Academic journal article The Science Teacher

New Storm Model

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

New Storm Model

Article excerpt

A new mathematical model indicates that dust devils, water spouts, tornadoes, hurricanes, and cyclones are all born of the same mechanism and will intensify as climate change warms Earth's surface.

The new equation, developed by University of Michigan atmospheric and planetary scientist Nilton Renno, could allow scientists to more accurately calculate the maximum expected intensity of a spiraling storm based on the depth of the troposphere and the temperature and humidity of the air in the storm's path. The troposphere is the lowest layer of Earth's atmosphere.

This equation improves upon current methods, Renno says, because it takes into account the energy feeding the storm system and the full measure of friction slowing it down. Current thermodynamic models make assumptions about these variables, rather than include actual quantities.

"This model allows us to relate changes in storms' intensity to environmental conditions," Renno says. "It shows us that climate change could lead to increases in how efficient convective vortices are and how much energy they transform into wind. Fueled by warmer and moister air, there will be stronger and deeper storms in the future that reach higher into the atmosphere."

Renno and research scientist Natalia Andronova used the model to quantify how intense they expect storms to get based on current climate predictions. For every 3.6 [degrees]F that Earth's surface temperature warms, the intensity of storms could increase by at least a few percent, the scientists say. …

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