Climate Change Will Drive Stronger, Smaller Storms in U.S.
The effects of climate change will likely cause smaller but stronger storms in the United States, according to a new framework for modeling storm behavior developed at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Though storm intensity is expected to increase over today’s levels, the predicted reduction in storm size may alleviate some fears of widespread severe flooding in the future.
The new approach, published today in Journal of Climate, uses new statistical methods to identify and track storm features in both observational weather data and new high-resolution climate modeling simulations. When applied to one simulation of the future effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, the framework helped clarify a common discrepancy in model forecasts of precipitation changes.
“Climate models all predict that storms will grow significantly more intense in the future, but that total precipitation will increase more mildly over what we see today,” said senior author Elisabeth Moyer, associate professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago and co-PI of the Center for Robust Decision-Making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP). “By developing new statistical methods that study the properties of individual rainstorms, we were able to detect changes in storm frequency, size, and duration that explain this mismatch.”
While many concerns about the global impact of climate change focus on increased temperatures, shifts in precipitation patterns could also incur severe social, economic, and human costs. Increased droughts in some regions and increased flooding in others would dramatically affect world food and water supplies, as well as place extreme strain on infrastructure and government services.
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