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Investigating the Potential Severity of Future Storms


Floodwaters fill the streets of a town in Germany, with a damaged railroad in the foreground.

Source: Earth’s Future

Severe weather patterns with abnormally large amounts of rain can result in dangerous floods and put human lives, buildings, and natural environments at risk. As global climate change continues, these extreme occurrences are expected to increase in severity and occurrence in various parts of the globe.

In order to anticipate extreme events in the future, it is important to have accurate predictions of their intensity. Unfortunately, the rarity of these events means that historical records are often insufficient for reliable estimates.

Gessner and colleagues present a new method for combining storm simulations and statistical techniques to improve the accuracy of predicting the severity of future precipitation events. The study focuses on central Europe during the colder months of October to April. By using a statistical approach, the researchers assessed the likelihood of extreme events based on historical data and simulations from the Community Earth System Model Version 2. The findings suggest that the region could experience precipitation events of greater intensity than what has been recorded in the past.

Unfortunately, the statistical approximations were not very precise and did not explain the underlying causes of potential extreme occurrences in the future. To address this, the scientists utilized a method called ensemble boosting, which creates multiple simulations of a previous extreme rainfall event based on slight variations in humidity leading up to the event.

This method yielded calculations showing that upcoming extreme occurrences could lead to an increase of 30%–40% in precipitation levels compared to previous events. The scientists mention the possibility of even greater amounts of precipitation. Additionally, their study revealed a connection between the most severe winter precipitation events in Europe and atmospheric pressure patterns at sea level commonly associated with atmospheric rivers—bands of concentrated moisture movement in the atmosphere.

According to the researchers, the results indicate that combining ensemble boosting and statistical methods can effectively estimate the severity of future extreme events. This can serve as a means to assess the strength of infrastructure and ecosystems in preparing for these events.

“Sarah Stanley, a writer specializing in science.”

Citation: Stanley, S. (2023), Exploring just how extreme future storms could get, Eos, 104, https://doi.org/10.1029/2023EO230348. Published on 15 September 2023.
Text © 2023. AGU. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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