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The effect of tropical cyclones on the carbon cycle

Bos, Brendan LU (2017) In Student thesis series INES NGEK01 20171
Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
Abstract
Tropical cyclones influence processes within the carbon cycle on different time-scales. Forested ecosystems suffer windfall and long-term impacts from tropical cyclones, leading to the release of CO2 to the atmosphere. The coarse woody debris created by extreme wind speeds and landslides brought on by tropical cyclones can leave a forested ecosystem via riverine channels and end up in the ocean, where it is unclear whether it is buried or slowly decomposed. Particulate organic carbon is flushed out of terrestrial ecosystems along with the coarse woody debris. Furthermore, air-sea fluxes of CO2 are influenced and local levels can be altered significantly by the passage of a tropical cyclone. Mixing induced in the euphotic zone of the oceans... (More)
Tropical cyclones influence processes within the carbon cycle on different time-scales. Forested ecosystems suffer windfall and long-term impacts from tropical cyclones, leading to the release of CO2 to the atmosphere. The coarse woody debris created by extreme wind speeds and landslides brought on by tropical cyclones can leave a forested ecosystem via riverine channels and end up in the ocean, where it is unclear whether it is buried or slowly decomposed. Particulate organic carbon is flushed out of terrestrial ecosystems along with the coarse woody debris. Furthermore, air-sea fluxes of CO2 are influenced and local levels can be altered significantly by the passage of a tropical cyclone. Mixing induced in the euphotic zone of the oceans leads to increases in primary production in the wake of tropical cyclones, which could be an important factor in the global carbon balance. Global warming has led and will lead to changes in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones, and therefore the importance of these processes will shift in the future.
In this review, the effect of tropical cyclones on tree mortality, terrestrial carbon transport, ocean primary production and air-sea co2 fluxes were singled out and researched. Factors playing into these processes and the speculated impact of the changing climate were analysed. Case studies on each of these processes were examined and their impact and importance was quantified. As tropical cyclones mainly impact the oceans and make landfall between 45° north and 45° south of the equator, these areas were focused on. Both modelled and observed methods of research were considered and reviewed. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Tropical cyclones are known for their devastating effect on coastal communities, and the loss of lives and economic damage they cause. An aspect that has traditionally not received a lot of attention is how tropical cyclones interact with nature itself, and more specifically, the carbon cycle. The carbon cycle is a term used for processes involving the storage and transport of carbon around the globe. The amount of carbon stored in and released by ecosystems is used as an indicator for its effect on greenhouse global warming, and measuring these values is therefore very important. It may not be immediately apparent how tropical cyclones affect the carbon cycle. Some examples of these effects are easily recognized and understood. Windfall... (More)
Tropical cyclones are known for their devastating effect on coastal communities, and the loss of lives and economic damage they cause. An aspect that has traditionally not received a lot of attention is how tropical cyclones interact with nature itself, and more specifically, the carbon cycle. The carbon cycle is a term used for processes involving the storage and transport of carbon around the globe. The amount of carbon stored in and released by ecosystems is used as an indicator for its effect on greenhouse global warming, and measuring these values is therefore very important. It may not be immediately apparent how tropical cyclones affect the carbon cycle. Some examples of these effects are easily recognized and understood. Windfall is caused as extreme wind speeds strike a forest. The immense amounts of precipitation that occur during a tropical cyclone cause elevated levels of erosion and can lead to landslides on sloped areas. However, it is not apparent how large the effect of tropical cyclones on these processes is and what happens to the carbon stored inside the soils and trees that are affected. There are also many unknowns as to how tropical cyclones impact processes involving carbon in the oceans. The upper layers of the oceans are exposed to sunlight, and the phytoplankton found here photosynthesizes and takes up carbon dioxide. Phytoplankton blooms have been observed in the wake of tropical cyclones. Lastly, fluxes of carbon between the oceans and the atmosphere are heightened during tropical cyclones.
All these processes were examined and their effects on and interactions with the carbon cycle were discussed. As tropical cyclones obstruct measurements due to the violent conditions found inside them, and because the cloud cover obscures certain wavelengths of light used in remote sensing, scientists have not been able to come to conclusive results in this field. My work finds that tropical cyclones indeed do have a strong effect on the carbon cycle through the processes described above, but it is unclear how much of an effect it is. As global warming is bound to have a strong effect on these extreme storms, determining just how important tropical cyclones are in respect to the carbon cycle is of great importance. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Bos, Brendan LU
supervisor
organization
course
NGEK01 20171
year
type
M2 - Bachelor Degree
subject
publication/series
Student thesis series INES
report number
416
language
English
id
8915060
date added to LUP
2017-06-15 17:07:29
date last changed
2017-06-15 17:07:29
@misc{8915060,
  abstract     = {Tropical cyclones influence processes within the carbon cycle on different time-scales. Forested ecosystems suffer windfall and long-term impacts from tropical cyclones, leading to the release of CO2 to the atmosphere. The coarse woody debris created by extreme wind speeds and landslides brought on by tropical cyclones can leave a forested ecosystem via riverine channels and end up in the ocean, where it is unclear whether it is buried or slowly decomposed. Particulate organic carbon is flushed out of terrestrial ecosystems along with the coarse woody debris. Furthermore, air-sea fluxes of CO2 are influenced and local levels can be altered significantly by the passage of a tropical cyclone. Mixing induced in the euphotic zone of the oceans leads to increases in primary production in the wake of tropical cyclones, which could be an important factor in the global carbon balance. Global warming has led and will lead to changes in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones, and therefore the importance of these processes will shift in the future.
In this review, the effect of tropical cyclones on tree mortality, terrestrial carbon transport, ocean primary production and air-sea co2 fluxes were singled out and researched. Factors playing into these processes and the speculated impact of the changing climate were analysed. Case studies on each of these processes were examined and their impact and importance was quantified. As tropical cyclones mainly impact the oceans and make landfall between 45° north and 45° south of the equator, these areas were focused on. Both modelled and observed methods of research were considered and reviewed.},
  author       = {Bos, Brendan},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Student thesis series INES},
  title        = {The effect of tropical cyclones on the carbon cycle},
  year         = {2017},
}