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Eastern US Climate Change – Hotter and Wetter by 2057

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Jaguar Supercomputer at ORNLWeather reports are typically not as accurate as we’d like them to be, and we wonder if we should pack our umbrellas or not. Thankfully, umbrellas are getting smaller, and meteorology is getting smarter, but still, forecasts weeks in advance aren’t nearly as accurate as tomorrow’s.

Considering climate change, we’ve already seen temperature increases and extreme weather events in many parts of the globe, but what does the future hold? Researchers at University of Tennessee [UT] and Oak Ridge National Laboratory [ORNL] believe they have the answer for the Eastern US, and you’ll definitely have to pack your umbrella.

“Instead of studying regions, which is not useful when examining extreme weather, dynamical downscaling allows us to study small areas such as cities with a fine resolution,” said Joshua Fu, a professor within the UT-ORNL Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research.

Focusing mostly on cities in the Eastern US, topography, land use, and climate models, researchers fed this data into UT’s Kraken and ORNL’s Jaguar Cray XT5 supercomputers. Just for information, these two computers have a combined processing power of 2.92 PF [PetaFLOPS], which is the equivalent of 84,288 laptops running quad-core 2.6 gHz processors. Climate modeling takes up a lot of processor power, and evaluating weather events in the 23 states east of the Mississippi River from 2001 to 2004, Fu and his team calculated conditions between 2057 and 2059.

What did they find? If their calculations are correct, then expect to see longer heat waves and more precipitation. Eastern US overall temperatures are expected to rise, for example, by 5.78°F in Nashville, and 3.92°F in Memphis. The average heat wave now is four days, but is expected to average six days by 2050, increasing possibility of drought. At the same time, precipitation is expected to increase by nearly six inches per year in some states, increasing chances of flooding.

“It is important that the nation take actions to mitigate the impact of climate change in the next several decades,” said Professor Fu. “These changes not only cost money—about a billion a year in the U.S.—but they also cost lives.”

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