14 November 2013 [Publications]
What do super typhoons and large animals have in common?

Locomotion in animate and inanimate nature

Makarieva A.M., Gorshkov V.G. (2013) Energetics of locomotion in animate and inanimate nature. Energy: Economics, Technology, Ecology, 6(2013), 46-52. Abstract. PDF (0.4 Mb). popular science

This paper was written in November 2012 under the influence of hurricane Sandy that struck New York. Why aren't there immobile hurricanes and tornadoes in existence? What is the link between forest functioning on land and the formation of the most powerful atmospheric vortices like hurricane Sandy or typhoon Bopha? We wrote:

"The on-going deforestation disrupts the biotic pumping of water vapor from the ocean to land producing droughts and river lows. One of the strongest droughts affected a large area in the United States in 2011-2012 unambiguously indicating lack of the ocean-to-land moisture transport. Moisture evaporated from the oceanic surface remained in the atmosphere above the ocean raising the probability of hurricane formation and their passage near the coastal zone. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 with its enormous size of the condensation area can be viewed as a result of the continental-scale drought in the US."

These ideas are consistent with the new results of satellite data analysis obtained by scientists from the Space Research Institute (Moscow, Russia), who showed that there is a critical amount of water vapor in the atmospheric column below which the formation of long-lived cyclones is not possible (Sharkov et al. 2012 Izvestiya Atm. Ocean. Phys. 48: 901).

Mentioning the Philippines devastated in November 2013 by super typhoon Haiyan we wrote:

"Hurricanes and typhoons that form closest to the equator - like typhoon Bopha that struck the Philippines in 2012 - have the smallest possible angular momentum and windwall radius. What is more, such systems have access to the largest amounts of water vapor in the warm near-equatorial air column. As a result, such a typhoon should be characterized by maximum possible concentration of wind energy at the windwall and have maximum destructive power. These extreme weather events are related to the diminishing area of tropical forests in Indonesia and Indochina as well as to the complete elimination of forests on the Philippines. These forests no longer move vapor away from the adjacent areas of the Pacific Ocean in amounts sufficient for the prevention of the violent super-typhoons."

Deforestation on the Maritime Continent (on Borneo, for example, forest cover diminished from 80 to 50% in the last fifty years) has been accompanied by a significant reduction of rainfall.

Deforestation and rainfall decline on Borneo (Kumagai et al. (2013) Hydrological Processes doi: 10.1002/hyp.10060)
Conversion of pristine forest (a) to palm plantation (b) on Borneo is accompanied by decline in precipitation (c). Source: Kumagai et al. (2013) Hydrological Processes doi:10.1002/hyp.10060.

At the same time the zone of maximum convection (precipitation) has shifted eastward away from Indonesia. In agreement with the biotic pump concept mean surface pressure over the deforested continent has grown, while it decreased over the oceanic region whereto the rains had moved.

Change of cloudiness and sea level pressure in the region of Walker circulation (Tokinaga et al. 2012 J. Climate 25: 1689)
Changes during the last 59 years of (a) cloudiness (relative units, red (blue) color means increasing (decreasing) cloudiness and rainfall and (b) sea level pressure in the region of Walker circulation. Dots indicate statistically significant changes (95% confidence). Source: Tokinaga et al. (2012) J. Climate 25: 1689.

Nevertheless, regional deforestation continues to be totally neglected in the on-going search for possible causes of the observed changes in Walker circulation (see our view on this matter here).