Global warming won’t mean more storms: Big storms to get bigger, small storms to shrink, experts predict

Feb 6, 2015

Credit: © danmir12 / Fotolia

By Science Daily

A study led by atmospheric physicists at the University of Toronto finds that global warming will not lead to an overall increasingly stormy atmosphere, a topic debated by scientists for decades. Instead, strong storms will become stronger while weak storms become weaker, and the cumulative result of the number of storms will remain unchanged.

“We know that with global warming we’ll get more evaporation of the oceans,” said Frederic Laliberte, a research associate at U of T’s physics department and lead author of a study published this week in Science. “But circulation in the atmosphere is like a heat engine that requires fuel to do work, just like any combustion engine or a convection engine.”

The atmosphere’s work as a heat engine occurs when an air mass near the surface takes up water through evaporation as it is warmed by the Sun and moves closer to the Equator. The warmer the air mass is, the more water it takes up. As it reaches the Equator, it begins to ascend through the atmosphere, eventually cooling as it radiates heat out into space. Cool air can hold less moisture than warm air, so as the air cools, condensation occurs, which releases heat. When enough heat is released, air begins to rise even further, pulling more air behind it producing a thunderstorm. The ultimate “output” of this atmospheric engine is the amount of heat and moisture that is redistributed between the Equator and the North and South Poles.

“By viewing the atmospheric circulation as a heat engine, we were able to rely on the laws of thermodynamics to analyze how the circulation would change in a simulation of global warming,” said Laliberte. “We used these laws to quantify how the increase in water vapour that would result from global warming would influence the strength of the atmospheric circulation.”


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24 comments on “Global warming won’t mean more storms: Big storms to get bigger, small storms to shrink, experts predict

  • This makes sense, in so far as atmospheric circulation patterns have to fit on to the planet, so while climate belts migrate towards the poles and move the physical locations of floods and droughts, the extra energy will simply power up the ferocity of the wind, precipitation, and weather, in the available space.
    Powered up storms, will however, cover a greater distance from their source, before they fizzle out.



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  • This means greater damage from weather. It may also mean having to reinforce homes or at least boarding up windows on a storm warning. The good news from this is this is the sort of visible evidence we have to get green house gas emissions down. It will be harder to ignore.



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  • Roedy Feb 7, 2015 at 8:54 am

    This means greater damage from weather. It may also mean having to reinforce homes or at least boarding up windows on a storm warning.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2013/01/24/global-disaster-report-sandy-drought/1862201/
    .The largest global disasters of 2012 were Hurricane Sandy (with a cost of $65 billion) and the year-long Midwest/Plains drought ($35 billion).

    These and other increasingly energetic storms world wide, seem to cost rather a lot.

    But hey! The carbon-industry sponsored denial muppets say changing to low carbon technologies will “ruin the economy”, and global warming couldn’t be caused by CO2 emissions.

    They are highly paid P.R. and ADVERTISING SPECIALISTS making up plausible persuasive arguments: – not those menial scientists and economists, – who do that sciency measuring stuff! – AND!! – they are given star treatment on FAUX News! How could they possibly be dishonest or wrong?!!



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  • A study looking at temperatures from 1950 to the current day has found that most Australian cities are 1.5 degrees hotter. My city, because of its geography is now on average 2.5 degrees C hotter than 1950. You wonder why I get hot under the collar at irrational deniers.

    A brief summary.

    Climate change is making Australia hotter. Hot days are happening more often while heatwaves are becoming hotter, longer and more frequent.
    The annual number of record hot days across Australia has doubled since 1960. Over the past 10 years the number of record hot days has occurred three times more frequently than the number of record cold days.

    The annual occurrence of very hot days across Australia has increased strongly since 1950 and particularly sharply in the last 20 years.
    -Over the 1950-2013 period many characteristics of heatwaves have changed across Australia. They are becoming hotter, lasting longer, occurring more often and starting earlier.
    All extreme heat events are now occurring in an atmosphere that is significantly hotter than it was 50 years ago

    While it has been clear for many years that climate change is a major factor in intensifying heat, recent scientific advances now allow us to understand the extent of the impact on individual extreme events. Climate change has significantly worsened recent extreme heat events in Australia.

    The record hot year of 2013 in Australia was virtually impossible without climate change.
    Climate change tripled the odds that the heatwaves of the 2012/2013 Australian summer would occur as frequently as they did.
    Climate change doubled the odds that the 2012/2013 heatwaves would be as intense as they were.

    The full report can be viewed here. Quite chilling in its findings.

    http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/00ca18a19ff194252940f7e3c58da254.pdf



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  • Doug Feb 8, 2015 at 8:50 am

    “…the makers and users of umbrellas.”

    That would cover just about everyone, I think. 😉

    I think for hurricanes/cyclones, and ice storms, they would need to be bullet-proof, amphibious, and flight tested!



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  • 9
    Cairsley says:

    Haha! I was assuming that umbrellas would still not be used during storms; but maybe the humble umbrella has an exciting future!



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  • “The warmer the air mass is, the more water it takes up.”
    Surely this is incorrect. The warmer the water is the more
    will evaporate.

    “Cool air can hold less moisture than warm air,…”
    Makes no sense. Water vapour is just another gas like
    Nitrogen etc.

    But it is from Science Daily, so maybe just dumbed down…



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  • 11
    bonnie says:

    Quite chilling in its findings

    Used to be folks would discuss the weather to keep conversation neutral and civil.

    I now find it difficult; person A comments lovin’ these warm winter days! > to which a reply of yes, but research indicates it is more than likely due to man-made climate change, meaning humans will be screwed in the long run, would not be appreciated.

    Photos of koala’s burned feet from fires breaks my heart.



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  • Peter Feb 9, 2015 at 8:43 am

    “The warmer the air mass is, the more water it takes up.”
    Surely this is incorrect. The warmer the water is the more
    will evaporate.

    A warmer air mass takes up and holds more water vapour.

    The warmer the water is the more will evaporate.

    That is so, unless the air above it is already saturated for its temperature and pressure. The water will of course continue to evaporate as steam once it reaches boiling point (for that pressure).

    “Cool air can hold less moisture than warm air,…”
    Makes no sense.

    Not at all! Cooling of moist warm air is what forms rain clouds, as cool air can hold less vapour than warm air.

    Taken to extremes, Antarctica is one of the driest places on Earth!
    Any water vapour in its atmosphere freezes to ice crystals or snow.

    Water vapour is just another gas like Nitrogen etc.

    It is, but nitrogen boils and freezes at quite different temperatures, so we have geysers of water on Earth and geysers of liquid nitrogen at much lower temperatures on Neptune’s moon Triton.

    Triton has a surface of mostly frozen nitrogen, a mostly water ice crust,[13] an icy mantle and a substantial core of rock and metal.

    Triton is one of the few moons in the Solar System known to be geologically active. As a consequence, its surface is relatively young, with a complex geological history revealed in intricate and mysterious cryovolcanic and tectonic terrains.[6] Part of its crust is dotted with geysers thought to erupt nitrogen.[10] Triton has a tenuous nitrogen atmosphere less than 1/70,000 the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triton_%28moon%29



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  • But, but. Water vapour will condence when it is cold enougth, as
    will Nitrogen. Are you saying the ‘air’ can olny hold so much
    Nitrogen (or any other gas)? What if water vapour is the only gas
    in the ‘air’, what’s holding it now?



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  • Peter Feb 10, 2015 at 8:35 am

    But, but. Water vapour will condence when it is cold enougth, as
    will Nitrogen.

    Are you saying the ‘air’ can olny hold so much
    Nitrogen (or any other gas)?

    At temperatures where nitrogen (or other gases) would rain out or freeze out, it would not be “air” as we know it.

    What if water vapour is the only gas in the ‘air’, what’s holding it now?

    That would only happen where the temperatures and pressures allowed it to be steam.

    See: – http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/wea00/wea00016.htm

    This explains the energy balances in gases, and the exchange of molecules between the surface of gases and liquids. but understanding the meteorological measurements is much simpler.

    When air containing a lot of water vapour cools, it is able to hold less water, so a DEW-POINT is reached where mist or rain starts to condense out as “dew”.

    Relative Humidity: tells how much water air is holding at a given temperature (and pressure) compared to the maximum water vapour content it can hold at that temperature.

    http://www.crh.noaa.gov/abr/?n=humidity.php
    The dew point is the temperature at which the air will be holding all the moisture it can if cooled. Or…another way of putting it. The dew point is the temperature at which the relative humidity reaches 100%.



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  • However developers carry on regardless, building on vulnerable land as the world pumps more CO2 into the air.

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/02/climate-change-economics/steinmetz-photography

    Some 2,100 miles of canals built over the past century to drain the Everglades empty into the Atlantic Ocean.
    Higher seas have already allowed salt water to flow inland through the canals.
    Gates now keep out most salt water, and massive pumps, including on the Miami River (above), keep canals from overflowing by pushing excess rainwater out to the ocean. Given just two feet of sea-level rise, more than 80 percent of the gates will no longer work.

    Just a few feet of sea-level rise would shrink the Florida Keys to a fraction of their current size and submerge portions of the Overseas Highway, which links them to the mainland.



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  • We will have to hope that global warming, and people messing about with drilling rigs in the Arctic, don’t trigger this sort of feed-back effect!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31424597
    .Carbon dioxide escaping from the depths of the ocean heralded the end of the last Ice Age, a study suggests.

    Its release into the atmosphere drove the shift towards a warmer period, according to scientists at the University of Southampton.

    The research, published in Nature, is based on analysing chemical signals in the shells of ancient plankton.

    The world’s oceans absorb about a third of the atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.

    Scientists predict that as the oceans warm, their ability to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide will be reduced, potentially leading to faster global warming.

    Dr Miguel Martinez-Boti, who co-led the study, said the findings showed that there was a link between very high concentrations of dissolved carbon dioxide in parts of the ocean and rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide at the end of the last Ice Age.

    “This increases our understanding of the role of the ocean in the carbon cycle,” he told BBC News.

    “The ocean is a much bigger reservoir for carbon than the atmosphere, so how the ocean interacts with the atmosphere is very important.”



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  • Global warming and Big Storms…ummm… let’s see.. Climate change is like the weather: Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. (My kingdom for a smiley face!)



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  • The trouble with escalating climate change, is that unless the computer models are right and people trust them, we can usually only tell an exceptional season or two, from a new climate pattern, retrospectively.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31434030

    .The American south-west and central plains could be on course for super-droughts the like of which they have not witnessed in over a 1,000 years.

    Places like California are already facing very dry conditions, but these are quite gentle compared with some periods in the 12th and 13th Centuries.

    Scientists have now compared these earlier droughts with climate simulations for the coming decades.

    The study suggests events unprecedented in the last millennium may lie ahead.

    .“These mega-droughts during the 1100s and 1200s persisted for 20, 30, 40, 50 years at a time, and they were droughts that no-one in the history of the United States has ever experienced,” said Ben Cook from Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

    “The droughts that people do know about like the 1930s ‘dustbowl’ or the 1950s drought or even the ongoing drought in California and the Southwest today – these are all naturally occurring droughts that are expected to last only a few years or perhaps a decade. Imagine instead the current California drought going on for another 20 years.”

    Dr Cook’s new study is published in the journal Science Advances, and it has been discussed also at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.



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  • Melvin Feb 12, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Global warming and Big Storms…ummm… let’s see.. Climate change is like the weather: Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it.

    It seems at least some people are taking it seriously!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31456161
    .The UK’s political leaders have pledged to work together to combat climate change, whatever the election result.

    In a joint statement, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg said climate change was one of the most serious threats facing the world.

    They said climate change threatens not just the environment but also security, prosperity and poverty eradication.

    >They have promised to end coal burning for power generation in the UK – unless it uses new clean-up technology.

    Environmentalists say the pledge is significant because it quells some of their fears that the Conservatives might adopt a more climate-sceptic line, to mirror UKIP’s position.

    The move will be noticed by the UK’s European partners working towards a global agreement on climate change at the UN conference in Paris in December. Some of them had been nervous that the UK might soften its leadership position in the talks, given the level of climate scepticism expressed by some newspapers and Conservative backbenchers.



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  • Melvin Feb 12, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Global warming and Big Storms…ummm… let’s see.. Climate change is like the weather: Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it.

    Not quite!

    Plans to generate electricity from the world’s first series of tidal lagoons have been unveiled in the UK. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31682529

    How does a tidal lagoon power plant work? – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31689511

    Actually, these look similar in operation to the French tidal barrage at Rance, which has been operating since the 1960s.

    They however a good move in the right direction of reducing carbon emissions.



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  • The data just keeps coming, while the estimated costs of tardy reactions, keep rising!! (aling with peak water levels!)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31738394

    .The number of people affected by river flooding worldwide could nearly triple in the next 15 years, analysis shows.

    Climate change and population growth are driving the increase, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI)

    In the UK, about 76,000 people a year could be at risk of being affected by flooding if defences aren’t improved, it says.

    The yearly cost of damage to urban areas could reach more than £1bn.

    The centre says this is the first public analysis of all world data on current and future river-flood risks.

    It demonstrates some 20 million people are at risk of being affected by flooding, and it costs almost £65bn in GDP.



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