How would today’s weather patterns look in a warmer, wetter atmosphere – an expected shift portended by climate change?
Colorado State University researcher Kristen Rasmussen offers new insight into this question – specifically, how thunderstorms would be different in a warmer world.
The assistant professor of atmospheric science works at the interface of weather and climate. She is lead author on a new paper in Climate Dynamics that details high-resolution climate simulations across the continental United States. Her results suggest that extreme thunderstorms, or what atmospheric scientists call convective systems, will increase in frequency under a warmer climate scenario. This shift would be caused by fundamental changes in thermodynamic conditions of the atmosphere.
For the study, Rasmussen employed a powerful new dataset developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, where Rasmussen completed postdoctoral work before joining the CSU faculty in 2016.
The scientists generated the enormous dataset by running NCAR’s Weather Research and Forecasting model at an extremely high resolution of about 4 kilometers (about 2.5 miles), across the entire contiguous U.S. Typical climate models only resolve to about 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) – not nearly the detail available in the new dataset. Included in the new data are finer-scale cloud processes than have been available in previous climate models.
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