Barry Lynn
Intersection of Science and Policy

Climate Change Storm Exceeds Historical Norms

A few days ago, a member of our “Israel Winter Weather” group alerted me to an unusual storm that would soon affect Greece. Yaakov Cantor wrote that the “forecast 500 mb heights are lower than any in the 40-year climatology for this time of year.” As pointed out by Yaakov, this is an El-Nino year, and climate change has super-charged the atmospheric response to such a phenomena. The amounts of precipitation, etc., exceeded the color coded boundary amounts! The results were massive floods in Greece. One can view the video to see the storm south of Greece; it shows cloud top temperatures, where colder temperatures indicate more intense thunderstorms.

So, how does this affect us?  The storm will move across the southern Mediterranean in the next few days.  It appears to disappear over Egypt.  However, an unusual flow of relatively cool air from Siberia (a more wintertime pattern than fall) will link up with this storm.  This will set the stage for the potential for a rain event from about Tuesday onwards, with unusually cold air aloft possibly triggering thunderstorms over the sea that may move inland in the coastal cities, if not further.  It’s not a surety, yet, but the potential exists for a heavy rain and thunderstorm.

Ahead of the storm, temperatures will be quite hot on Friday, and then cool off from there on in.  Moisture in the middle atmosphere should increase as well, and that could set the stage for our rain event.

A friend of mine said in response: it’s “just weather,” meaning why should we be too alarmed?  My response was: “that’s why we have weather forecast and/or climate prediction models.”  These models can help us understand if the weather we’re experiencing is just a fluke, or part of a trend towards stronger and more extreme storms.  We use these models because we’re hoping to get a heads up so we can make changes in how we create and use energy for a more sustainable future.

One of my colleagues and co-authors on previous papers, Dr. Leonard Druyan, pointed out to me that we made such predictions more than a decade ago in our joint studies.  At that time, we both were researchers (he was more senior than I) at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), led by Dr. Jim Hansen.  For instance, in a paper examining the potential effect of climate change on Hurricane Katrina type storms we predicted the potential path of such storms (e.g., Fig. 1 in that paper), which coincided with the recent hurricane Idelia.

There’s been record breaking heat in the United States and elsewhere.  These recent heat wave are also consistent with research we need at NASA-GISS. Our paper on the potential for extreme temperatures was based on observations and model experiments.  It used the GISS Climate model as the basis for its high resolution simulations experiments. It noted that feedbacks between surface heating and the atmosphere could lead to intense heat waves if greenhouse gases continued their upward trend. They have and perhaps it’s the reason my wife just asked me if next summer would be as bad as the current.  One never knows for sure, but one surmises that such summers are increasingly likely.

Have a good new year!

About the Author
Dr. Barry Lynn has a PhD in Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences. He has an undergraduate degree in Biology. He is a researcher/lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is the CTO of Weather It Is, LTD, a weather forecasting and consulting company.
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