When it rains, it pours. That’s how we may want to think about the effects of climate change on precipitation. Scientist Tom Petersen and meteorologist Dan Satterfield explain the link between rainstorms and global warming in Extreme Weather 101.
Can a warming planet really play a role in big snowstorms? In Extreme Weather 101, scientist Jay Lawrimore and meteorologist Dan Satterfield detail how increased temperatures can affect the formation of snowstorms that can blanket and paralyze a city.
Drought has left huge swaths of the United States parched this year. Are these dry conditions simply a fluke, or something we many need to get used to in a warming world? Scientist Mike Brewer and meteorologist Dan Satterfield explain the connection between drought and a changing climate in our series Extreme Weather 101.
Heat records tumbled across the country this spring and summer as heat waves and warmer-than-normal temperatures blistered much of the U.S. As scientist Deke Arndt and meteorologist Dan Satterfield explain in this edition of Extreme Weather 101, these heat spikes are likely to become more commonplace as greenhouse gases heat the planet.
Climate scientists have long known that human-generated greenhouse emissions are only part of the story with global warming. A rising planetary temperature sets in motion all sorts of secondary effects that can boost the temperature even higher — effects like melting Arctic sea ice, rising levels of heat-trapping water vapor in the atmosphere, and more. When researches try to figure out how high the thermometer will go over the next century or two, it’s important to figure in these so-called feedbacks into their calculations. But they don’t fully understand how feedbacks will play out.
A recent study in Nature Geoscience is helping reduce some of that uncertainty. By 2100, say Andrew MacDougall and his co-authors, the melting of Arctic permafrost will release enough carbon dioxide to boost global temperatures by up to an extra half a degree Fahrenheit, and by 2300, the extra heating could add up to as much as 3°F.
So that’s not good, obviously, especially since the permafrost feedback is just one of many that will add to global warming. But two really intriguing things about that become clear when you look more closely. The first is that the half-degree by 2100 is likely to happen whether or not we slow our emissions from fossil-fuel burning or not.
If that sounds crazy, the second seems even crazier: when you go beyond 2100, the extra warming from permafrost is less if our greenhouse emissions are higher.
Both of these facts sound as absurd to me...