North - South divide

Friday 29th Oct 2010 by theWeather Club

It had been widely accepted for some time that global warming is leading to an increase in severe weather. But when it comes to predicting the specific pattern of future weather events, the assumption has generally been that what we will see is a more extreme version of the weather we already know, such as stronger and more frequent storms or longer droughts. Now a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has provided a more nuanced model for the future by suggesting that the Northern and Southern Hemispheres will see markedly different effects from a warming planet.

According to the study published in the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences', more intense storms will occur in the Southern Hemisphere throughout the year, whereas in the Northern Hemisphere, the change will depend on the season. The reason for the difference is that even though the globe will get warmer and more humid as a whole, the increased energy this produces will not be evenly distributed.

Simulations run by the study predict that the energy available to drive storms would be greater throughout the year for the Southern Hemisphere, leading to more intense storms all year round. But for the Northern Hemisphere, while energy will also increase during the winter it will decrease during the summer, meaning stronger winter storms and weaker summer ones. However the report stresses that it is extremely difficult to predict the intensity of these changes.

So it seems that the ocean yacht racers who say the Southern Ocean is already the most terrifying place to sail because of the scale of the storms, may be in for some even more interesting times.