The recent extreme tropical storm Haiyan has brought the relationship between cyclones and climate change back into the newspaper headlines. This recent headline from Britain's Daily Mirror suggests the link is clear:
Typhoon Haiyan: As climate change continues, we should expect more devastating storms
The Guardian is a little more circumspect, but still believes the link is clear (my highlights):
As the devastating storm has only just happened, it is too soon for any research to have been done on whether global warming influenced typhoon Haiyan. But there are good reasons for expecting that it has (see below). Furthermore, the tools exist to determine how much climate change may have intensified the typhoon. They have already been used on other extreme weather events, giving a clear scientific answer that climate change had dramatically increased the risk of heatwaves and floods, for example.
The Economist strikes a note of caution, though, recognising that the theory isn't simple and the historic statistics are muddy (my highlights):
But the evidence so far is messy. Meteorological records are of uneven quality, and tropical storms vary widely in intensity, which makes spotting trends tricky ... The IPCC concludes that, although there is good evidence for more and stronger Atlantic hurricanes over the past 40 years, there is no consensus on the cause of them. Worldwide, there is no trend in either the frequency or the intensity of tropical storms.
Who is right? Theory hints that storms will get worse (but not in the simple way newspaper headlines imagine) but is that prediction backed by current meteorological statistics?
Note for clarification: the claim i'm interested in here is the one based on meteorological history. That is, is there a statistical trend in severity or frequency of storms?