How Climate Change Will Magnify Weather Blocking Events

Climate Change Will Magnify Weather Blocking EventsFluid dynamicists have found a scaling law, a mathematical formula that relates the size of blocking events to the width, latitude, and strength of the jet stream, all of which are well-studied and measured. (Credit: P. Hassanzadeh/Rice)

“Blocking events” have produced some of the 21st century’s deadliest heat waves. These stalled high-pressure weather systems will increase due to climate change, research finds.

Atmospheric blocking events are middle-latitude, high-pressure systems that stay in place for days or even weeks. Depending upon when and where they develop, blocking events can cause droughts or downpours and heat waves or cold spells. Blocking events caused deadly heat waves in France in 2003 and in Russia in 2010.

Using data from two sets of comprehensive climate model simulations, researchers find that the area of blocking events in the northern hemisphere will increase by as much as 17% due to anthropogenic climate change.

Will blocking events get bigger?

Pedram Hassanzadeh, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Rice University, uses computational, mathematical, and statistical models to study atmospheric flows related to a broad range of problems from extreme weather events to wind energy.

He says researchers have increasingly been interested in learning how climate change might affect blocking events, but most studies have focused on whether blocking events will become more frequent as the atmosphere warms because of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Studies in the past have looked at whether you get more or less blocking events with climate change,” he says. “The question nobody had asked is whether the size of these events will change or not.

“And the size is very important because the blocking events are more impactful when they are larger. For example, if the high-pressure system becomes bigger, you are going to get bigger heat waves that affect more people, and you are likely going to get stronger heat waves.”

An ‘elegantly simple result’

Ebrahim Nabizadeh, a mechanical engineering graduate student in Rice’s Brown School of Engineering, set out to answer the question two years ago. Using a hierarchical modeling approach, he began with experiments on a model of atmospheric turbulence that’s far simpler than the real atmosphere.

The simple model, which captures the fundamental dynamics of blocking events, allowed Nabizadeh to do a great deal of exploration. Making slight changes in one parameter or another, he ran thousands of simulations. Then he used a powerful dimensional analysis technique called the Buckingham-Pi theorem, which is often used in designing large and complex engineering systems that involve fluid flows, to analyze the data.

The goal was finding a scaling law, a mathematical formula that described the size of a blocking event using variables that climate scientists already study and understand. Nabizadeh started with scaling laws that have been developed to predict the size of day-to-day weather patterns, but he found that none of the variables were predictive for blocking events.

His persistence eventually paid off with a simple formula that relates the area of blocking events to the width, latitude, and strength of the jet stream, all of which are well-studied and measured.

“I gave a talk about this recently, and one of the people came up after and said, ‘This is magical, that these powers add up and suddenly you get the right answer.’ But it took a lot of work by Ebrahim to get this elegantly simple result,” he says.

Staring at the numbers

At a one point, Nabizadeh had analyzed the data from many simulations and produced a comparison that included page upon page of figures, and Hassanzadeh says the scaling law discovery was encouraged by an unlikely source: the line at the driver’s license office.

Hassanzadeh and Nabizadeh got their licenses about a week apart, and they had ample time to study results while they waited. “You have to sit and you don’t have anything to do,” Hassanzadeh says. “So after staring at these numbers for hours, we realized this is the right scaling.”

They also compared the simple-model results with the output of increasingly complex models of the Earth’s weather and climate. Nabizadeh says the scaling law predicted changes in the size of future winter blocking events in comprehensive climate model simulations with remarkable accuracy.

“It performs better for winter events than summer events for reasons we don’t yet understand,” Nabizadeh says. “Our results suggest future studies should focus on better understanding summer blocks and also how larger blocking events might affect the size, magnitude, and persistence of extreme-weather events like heat waves.”

Additional coauthors are from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Davis, and Colorado State University.

Support for the research came from NASA, the National Academies’ Gulf Research Program, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation. The NSF-supported XSEDE project and Rice’s Center for Research Computing in partnership with Rice’s Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology provided computing resources.

Original Study

Related Books

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity

by James Hansen
1608195023Dr. James Hansen, the world's leading climatologist, shows that exactly contrary to the impression the public has received, the science of climate change has become even clearer and sharper since the hardcover was released. In Storms of My Grandchildren, Hansen speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return. In explaining the science of climate change, Hansen paints a devastating but all-too-realistic picture of what will happen in our children's and grandchildren's lifetimes if we follow the course we're on. But he is also an optimist, showing that there is still time to take the urgent, strong action that is needed- just barely.  Available On Amazon

Extreme Weather and Climate

by C. Donald Ahrens, Perry J. Samson
0495118575
Extreme Weather & Climate is a unique textbook solution for the fast-growing market of non-majors science courses focused on extreme weather. With strong foundational coverage of the science of meteorology, Extreme Weather & Climate introduces the causes and impacts of extreme weather events and conditions. Students learn the science of meteorology in context of important and often familiar weather events such as Hurricane Katrina and they'll explore how forecast changes in climate may influence frequency and/or intensity of future extreme weather events. An exciting array of photos and illustrations brings the intensity of weather and its sometimes devastating impact to every chapter. Written by a respected and unique author team, this book blends coverage found in Don Ahrens market-leading texts with insights and technology support contributed by co-author Perry Samson. Professor Samson has developed an Extreme Weather course at the University of Michigan that is the fastest-growing science course at the university. Available On Amazon

Floods in a Changing Climate: Extreme Precipitation

by Ramesh S. V. Teegavarapu

9781108446747Measurement, analysis and modeling of extreme precipitation events linked to floods is vital in understanding changing climate impacts and variability. This book provides methods for assessment of the trends in these events and their impacts. It also provides a basis to develop procedures and guidelines for climate-adaptive hydrologic engineering. Academic researchers in the fields of hydrology, climate change, meteorology, environmental policy and risk assessment, and professionals and policy-makers working in hazard mitigation, water resources engineering and climate adaptation will find this an invaluable resource. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
by Josie Garthwaite
Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record, research shows.
kelp forrest 7 12
How The Forests Of The World’s Oceans Contribute To Alleviating The Climate Crisis
by Emma Bryce
Researchers are looking to kelp for help storing carbon dioxide far beneath the surface of the sea.
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
by Ken Buesseler
The ocean plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. The driving force comes from tiny plankton that produce…
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
by Gabriel Filippelli and Joseph D. Ortiz
“Do Not Drink/Do Not Boil” is not what anyone wants to hear about their city’s tap water. But the combined effects of…
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate impasse
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate Impasse
by InnerSelf Staff
Everyone has energy stories, whether they’re about a relative working on an oil rig, a parent teaching a child to turn…
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
by Gregg Howe and Nathan Havko
For millennia, insects and the plants they feed on have been engaged in a co-evolutionary battle: to eat or not be…
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
by Swapnesh Masrani
Ambitious targets have been set by the UK and Scottish governments to become net-zero carbon economies by 2050 and 2045…
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
by Theresa Crimmins
Across much of the United States, a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception.

LATEST ARTICLES

Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
by Ann Rowan
In the world of glaciology, the year 2007 would go down in history. It was the year a seemingly small error in a major…
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
by Edward Lempinen
By the end of this century, tens of millions of people could die each year worldwide as a result of temperatures rising…
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
by Janet Stephenson
A proposed multibillion-dollar project to build a pumped hydro storage plant could make New Zealand’s electricity grid…
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
by Guaduneth Chico et al
Wind power in the UK now accounts for nearly 30% of all electricity production. Land-based wind turbines now produce…
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
by Stuart Capstick
In new research, we have identified what we call 12 “discourses of delay”. These are ways of speaking and writing about…
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
by Gunnar W. Schade
If you’ve driven through an area where companies extract oil and gas from shale formations, you’ve probably seen flames…
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
by Avit K Bhowmik
Europe’s major airlines are likely to see their turnover drop by 50% in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,…
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
by Steven Sherwood et al
We know the climate changes as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, but the exact amount of expected warming remains…