Big Storms continue their march toward Earth’s poles

Mid-latitude storm tracks are major weather patterns that account for the majority of precipitation in the globe’s middle latitudes, which includes most of the heavily populated areas of North America, Eurasia, and Australia. Due to atmospheric circulation and the dynamics of weather systems, these bands of low pressure form repeatedly in the same locations. Apart from being meteorologically important, they’re also major players on the climate scene -— clouds in these regions are responsible for reflecting much of the incoming solar radiation that is bounced back to space before penetrating Earth’s atmosphere.

Many climate models have predicted that the positions of these storm tracks would slowly migrate toward the poles, but so far this trend had not been detected. However, analysis of 25 years worth of data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project now indicates that this shift is probably already taking place.

The International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (or ISCCP) operates a network of geostationary and polar orbiting satellites that have been collecting data on clouds since 1983. A team of researchers carefully analyzed data for Northern and Southern Hemisphere storm tracks in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to look for trends in storm track positions. (The Indian Ocean could not be included because of issues with satellite coverage.) The results indicated a slight poleward shift of the storm tracks…

That’s mainly interesting because it had been predicted by many climate models. But the data also shows something that may be much more important, though there are some considerable uncertainties involved. The satellite observations also show a roughly two-to-three percent reduction in total cloud cover since 1983. This occurred through a large decrease in low-level cloudiness, and it came despite a slight increase in high-level cloudiness.

Both of these changes act as positive feedbacks to warming

Although the same models that predict the poleward movement of storm tracks also predict reductions in total cloud cover, the paper is heavy on caveats here. The most interesting data comes at the limits of detection for these satellites, making it unclear how robust the signal is. Like the storm track positions, the trend is consistent among the regions studied, though.

Increasing the accuracy, increasing accumulation of these kind of data is something only satellites can provide. Naturally, your friendly neighborhood politician probably considers this a low priority in his fundraising life.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

One thought on “Big Storms continue their march toward Earth’s poles

  1. Euroweenie says:

    5/18/14: A ‘1,000 Year’ Flood Is Devastating Serbia And Stranding Thousands Of People [photos] Flooding in Bosnia triggers 3000 landslides, unearths unexploded mines Serbia’s largest power plant, the Nikola Tesla in Obrenovac and the Kostolac power plant east of Belgrade (which supplies 20% of the nation’s electricity) are now threatened by flooding, which has already cut Serbian power generation by 40%.

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