces Big Upgrades to Its Global Weather Forecast System

NOAA Announces Big Upgrades to Its Global Weather Forecast System

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has made a major upgrade to its Global Forecast System (GFS) that experts hope will equip the agency and weather services around the world to adapt to the challenges of climate change. The upgrade will greatly improve the forecasting of extreme weather events including hurricanes and high-altitude weather systems.

Why This Matters: Hurricanes are becoming more frequent and more intense each year. But NOAA’s GFS hasn’t managed to keep up.

Continue Reading 634 words

Experts Say Record Flooding in Australia Is a Symptom of Accelerating Climate Change

Thousands evacuated in Australia's worst flooding in almost half a century https://t.co/IMuH3ctNtm pic.twitter.com/InQuvXtCZB — Reuters (@Reuters) March 23, 2021 by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer The Australian Government along with the state of New South Wales have signed 16 disaster declarations after heavy rains and flooding forced 18,000 residents to evacuate the region.  Some affected areas have […]

Continue Reading 521 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.