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Record global temperatures bring strongest ever cyclone to Fiji

DAILY NEWS, 20 January 2016_______The records just keep tumbling. This year
is predicted to be the warmest ever recorded, and with global temperatures in
January shooting up by the largest margin on record, we’re certainly on track.
This record warmth is a result of global warming with an added boost from a strong
El Niño, which spreads warm waters across the surface of the Pacific.
These extra warm waters fuelled tropical cyclone Winston, which struck Fiji at the
weekend as a category five storm – the highest classification. With wind speeds of
nearly 300 kilometres per hour, Winston is the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the
southern hemisphere.

Winston is also the second strongest cyclone ever to strike land anywhere in the
world in terms of wind speed, according to hurricane expert Jeff Masters of Weather
Underground. The strongest was Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which caused a
devastating storm surge in the Philippines.

Winston missed largest islands
Fortunately for Fiji, Winston passed between the two largest islands rather than
striking them directly, missing the major population centres.

But in places like Koro Island that felt the full force of the storm some villages have
been almost entirely destroyed, as aerial photographs confirm. The death toll stands
at 20 and is likely to rise further.

Tropical cyclones derive their power from warm surface waters, so as the planet gets
hotter strong tropical storms like Winston are expected to become more common,
though there may not be more storms overall.
But because tropical cyclones are rare and records go back only a few decades, it
will be decades yet before a clear trend emerges.

Climate change is also likely to affect the average tracks that storms take, meaning
some coasts are hit more frequently while others are spared. Western Europe is
likely to be hit by more hurricanes or hurricane-derived storms as the Atlantic warms.