Some strong movements in the atmosphere can lead to extreme weather such as heat waves and storms. Researchers have now shown that these movements are becoming more common, which could have serious consequences.
The atmospheric movements the researchers studied can be described as weather covering large geographic regions, which in turn controls weather locally. This may be, for example, high and low pressure on different areas.
Some of these atmospheric movements contribute to severe weather and can cause heavy rains, strong winds, and heat waves. These movement patterns specifically are becoming more popular in Europe, according to a study by researchers from Sweden and France.
That these circulation patterns that lead to extreme weather are becoming more common is both surprising and worrying, says Gabriel Missouri, a professor of meteorology at Uppsala University and one of the researchers.
More heat waves
We often talk about temperatures when we talk about climate change. But while it is easy to measure the increase in temperature, it has been difficult for scientists to understand how the atmospheric movements are changing.
In the study, published in the journal PNAS, researchers analyzed data between 1950 and 2020. The result is that the atmospheric movements that cause heat waves and storms in Europe are increasing and occurring two to four additional times per decade.
– It may not seem like much, but we had an extreme heat wave in Sweden at the latest in 2018. If one comes four times in a decade, that means a huge impact on us, says Gabriel Missouri.
The researchers noted that in Europe, more than nine out of ten deaths from extreme heat waves occurred during increasingly common circulation patterns. The increased prevalence of these large movements is likely to lead to temperature increases that are stronger than those expected in various future scenarios.
If global warming causes the temperature during heat waves in Europe to rise by 2 degrees, due to warmer air currents from the continent, it could end up at 3 degrees.
In addition, researchers have seen that movements that lead to cooler weather have become less common in recent decades, which also contributes to global warming.
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