Global warming causes weather forecasts to fail more

The validity of weather forecasts in the Earth’s temperate zones is getting shorter with every degree the temperature rises

Rising temperatures can be a problem when it comes to knowing what the climate will be in the Earth’s mid-latitudes, depending on a new study from Stanford University, in the United States.

The temperate zone or mid-latitudes are two, they are located between the tropics and the Arctic and Antarctic polar circles. The sun’s rays arrive more obliquely at the highest latitude and with a lower heat energy because they cross more thicknesses of the atmosphere and heat the surface more.

The main author, Aditi Sheshadri, explains that the state of the weather can be predicted for several days, especially in colder climates because they are more predictable, in warmer ones it is more complicated. Numerical weather models are able to predict the weather for three to ten days more reliably than in previous decades, thanks to more advanced technology.

The severity of climates, a consequence of climate change

The article indicates that widespread changes in weather patterns, increasing frequency and severity of more extreme climates are consequences of global climate change. This can produce storms, droughts, heat waves and forest fires that would destroy any great infrastructure, in fact, we’ve already seen that at the time.

The hockey stick graph is an image published in 1998, developed by Mann, Bradley, and Hughes, that shows how temperatures have been reasonably stable over many centuries. It’s been a while since scientists are warning that the Earth is reaching higher and higher temperatures. From others report carried out between 1997 and 2015, showed that the ocean absorbed as much heat as 130 years ago.

Hockey stick graphic. Source: David Zvijac (ResearchGate)

The new research, based on computer simulations of a simplified earth system and a comprehensive global climate model, suggests that mid-latitude predictions are a few hours shorter with every degree Celsius of warming. This means that there is less time to prepare for big storms in mild winters than in icy winters.

Predictability decreases by approximately one day for every 3 °C increase in temperature in case of precipitation. The effect is quieter for wind and temperature, with a day of predictability lost with every 5 °C increase in temperature. While average global temperatures have risen 1.1°C since the late 19th century, not all places are warming at the same rate. Some cities in the US have experienced an average annual temperature rise of more than 2°C since 1970. Seasonal variations can be even more extreme, the report says.

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Butterfly Effect

The nature of Earth’s atmosphere imposes insurmountable limits on forecasting beyond ten or 15 days. Edward Lorenz, weatherman, discovered in the 60s that small differences in initial conditions, such as disturbances in the wind of a butterfly flapping its wings, create different results in models of the Earth’s climate system. This fact is known as the “butterfly effect”.

The researchers say that for every measure of barometric pressure, temperature, wind speed and the like that can be included in numerical weather models, it is impossible to avoid uncertainty. These imperfections propagate over time, thus widening the gap between predictions made from apparently identical initial conditions. There comes a time when the results lose all resemblance to each other and are indistinguishable from predictions based on realistic but random initial conditions.

For Earth’s mid-latitudes, this research observes that errors propagate through weather models more quickly as temperatures increase, and there appears to be no temperature boundary where the trend changes. According to the authors, this is related to the growth of storms known as eddies in the troposphere, the layer of atmosphere closest to Earth.

Sheshadri says that when eddies grow faster, models seem to lose control of initial conditions very quickly, which means the forecast window narrows.

REFERENCES

Mid-latitude error growth in atmospheric GCMs: the role of parasite growth rate

Northern hemisphere temperatures over the past millennium: inferences, uncertainties and limitations

Consistent multidecadal variability in global temperature reconstructions and simulations in the Common Era

Industrial age global ocean heat absorption doubles in recent decades

Deterministic Non-Periodic Flow

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