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Research Results

Storms in the Future: Changes in Intensity, Cloudiness, Rainfall and Economic Costs


Shaynah Brown, A. Philip Randolph Campus High School
Heberthe Dely, A. Philip Randolph Campus High School
Kinga Jakab, The City College of New York
Ali Mirza, A. Philip Randolph Campus High School


Abdelrahim Mansour, Al Noor High School
Christopher Petersen, A. Philip Randolph Campus High School

Science Advisors

Dr. Tony Del Genio, NASA GISS
Dr. Bill Rossow, NASA GISS
Dr. George Tselioudis, NASA GISS

Team Scientists' Overview

This project deals with the question of how weather conditions in the world's middle latitudes will be different in a possible future warmer climate. In the midlatitude regions, where most of the world's population lives, the major weather-makers are midlatitude storms that mix cold and warm air masses and produce high winds, clouds, and precipitation. In order to explore how different the midlatitude weather of a warmer world will be from the weather that we experience today, it is important to understand how the properties of midlatitude storms may change as climate warms.

Midlatitude storms are disturbances that form along the jet stream (the river of air that circumnavigates the globe in the Northern and Southern midlatitudes) and travel with it in an eastward direction. The jet stream owns its existence and draws its energy from the large temperature differences that exist between the Earth's equator and poles. In a warmer climate, the temperature difference between those two regions will be smaller and this may result in a slower, less energetic jet stream. Does this mean that a warmer world will experience fewer or weaker midlatitude storms? Keep in mind that storms are fueled by the presence of humid air masses in their path, a condition that will be more prevalent in a warmer climate.

In our attempt to profile the storm of the future, our group will build on the knowledge that can be gained from studying the storms of the past and on predictions made using the GISS climate model. We have developed tools that scan weather data to locate and track midlatitude storms as well as tools that collocate and correlate storm and cloud properties from weather and satellite observations, and we have developed a thirty year climatology of storms. Combining the different parts of our analysis we will attempt to resolve how the frequency and strength of midlatitude storms will change in a warmer climate and what such changes will mean in terms of the everyday weather conditions in the midlatitude regions.