Was the Burmese cyclone a climate change disaster?

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it apparently did a lot to persuade people to take climate change seriously, perhaps because it followed closely from Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth movie. Yesterday an Indian climate change organisation linked the Burmese cyclone to climate change.   

So is the Burmese tragedy a climate change event? As with Katrina, the answer is yes and no. Cyclones are hardly new, the reasoning is that in a hotter climate, there is more energy circulating which will lead to more frequent and more intense extreme weather events such as cyclones and hurricanes.

A more clear-cut environmental factor in the huge death toll of Cyclone Nargis, as with the Asian tsunami, was the destruction of mangrove forests along the Burmese coast, which would once have absorbed much of the force of the cyclone and protected villages against sudden flooding. That, and the lack of shelters and dykes, as this article in Der Speigel highlights.  


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