When a typhoon approaches, depending on our location we do everything we can to protect our life and our homes from the terrible and damaging after effects. There is so much focus on the human devastation which is completely appropriate.
But, when everyone has been taken care of do we come back to understand what happened to the environment? Do you ever wonder what happens when all that white sand gets washed inland, or a farmers field and fertile soil is ruined, or even what happened to the animals that lived in the forest of the destructive path?
I’ve been wondering the same thing lately so I’ve been diving into research papers lately to understand it more. Below you’ll find an overview of each of these different impacts on the world around us and at the end you’ll learn a bit more about what you can do to help out.
What does the heavy rain do to the white sand beaches?
Typhoons and extreme storms are one of the major factors in coast and beach erosion and with global warming also increasing the sea level globally there is a serious reason to be concerned about our disappearing beaches.
In a study by the Geophysical Research Abstracts company, their studies have shown that after a catastrophic typhoon it took between 1-2 years or longer for beaches to naturally recover without human intervention. To most of us the return of clean sand on a beach with natural crashing waves means everything is back to normal, but that is not the case.
The beach returning to normal is a good sign, but there are two other factors that are important. The slop of the shore tends to gather up towards the beach after a storm from the sand being pushed on-land. Over time the slope evens out to a natural pace. This is important because it helps to delay the impact from strong waves during a storm.
Another major block for storm damage of a typhoon is the natural block that is formed by gathering sand, plants, trees, and debris on the shore that creates a natural “berm”. This is very much needed to stop the storm surge that happens during typhoons but it can take a year or more to naturally form on its own.
What happens when all of our trees are knocked down?
When a typhoon reaches the shore its destruction really begins. While trees and forests can withstand water and wind normally, typhoons add a factor to the mix that overwhelms the plant structures: Intensity.
When the wind blows at a speed too fast for the roots to hold, the roots will be pulled from the ground, the branches snap off, leaves fly, and in some cases the trunk will beak completely leaving nothing but stumps left. A former forest can now look like a field with matchsticks left.
While the destruction looks terrible, there are some incredibly wonderful things that happen after a storm to the tree and plant ecosystem. During the storm, seeds from the plants are tossed and thrown in every direction and with the trees gone, the sunlight can now reach the ground and life begins to flourish.
The other beneficial factor after a large typhoon is the forest floor is now littered with leaves, branches, bark and other natural debris which creates a moist peat type material that makes for a very fertile environment for new growth to sprout.
One of the great things about a typhoon is if it goes through an old ancient forest, it can often be very beneficial to the forest as the trees that return after are greener and more nutrient than the prior forest.
When a typhoon comes through, what happens to all of the animals in its path?
While the effects to plants and trees has a long-term positive impact, the animal life impact from the path of a typhoon is very destructive. While many birds try to outrun a storm, they are often the most terrible affected from storms as it is often very difficult to find locations to hide and escape.
Animals are good at finding hiding places, but the sheer force and destructive power of a typhoon is so strong that trees break, hiding places flood, and the only way they survive is often to just keep holding on to something.
The other terrible effect to animal life comes after a typhoon. Entire habitats become destroyed and the baseline ecosystem of bugs and plants become uprooted and takes quite a while to return. This means that the food chain can be disrupted greatly causing negative effects for up to a year or more.
As with everything in nature, they find ways to persevere and they will return but it takes time and patience to rejuvenate wildlife to it’s active state again.
How does a typhoon impact your local farmers?
While the primary focus before, during and after typhoons typically within the cities getting people rescued, power restored, and streets cleared, often overlooked are those who do not live within the cities.
Farmers living often well outside the cities get overlooked but it’s important to understand the impacts that typhoons make to these farmers. The price of fruits, vegetables, and grain can be highly impacted as a typhoon goes through tropical places.
One typhoon can ruin entire farmers crop for the year and can often delay their ability to bounce back for up to 2 years. What we dont always understand is that the heavy rain, flooding and wind can often completely tear down the infrastructure of a farm in ways we cant imagine.
Rice farmers rely on a system of irrigation of paths that take the water out to the fields which have to be completely re-dug. Often the fertile soil once in the fields has been washed away requiring re-fertilization as well.
Coconut farmers as well often loose an entire generations worth of work due to typhoons as their entire plantation can be uprooted overnight. Coconut trees are designed to withstand heavy wind with their lean trunk, but when the wind becomes too strong the entire top of the tree will snap off.
Typically without support from the government or other groups, farmers will often lose their entire farm to a terrible typhoon and will not be able to recover again. This is why it’s so important that we push our local representatives no matter what country you live in to ensure they consider the impacts to farmers after a storm is over.
Without our local farmers, we will rely on imported food which is not only expensive but also not as environmentally friendly.
What Can We Do?
While there is nothing you can do to stop a hurricane from coming, there is no doubt that the intensity of storms increasing in the past years is partially due to global warming but another reason the impact is increasing is that humans are taking over more and more beaches and clearing out the natural barriers from storms.
If you want to help reduce the intensity of storms, think about what is impacting global warming the most – pollution – and do anything in your power to help reduce your global footprint.
Another way to help out is by getting involved in cleanup and restoration efforts after. There are many different groups that work to help both the environment and the animals impacted afterwards.
Here are some of the best groups around the world that you can either sign up to support or donate to:
- Red Cross: Helping victims around the world after disasters and crisis.
- Sierra Club: One of the worlds largest environmental organizations protecting ecosystems around the globe.
- Marine Conservation Institute: Dedicated to protecting and securing the worlds most important ocean habitats.
- National Audubon Society: Protection of birds around the world.
No matter how small or big, whether you donate time to conservation, cleaning up beaches, reducing your waste, and many other eco-friendly activities – it all helps in every little way.
Keep fighting for a world full of nature and beauty!