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SHAKE AND BLOW
Fresh cyclone brews as Tonga struggles to recover
by Staff Writers
Nuku'Alofa, Tonga (AFP) Jan 16, 2014


Warmer Pacific worsened cyclone risk for E. Asia
Paris (AFP) Jan 16, 2014 - China, Korea and Japan have been placed in the firing line of powerful tropical cyclones by a warming of water in the western Pacific, according to a three-decade study published on Thursday.

Researchers led by Chang-Hoi Ho from Seoul National University in South Korean looked at five sets of background data for tropical cyclones that occurred in the northwest Pacific between 1977 and 2010.

During this time, the surface waters of the western Pacific were much warmer than the central and eastern parts of the ocean, they found.

This temperature difference, also called a gradient, went hand-in-hand with changes to a strong wind system over the Pacific called the Walker circulation.

The result was that cyclones tended to follow the line of the East Asian coast, from the South China Sea upwards, before making landfall in China, Japan and Korea -- by which time they had reached their maximum punch.

The change also meant that more cyclones generated in the northern part of the South China Sea.

As a result, storms headed for southern China, Vietnam or Taiwan began life too close to land to build up to maximum speed by the time they reached the coast.

More work is needed to confirm whether the temperature gradient is a result of man-induced global warming or a natural variation of a kind that lasts decades.

"If the past changes of large-scale environments are evidence, or a result of, global warming, it can be assumed that in the future more catastrophic tropical cyclones will strike East Asia than ever before," said Ho.

The investigation appears in Environmental Research Letters, a journal published Britain's Institute of Physics.

A fresh cyclone was brewing in the Pacific near the Solomon Islands Thursday as humanitarian groups struggled to get relief supplies to outlying islands in Tonga devastated by Cyclone Ian.

Solomons forecasters said the region's second cyclone of the summer could hit this weekend, a week after Ian slammed into Tonga, killing one person, leaving about 4,000 homeless and destroying crops on outer islands.

Weather forecasts advised Solomon Islanders to keep listening to radio outlets for advice as the strengthening tropical depression in the region "poses threats to lives and properties".

Damage from Cyclone Ian was expected to run to several million dollars in Tonga where the Red Cross had not been able to reach all the affected people in the scattered islands four days after the storm passed.

"We've reached about 95 percent so far," said Red Cross secretary general Sione Taumoefolau who is overseeing the distribution of relief supplies.

The United Nations issued a report Thursday saying more than 50 percent of 1,130 affected buildings on Tonga's central Ha'apai islands, which bore the brunt of Cyclone Ian, were destroyed.

A further 34 percent of the buildings and all but four of the 17 schools "have major damage," according to the report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"(The) immediate challenge is logistics to distribute relief and recovery items to outer islands, as well as within affected areas," it said adding this was being done without a formal call for international assistance.

The Tear Fund New Zealand aid organisation urged the Tongan government to seek international help urgently before the devastation was forgotten.

"The fact is they have a very short but clear window of time to raise support for this, and then it will drop off the radar," Tear chief executive Ian McInnes told Radio New Zealand.

"The needs of the Tongan communities will be eclipsed soon enough in the media by other needs and other issues and the window will have passed.

"My view is that if they want significant international support, they should ask for that now."

Taumoefolau said he expected the government would appeal for help within the next few days when the full cost of the damage was known.

New Zealand and Australia have each pledged US$50,000 so far to recovery efforts.

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SHAKE AND BLOW
Tonga cleans up after devastating cyclone
Nuku'Alofa, Tonga (AFP) Jan 13, 2014
Residents in cyclone-devastated areas of Tonga launched a massive clean-up on Monday, as officials said it was "a miracle" only one person died when the monster storm hit. Cyclone Ian, the most powerful hurricane ever to hit the tiny South Pacific kingdom, battered the central Ha'apai islands group over the weekend, unleashing winds in excess of 105 knots (200 kilometres per hour). Tonga ... read more


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