Meteorologists preparing for the worst

Montreal - Intense aerial turbulence, ice storms and scorching heatwaves, huge ocean waves - the world's climate experts forecast apocalyptic weather over the coming decades at a conference in Montreal that ended on Thursday.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) brought together 1 000 specialists to discuss the uncertain future of weather forecasting.

A decade after the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's focus has shifted from reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to warming, to dealing with its consequences.

"It's irreversible and the world's population continues to increase, so we must adapt," said Jennifer Vanos, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech University.

Average temperatures have increased 0.47°C so far. Scientists have predicted a two percent rise in average temperatures by 2050.

A one-degree hike translates into seven percent more water vapour in the atmosphere and because evaporation is the driving force behind air currents, more extreme weather events are expected to follow.

"We'll see clouds forming faster and more easily, and more downpours," leading to flash flooding, said Simon Wang, assistant director of the Utah Climate Centre.

Broadly speaking, said the American researcher, rising temperatures will have a "multiplying effect on weather events as we know them."

Bone-chilling temperatures that swept across North America last winter will plunge even further, while summer heatwaves and droughts will be hotter and dryer, he added.

For meteorologists, the challenge will be to incorporate this "additional force" into their weather modelling, explained Wang.

Supercomputing weather forecasts

To do so, meteorologists will need to use supercomputers to run the increasingly complex algorithms to predict weather.

British researcher Paul Williams studies the impact of climate change on jetstreams using one such computer at Princeton University in New Jersey.

After weeks of calculations, he concluded that climate change amplifies the strength of these narrow bands of predominantly westerly air currents encircling the globe several miles above the earth.

By 2050, he said, airline passengers will experience twice as much in-flight turbulence as a result.

Meanwhile on the high seas, monster waves will await cargo and cruise ships.

"Maritime shipping companies are already running into enormous waves," some as high as 40m, said Wang, adding that 20m high was considered exceptionally high until now.

"This is just the beginning of climate change, because the oceans will have an even greater impact releasing more heat and vapour," he warned.

Melting ice of Greenland could result in a 6m rise in the world's oceans, though not likely until the next century, said Eric Brun of Meteo-France, citing a study he recently published on climate's impact on ocean levels.

Faced with so much upheaval, Jennifer Vanos said there is an urgency to adapt - including lifestyle, urban planning - to this new reality in order to protect populations.

Read more on: wmo climate change
Joe Black 2014-08-21 10:51:38 PM
RE: The 40m waves encountered by maritime shipping companies. They are one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters on the planet. Sure much of the world's trade relies on these giant oil guzzling ships, but the shipping companies have to be taken to task to use more environmentally friendly ships even if that means there's less profit in this business. That or they must not complain. They are playing a major role in making their own business impractical in the not too distant future.
Jimbo Slim 2014-08-21 11:38:49 PM
Repent, heathens, the end is near!
Phae Rayden 2014-08-22 06:03:05 AM
The well documented consequences of our out of control breeding and unsustainable lifestyles are destroying the planet as we know it, yet we refuse to do a thing about it. Just how precious is human life? As a whole we're a vicious, disgusting, filthy and disease ridden species that has become a deadly threat to all other living things. Roll on Ebola!
konfab 2014-08-22 06:18:38 AM
Scaremongering at its best...
Kelly O'Neill 2014-08-22 07:23:08 AM
Rayden, maybe you should pay a visit to Western Africa, law of natural selection will get to you first....
Annette 2014-08-22 07:23:37 AM
Exciting times are ahead - imagine to be able to witness this first hand!
Chappie Abrams 2014-08-22 07:32:01 AM
We are a despicable species.
Craig King 2014-08-22 08:02:58 AM
This is the best yet. Apocalyptic predictions based on computer models. Tales of sea monsters that no one has actually seen. Global warming making things hotter, colder, wetter, drier so all contingencies are covered. Supercomputers pumping out the answers to the rubbish fed into them ever faster. Meanwhile here in the real world things go on as they always have. Snake oil salesmen always have product and customers. Look around people, step outside and tell me something supernatural is going on with your weather. The only thing that has changed is the absurd coverage given to every little bit of weather by our media, desperate to sell copy. Wake up! You are being lied to.
Erichsen Welgemoed 2014-08-22 09:01:21 AM
Hahah first it was ozone layer they make millions then it change to globale warming and they make millions now it is climate change and they will make millions all in name change
Jennifer Hunter 2014-08-22 03:16:15 PM
Ok then just answer this question- our planet is a round ball suspended in space. Every year there are more and people using limited resources. There has to be consequences sooner or later. People have to stop breeding like rabbits and consuming everything they can in as much excess as they can get there hands on. I don't need a scientist the understand that it cannot be a sustainable situation. Cut the population, cut consumption and start caring.