Hurricanes may be getting bigger and more frequent as a result of climate change. But they may also be counterbalancing their destruction by sequestering millions of tons of carbon in the deep ocean.
A new study finds that a single typhoon in Taiwan buried as much carbon as all the other rains in that country in a year.
Of the 61 million tons of sediment carried out to sea by the Choshui River during Typhoon Mindulle in 2004, some 500,000 tons consisted of particles of carbon, weathered from Taiwan’s mountains.
That’s 95 percent as much carbon as the river transports during normal rains in a year. It also equates to more than 400 tons of carbon per square mile washed away during the storm.
The good news is that once the carbon gets buried in the ocean it eventually becomes sedimentary rock and doesn’t return to the atmosphere for hundreds of millions of years.
So, the work of tropical storms isn’t enough to cancel out the warming gases we’re putting into the atmosphere. But it’s a pretty good response from a stressed planet.
Julia Whitty is Mother Jones’ environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.