Climate Change will not make storms more frequent - 9th February
The downside is that while the number of storms will probably remain unchanged, and weak storms could even become weaker, new research warns that the strongest storms could become even stronger.
For at least 30 years, researchers have worked on the assumption that as the average energy of the atmosphere increased with warming, so would the likelihood for extremes of heat and drought, flood and cyclone, typhoon or hurricane.
Frederic Laliberté, of the University of Toronto in Canada, and atmospheric physicist colleagues don’t exactly disagree: they just took a closer at the way in which some things are likely to change.
They report in the journal Science that they considered the interplay of weather, moisture and temperature around the globe as an atmospheric heat engine and compared it to a famous 19th-century theoretical model of energy and output known as the Carnot Cycle.
The engine works by air warmed by the sun moving across the ocean and taking up water through evaporation. The warmer the air, the more water it takes up. The air current gets to the Equator and then ascends through the atmosphere, cooling as it rises.
As the air cools, the burden of water condenses and releases heat. When enough heat is released, the air rises even further, pulling more air behind it to produce a thunderstorm.
So the atmospheric engine’s output is the amount of heat and moisture it distributes between the Equator and the Poles.
“By viewing the atmospheric circulation as a heat engine, we were able to rely on the laws of thermodynamics to analyse how the circulation would change in a simulation of global warming,” Laliberté said. “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.”
“Powerful storms are strengthened at the expense of weaker storms, we believe atmospheric circulation will adapt to this less efficient form of heat transfer and we will see either fewer storms overall, or at least a weakening of the most common, weaker storms.”
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