The warming of the North and South Poles is fueling storms in places like Philadelphia and New Jersey, with deadly consequences, as demonstrated by the remains of Hurricane Ida last week.
The storm set records for rainfall from a single system, up to 10 inches in some areas. It is a sign of the future of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
Before climate change, severe storms like Ida, which devastated Louisiana earlier last week, weakened as they worked their way north from the tropics. Meteorologists now say the opposite is happening. The storms are energized in places like the Philadelphia area because the warming North Pole does not dry out storms like they used to in colder times.
“The poles are warming up faster than elsewhere. It disrupts the temperatures between the tropics and the poles and that happens in the mid-latitudes,” said meteorologist Bernadette Woods Placky of Climate Central in New Jersey in an interview. “The tropics are trying to vent their heat. Now you add extra heat (from the warming North Pole) and charge everything up. You have that constant flow in balance and now you put it on steroids. “
A hotter planet produces more precipitation because more water evaporates. According to meteorologists, 4% more water evaporates into the atmosphere for every degree of temperature increase.
“You can definitely say that our most intense rains will be even more intense,” said NBC10 meteorologist Krystal Klei in an interview. “Warmer air can evaporate more water and more water can be rained out to create stronger storms.”
Climate scientists are also researching another cause of severe storms like Ida, Isaias, Henri and Elsa: the jet stream.
For nearly a decade, scientists have been studying the jet stream and its ability to keep cold air from tumbling south into places like the continental United States. Researchers believe that a warming north pole weakens the jet stream and allows the colder air to travel further south. This is said to be another reason for more frequent, stronger storms.
Heavier rains are easier to associate with a warming planet than tornadoes, said both Klei and Woods Placky.
More tornadoes have been confirmed in the past three years than in the rest of the Philadelphia and New Jersey records for the past few decades, but it is not yet clear whether the increase in documented activity was due to climate change or other factors, the meteorologists said.
“It’s very difficult for tornadoes to be directly linked to climate change because there just isn’t enough research and modern science and radar have grown incredibly over the past two decades,” said Klei. “Chances are we’ve had more tornadoes lately, but it’s also easier to spot. Plus, we now have massive poll responses that go out the day after a storm.”
Still, she added, “Is your gut feeling kind of a tie? Yes. And will we be able to make the connection in the future? Probably.”