August 8th, 2012
09:27 AM ET

What's behind major flood disasters throughout Asia?

Monsoonal rainfall and a tropical storm cause major flooding in the Philippines. A third typhoon in five days hits China. Weeks of rains and floods have wreaked havoc on parts of Korea.

The recent uptick in tropical activity brings the Western Pacific tropical cyclone season back up to average after a slow start. But several recent flash-flooding events from higher-than-normal seasonal rainfall in southern Japan, as well as North Korea, have left soils full of moisture and vulnerable to additional flooding if typhoons and tropical storms track their way.

This is a very real threat as the Western Pacific tropical season runs year-round, but has a seasonal peak around September, mirroring the tropical Atlantic. We will likely see more flooding disasters around East Asia over the next couple of months as the tropics heat up and cyclones traverse these hard-hit areas from the Philippines all the way to North Korea.

The increased activity always has people wondering: Is this all a coincidence or is something else going on here?

We always say that global warming or climate change does not explain, or cause, specific weather events or disasters. But one of the consequences of climate change, according to climate scientists, is a higher frequency of extreme rainfall events. A warmer climate results in more moisture in the atmosphere from evaporation, and thus, higher rainfall amounts are possible in storms.

Could this be what we are seeing? Perhaps, especially considering we have not seen an increase in the number of tropical storms or typhoons over the past several years, but the number of intense flooding scenarios seem to be in the rise.

Typhoon Haikui slammed into the east coast of China on Wednesday morning, pummeling the area around the business metropolis of Shanghai with heavy wind and rain.

The storm's winds were at "severe typhoon" strength when it made landfall in the province of Zhejiang, about 225 kilometers (140 miles) south of Shanghai, the China Meteorological Administration said. The winds diminished to typhoon strength as Haikui moved inland.

The storm is the third tropical cyclone to make landfall on China's east coast in the past five days, with Typhoon Damrey and Tropical Storm Saola hitting last Friday. The storm threatens to dump heavy rainfall in excess of 150 milimeters (6 inches) on Shanghai, China's most populated city.

Although the storm's winds are expected to weaken as it moves overland, it will continue to dump large amounts of rain on the surrounding area, raising the risk of landslides and flooding.

"The rain is the bigger impact going forward," said CNNI meteorologist Taylor Ward. "We have already had up to 8 inches in some locations."

Ward said another 6 to 10 inches of rain were expected to fall, with "maybe isolated amounts greater."

Fueled by the seasonal monsoon rains and that nearby typhoon, widespread flooding in the Philippines worsened Tuesday, killing at least 11 people, the national disaster agency reported.

A landslide in the Manila suburb of Quezon City buried two houses, leaving nine people dead and four others injured, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center.Three of the dead were children, the state-run Philippines News Agency reported.

The country's weather service - the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration - warned the Manila region's 12 million residents of continued torrential rains and serious flooding through Wednesday.

"It's like a water world," Benito Ramos, head of the disaster agency, said of the city, according to PNA.

The heavy monsoon rains have inundated the island of Luzon, where Manila is situated. The downpours are expected to continue into Wednesday, PAGASA said, warning that landslides and flash floods were likely in mountainous areas.

The intense rainfall is a result of a strong southwest monsoon being enhanced by the presence of Tropical Storm Haikui, to the north of the Philippines.

The strong and moisture-laden circulation around the tropical storm is fueling the monsoon which is in place over the northern Philippines.  The mountainous terrain of Luzon further increases the rainfall, and makes for an area susceptible to flooding and mudslides.

The flooding has forced more than 780,000 people across the country from their homes, the disaster agency said. About 242,000 were staying in emergency shelters Tuesday night, according to the agency.

The Philippines had been lashed by heavy rain and wind in recent weeks resulting from Tropical Storm Saola, which plowed past the country before hitting Taiwan and China at the end of last week. The combination of Saola and monsoon rains had left a total of 53 people dead in the Philippines by Tuesday morning, according to the disaster council.

And the effects of the monsoon are being exacerbated by Typhoon Haikui, which is moving toward the eastern coast of China, hundreds of kilometers to the north.

And in Korea, The World Food Program is stepping in to feed people in areas where floods have ruined crops and left hundreds of thousands homeless, according to reports.

The United Nations declared the situation in North Korea an emergency Thursday after torrential rain soaked the country between July 18 and 29. Eighty-eight people have died, a U.N. report said, though national media put the toll at 169.

The downpours swept away crops and destroyed buildings, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

The floods also damaged wells and pumping stations, leaving about 50,000 families without clean drinking water, the U.N. report said.

As Saturday, 144 had been injured, KCNA said. It reported that 212,200 people are homeless.

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Quadg

    Higher global temperatures = higher water evaporation = more rain and snow...

    “but America is in the middle of a drought, fool”

    Higher global temperatures = stronger convection currents = changed weather patterns = all that rain does not fall equally across the globe....

    The whole world has had crazy flooding at some point this year..

    August 10, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jorge T

    GLOBAL WARMING IS HERE AND ACTING OUT.So what are you waiting for to be convinced and make changes and ask your political representatives (maily GOP/Tea Party) to meet reality and act accordingly instead of being in denial like an alcoholic not accepting need for abstinence and treatment.

    August 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • R U enjoying the plantation economy yet?

      Okay, you can be the first to pay some of those Carbon taxes....

      August 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RLTJ's

    Repent the end is near. :-)

    No. Pick your choice: it is just global weather abnormalities partially caused by humans, or the old guy is punishing a hard headed world by taking away water here and there and pour them all elsewhere.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
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