New data reveals that climate change could be faster than expected

New data reveals that climate change could be faster than expected

Winter storms in the Southern Hemisphere. Credit: NASA Worldview

About 30 massive, intricate computer networks serve the scientists who are at the forefront of climate change research. Each network operates a program consisting of millions of lines of code. These programs are computer models that combine the myriad physical, chemical, and biological phenomena that together shape our planet’s climate. The models calculate the state of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, earth and ice, capturing past and present climate change and using the data to predict future climate change. These results are analyzed by leading research institutes around the globe, including the Weizmann Institute of Science, and then integrated into the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report. Politicians rely on the IPCC report as they shape adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change, one of the biggest crises of our generation.

A new study, published today in Nature Climate Change, will certainly draw the attention of the IPCC — and other environmental bodies. A team of scientists led by Dr. Rei Chemke of Weizmann’s Earth and Planetary Sciences has revealed considerable intensification of winter storms in the Southern Hemisphere. The study, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Yi Ming of Princeton University and Dr. Janni Yuval of MIT, will certainly make waves in the climate conversation. So far climate models projected man-made intensification of winter storms only until the end of this century. In the new study, Chemke and his team compared simulations of a climate model with current storm observations. Their discovery was sad: it has become clear that storm surges in recent decades have reached projected levels by 2080.

“Winter storms are weather events that last only a few days. Individually, each storm does not carry much climatic weight. However, the long-term impact of winter storms is evident when estimating cumulative data collected over long periods of time,” Chemke explains. Cumulatively, these storms have a significant impact, affecting the transfer of heat, humidity and momentum within the atmosphere, which in turn affects the various climatic zones on Earth. “One example of this is the role that storms play in regulating the temperature at the Earth’s poles. Winter storms are responsible for most of the heat transfer from the tropics to the poles. Without their contribution, the average polar temperatures it would be about 30 ° C lower. ” Similarly, the collective intensification of these storms poses a real and significant threat to societies in the Southern Hemisphere in the coming decades.

“We chose to focus on the Southern Hemisphere because the intensification recorded there was stronger than in the Northern Hemisphere,” Chemke says. “We have not examined the Northern Hemisphere, but it seems that the intensification of storms in this hemisphere is slower compared to that in the Southern Hemisphere. If the trend continues,” Chemke adds, “we will observe a more significant winter storm intensification. Here in the coming years and decades. “

In his laboratory at the Weizmann Institute, Chemke investigates the physical mechanisms underlying large-scale climate change. In this study, he and his research partners sought to understand whether these changes in climate patterns were caused by external factors (such as human activity), or whether they resulted from the internal fluctuations of the global climate system. They analyzed climate models that simulated storm surge patterns under the isolated influence of internal climatic causes, without external impact. They have shown that over the past 20 years, storms have intensified faster than can be explained only by internal climate behavior.

In addition, the researchers discovered the physical process behind the storm surge. Analysis of the storms’ growth rate has shown that changes in atmospheric jet streams in recent decades have caused these escalations, and current climate models are unable to accurately reflect these changes.

The study by Chemke, Ming, and Yuval has two immediate, considerable implications. First, it shows that not only are climate projections for the coming decades more important than previous estimates, but it also suggests that human activity could have a greater impact on the Southern Hemisphere than previously estimated. This means that rapid and decisive action is needed to stop the climate damage in this region. Second, a correction of the bias in climate models is in order, so that these can provide a more accurate climate projection in the future.

Could climate models be wrong to predict other important phenomena? “The models do a very good job at predicting almost all parameters,” Chemke says. “We discovered one parameter by which the sensitivity of the models needs to be adjusted. Changes in temperature, precipitation, sea ice and summer. storm patterns, for example, are all simulated accurately. “

The results of the study are expected to help climate researchers around the world correct the bias in the models and create a more accurate prediction of future climate patterns. In addition, the updated understanding of the intensification of winter storms over the past few decades will help us gain a better understanding of the state of the Earth’s climate. Climate scientists will now be able to more accurately estimate the extent of the damage climate change is expected to cause damage that will be mitigated only if humanity intervenes and takes responsibility for the future of the planet.

Jet flow, which brought storm Eunice, has accelerated over the past century

More information:
Rei Chemke, The intensification of winter mid-latitude storm tracks in the Southern Hemisphere, Nature Climate Change (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41558-022-01368-8.

Quote: New data reveals climate change could be faster than expected (2022, May 26) Retrieved May 27, 2022 from

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