A new research by scientists has determined that hurricanes and typhoons, which are normally seen as looming threats from global warming, are actually helping to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
According to a report in Discovery News, the research was done by Robert Hilton of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and a team of researchers.
Each year humans emit approximately 7.2 billion tons of the greenhouse gas, trapping vast amounts of heat in the air and oceans.
Tropical cyclones derive their energy from warm seas, and some scientists believe global warming will spawn more frequent and more intense storms unless drastic effort is undertaken to cut emissions.
But, Robert Hilton a team of researchers found that when two powerful storms lashed Taiwan in 2004, rains eroded thousands of tons of carbon-rich plant matter and soil.
The material was sent coursing out of the island's steep mountain range down the LiWu River and into the deep sea, where it was buried in sediment.
"Over the last 30 years large storms, which only last a few days, dominated the erosion there," Hilton said. "Between 77 and 92 percent of carbon was eroded by these storms," he added.
Hilton and colleagues calculated that Typhoon Mindulle, the stronger of the 2004 storms, washed about 5,500 tons of carbon down the LiWu River.
When a steep river like the LiWu comes roaring out of the mountains at flood stage, its waters are dense with sediment and they quickly descend to the sea floor, where up to 90 percent of the carbon can be buried and removed from Earth's carbon cycle.
So-called "steepland" rivers are prevalent in the tropics throughout the western Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, making the region ripe for erosion by tropical cyclones.
In the Pacific alone, some 50-90 million tons of carbon are sequestered in this way annually.
According to Basil Gomez of Indiana State University, "This is a cool study that suggests erosion may not be as big a worry for carbon in some areas as we once thought it was."