Stalled weather patterns will get bigger due to climate change

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Climate change will increase the size of stalled high-pressure weather systems called “blocking events” that have already produced some of the 21st century’s deadliest heat waves, according to a Rice University study.

Atmospheric blocking events are middle-latitude, high-pressure systems that stay in place for days or even weeks. Depending upon when and where they develop, blocking events can cause droughts or downpours and heat waves or cold spells. Blocking events caused deadly heat waves in France in 2003 and in Russia in 2010.

Using data from two sets of comprehensive climate model simulations, Rice fluid dynamicists Ebrahim Nabizadeh and Pedram Hassanzadeh, and colleagues found that the area of blocking events in the northern hemisphere will increase by as much as 17% due to anthropogenic climate change.

The study is available online from Geophysical Research Letters.

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