Academic Minute Podcast

Shuang-Ye Wu, University of Dayton – Global Warming and Weather Disasters

Global warming has contributed to a record number of weather and climate disasters.

Shuang-Ye Wu, professor and chair of the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at the University of Dayton, breaks down why.

Wu is a climate scientist who uses climate models to project future climate change and its potential impacts on the hydrological cycle, including precipitation, extreme storms and flood risks. She also works with researchers in ice core science and stable isotope geochemistry to investigate climate and environmental change during the past 10,000 years. Wu received her doctorate from the University of Cambridge in 2000 where she studied environmental geography. She joined the University of Dayton’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences in 2004 after completing her post-doctoral research at Penn State University. She has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and received close to $2 million in external funding for her research. Wu teaches courses mainly in the field of climate change, environmental geosciences and Geographical Information Systems.

Global Warming and Weather Disasters

There are a record 28 storms, floods, droughts and fires in the TWENTY TWENTY-THREE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report on billion-dollar weather and climate disasters.

How does global warming contribute?

Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, causes global warming, and more days with abnormally high temperatures.

Although heat waves result from weather fluctuations, global warming has raised the baseline, making heat waves more frequent, more intense and longer-lasting.

Global warming also means increased evaporation, leading to drier soil and grasses that create favorable conditions for wildfires. Blazes can start with a lightning strike or spark from a power line.

Warmer air holds more water vapor in the atmosphere. When water vapor condenses into rain, it releases a large amount of energy known as latent heat. It’s the main fuel for storm systems. When temperatures are higher and the atmosphere has more moisture, that additional energy can fuel stronger and longer-lasting storms.

Tropical storms are similarly fueled by latent heat from warm ocean water. Higher sea surface temperatures can lead to stronger hurricanes, longer hurricane seasons and the faster intensification of storms.

It might seem counterintuitive, but global warming contributes to cold snaps in unexpected places. That’s because global warming alters the circulation of Earth’s atmosphere. One example is the weakening of the polar jet stream, which could bring frigid Arctic air and winter storms to more southern latitudes.

With additional heat fueling more extreme weather events, we experience a warmer and more violent weather world.

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