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Disaster in the Philippines: Over 1000 Dead From Tropical Storm Washi

Tropical Storm Washi

Over 1000 people are dead following a deadly tropical storm that battered the Philippines with heavy rainfall and flash floods. The storm swept over the island of Mindanao, which was considered far enough south to escape most of the heavy tropical storms.

But although islanders were caught off-guard by tropical storm Washi, climate scientists have been raising  the alarms bells for years about the consequences climate change may have in areas of the Philippines. This latest storm was caused in part by warmer sea surface temperatures, which generated 7 percent more moisture than usual, leading to almost 100 hours of rainfall in some places (181 millimetres of rain in total).

Back in 2009, a report was released by the Philippine Imperative for Climate Change (PICC), World Wide Fund (WWF) and Filipino scientists, detailing the effects extreme weather phenomena would have on the Philippines. Two cities in particular came up: Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – both located on Mindanao.

According to Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, chief executive of the WWF for Nature-Philippines: “A simulation of the effects of extreme weather events from climate change such as saltwater intrusion, sea level rise, and intense tropical cyclones, showed that major Philippine cities, including Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, were at risk of massive flooding.”

But many of the projections made in the report were pushed aside as being too “alarmist.”

And now at least 1,236 are dead, 1,079 are missing, and 1000s have been displaced in the worst extreme weather event of the year.

The consequences of tropical storm Washi serve as a pressing indication of what the future world will be like under climate change. The latest IPCC report reveals that extreme weather will become more prevalent in the coming decades, thus generating huge economic and social costs in the developing world.

Although the Durban climate talks resulted in the establishment of the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries cope with climate change, the question still remains as to whether this is enough to prevent large-scale social and economic losses.

How well do you think the world will cope with climate change in the coming years?
Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory

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