The scientific world is divided about predictions that global warming will result in more super typhoons on the scale of Typhoon Wanda for Hong Kong.
It was on September 1, 1962 that Typhoon Wanda roared into Hong Kong bringing hurricane winds and a tidal wave that reached between five and seven meters above sea level. By the time the storm and resulting storm surge had dispersed, more than 130 people had died, 53 were missing, and some 72,000 were homeless.
Today those statistics mean Wanda still holds the record as being Hong Kong’s deadliest typhoon since the Second World War. By current classifications, adopted by the Hong Kong Observatory in 2009, she wasn’t just a typhoon but a super typhoon, an extreme typhoon which carried sustained winds of at least 185 kilometers per hour.
It is a title Wanda shares with some of the most devastating storms in living memory including Hurricane Katrina which flattened New Orleans in 2005.
According to the observatory, only four other tropical cyclones having hit Hong Kong have earned the title of super typhoon since 1950. The others which qualify are Faye in 1963, Ruby in 1964, Roses in 1971 and Hope in 1979.
Typhoon Vicente in July, despite warranting a number 10 warning signal, was classified one stage below super typhoon as a severe typhoon; one which carried maximum sustained winds of between 150 and 184 kilometer per hour.
However, according to some scientific studies the odds of Hong Kong being hit by super typhoons on the scale of Wanda look set to get shorter as a result of global warming.
One such study carried out by the researchers from Nagoya University and the Meteorological Research Institute in Japan in 2009 claimed a projected 2 C rise in sea temperature in the western Pacific Ocean between 2074 and 2087 would lead to an increase of super typhoons.
A further report, made in 2010 by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and based on predictions made by a supercomputer, projected the number of global tropical cyclones would fall by 25 percent by the end of this century. Alarmingly, it predicted a 10-fold increase in the number of strong typhoons which would rise from the current average of around one every year to as high as 10 super typhoons a year.