Science Pops Open, Ep. 13: Climate Shifts Carried on a River of Air

Research fellows of the AXA Research Fund tell the story of their work to reduce an array of risks

Imagine the place you call home suddenly taking on a different climate. The consequences of such a change for the agriculture, industry and life around you could be huge. This is not a science fiction plot, but a potential climate scenario that Dr. Nikolaos Bakas is investigating. It all hinges on the jet stream, a giant river of air in the earth’s atmosphere and, here, he explains what his first results tell us about its stability – and our future.

Cet article existe également en français : https://www.mysciencework.com/news/12021/science-pops-open-ep-13-le-changement-climatique-porte-par-un-ruban-d-air

 

Imagine the place you call home suddenly taking on a different climate. In just a few decades, veering towards dry and dusty, or perhaps damp and dripping. The consequences of such a change for the agriculture, industry and life around you could be huge. This is not a science fiction plot, but a potential climate scenario that Dr. Nikolaos Bakas is investigating. His work focuses on the jet stream, a giant river of air in the earth’s atmosphere whose winds carry storms along as they go. The jet stream’s position and shape affect the local climate of the regions in its path. But it also interacts with other components of Earth’s climate, and this has an impact on a global scale. Dr. Bakas has two big questions in mind: How sensitive is the jet stream; that is, could climate change cause a shift in its position? And, if so, would it happen gradually or suddenly be upon us?

Reconstructions of past climates have suggested the latter—significant changes to the jet stream occurring quickly—but no method existed to predict them. The trouble is that the motion of air in atmospheric flows is complex and chaotic. Attempting to calculate their every move would take years. Instead, Dr. Bakas has used statistics and a simplified model of the planet’s climate machine to approximate this system. In this less complex world, he found the jet stream was, indeed, thrown off balance by a warming climate, causing its structure to change. Bakas will now be able to take the equations representing atmospheric flows that he developed from this model and apply them to a more complex, Earth-like scenario. His results could add to global climate models the ability to predict sudden changes in the jet stream and their consequences. Such a change could impact the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, for example, as the jet stream contributes to the transfer of the greenhouse gas into the deep ocean. Thus, this river of air has the power to significantly affect global warming or cooling, making it a critical element of climate risk assessment and our preparation for the future.

More Episodes of Science Pops Open:

Ep. 1 – Your body can defend itself against cancer. It just needs a little help!, with Margot Cucchetti 

Ep. 2 – Improving outcomes of crisis and conflict, thanks to an ethnographic outlook, with Ruben Andersson

Ep. 3 – After an Earthquake, the Show Must Go On, with Anna Reggio

Ep. 4 – Disrupting the Sleeping Sickness Symphony, with Fabien Guegan

Ep. 5 – Optimizing Welfare…and Equality, with Sean Slack

Ep. 6 – Awaiting Balance in the Adolescent Brain, with Kiki Zanolie

Ep. 7 – Come Drought or High Water, with Luciano Raso

Ep. 8 – Taking European Tornadoes by Storm, with Bogdan Antonescu

Ep. 9 – Learning to Tackle Climate Change Together, with Sandrine Sidze

Ep. 10 – Nourish the Children of Urban Slums, with Sophie Goudet

Ep. 11 – In Money Matters, We're Only Human, with Jeroen Nieboer

Ep. 12 – A Depressed Sense of Smell?, with Kalliopi Apazoglou

Ep. 14 – Something in the Air Down There, with Fulvio Amato

Ep. 15 – Foretelling a Complex Future for our Complex Ecosystems, with Phillip Staniczenko

Ep. 16 – From Childhood Illness to Innovative Antibiotics, with Agata Starosta

Ep. 17 – Plants & Poisons: Assessing Contamination in Our Environment, with Natalia Ospina-Alvarez

Ep. 18 – Voice of a storm surge, with Emiliano Renzi