During Bob Henson’s recent Weather Band webinar looking at the August 10, 2020 derecho event that tore through the midwest of the United States, one of the questions that came up was “how is climate change impacting wind events?” As Mr. Henson explained, not only are derecho events hard to predict, but based on current research it is impossible to answer how they are being altered by climate change. And this is true not only for derechos. It has been difficult to connect alterations in wind patterns to rising temperatures with certainty, or to predict how winds will change in the future.
But one piece of research that Mr. Henson pointed to, is the evidence that some winds seem to be moving toward the poles. A new study released in Nature provides more evidence to support this and points to trends that we’ll see as the globe continues to warm. Researchers from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory examined sediment cores from the sea bed of the North Pacific Ocean to chart the pattern of ancient westerly winds and prove that 3-5 million years ago, these winds were located closer to the poles of the earth. During this time, the earth was 2-4 degrees Celsius warmer, but there was roughly the same concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere as we have now. The sea bed cores showed dust from East Asia had been transported and deposited along different wind paths than we have previously experienced.
"We could immediately see the patterns. The data are so clear. Our work is consistent with modern observations, and suggests that wind patterns will change with climate warming," explained Jordan Abell, one of the authors of the study.
While this does raise more questions about what exactly the impacts will be, the study confirms that we can expect to see continued changes in wind and precipitation patterns. For more on the study and the implications of wind and climate change, follow the link.