A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON GLOBAL WARMING
A study led by atmospheric physicists at the University of Toronto found that global warming doesn’t necessarily affect the warming of the atmosphere and melting of ice caps, but that the atmosphere actually adjusts on its own. In other words, strong storms will become stronger, but weak storms will become weaker, but the overall number of storms will not change.
According to Frederic Laliberte, a research associate at UT’s physics department, said that the atmosphere is like a heat engine that requires fuel to do work. Air mass near the surface takes up water through the evaporation as it is warmed by the Sun and moves closer to the Equator. The warmer the air mass, the more water it takes up. As it reaches the Equator, the air mass begins to ascend, and cools as it radiate heat out into space. Cool air can hold less moisture than warm air, so as the air cools, condensation occurs, then it releases heat. When enough heat is released, air rises further, pulling more air behind it, causing thunderstorms. The final “output” of this atmospheric engine is the amount of heat and moisture that is redistributed throughout the Equator and the North and South Poles.
“By viewing the atmospheric circulation as a heat engine, we were able to rely on the laws of thermodynamics to analyze how the circulation would change in a simulation of global warming,” said Laliberte. “We used these laws to quantify how the increase in water vapor that would result from global warming would influence the strength of the atmospheric circulation.”
“Put more simply, powerful storms are strengthened at the expense of weaker storms,” said Laliberte. As a result, the scientists concluded that the atmospheric circulation would be less efficient in transferring heat, resulting in fewer storms or weaker storms become weaker.