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Climate change: Meteorologists around the world preparing for the worst

MONTREAL -- Intense aerial turbulence, ice storms and scorching heatwaves, huge ocean waves — the world's climate experts forecast apocalyptic weather over the coming decades at a conference in Montreal that ended Thursday.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) brought together 1,000 specialists to discuss the uncertain future of weather forecasting.

A decade after the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's focus has shifted from reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to warming, to dealing with its consequences.

“It's irreversible and the world's population continues to increase, so we must adapt,” said Jennifer Vanos, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech University.

Average temperatures have increased 0.47 percent degrees Celsius so far. Scientists have predicted a two-percent rise in average temperatures by 2050.

A one-degree hike translates into seven percent more water vapor in the atmosphere and because evaporation is the driving force behind air currents, more extreme weather events are expected to follow.

“We'll see clouds forming faster and more easily, and more downpours,” leading to flash flooding, said Simon Wang, assistant director of the Utah Climate Center.

Broadly speaking, said the American researcher, rising temperatures will have a “multiplying effect on weather events as we know them.”

Bone-chilling temperatures that swept across North America last winter will plunge even further, while summer heatwaves and droughts will be hotter and dryer, he added.

For meteorologists, the challenge will be to incorporate this “additional force” into their weather modeling, explained Wang.

Supercomputing Weather Forecasts

To do so, meteorologists will need to use supercomputers to run the increasingly complex algorithms to predict weather.

British researcher Paul Williams studies the impact of climate change on jetstreams using one such computer at Princeton University in New Jersey.

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