About the chapter
For centuries, sailors of the world’s oceans have noted that they encounter the worst storms while in the Southern Hemisphere. Now researchers wonder why there are more storms there than other places.
Since the 1980s, satellite data has confirmed that storms in the Southern Hemisphere — where you can find Australia and parts of Africa and South America — are more violent than those in the Northern Hemisphere. About 24 percent more intense to be precise.
Researchers at the University of Chicago now think they have an idea why. They combined observations, existing literature and climate models to identify two possible causes.
First: mountain ranges. In the Northern Hemisphere you will find many more. If they removed it in the simulations, the wind changed and the difference in the storm between the two hemispheres became much smaller. Another reason: ocean currents. The strength of that current varies from hemisphere to hemisphere. This is because it sinks into the Arctic, crosses the bottom, rises again near Antarctica and continues to move to the surface. If they equalize that current in the simulations, the remaining difference in the storm disappears.
What they saw was that the discrepancy had been increasing since satellite measurements began in the 1980s. The Southern Hemisphere is becoming increasingly stormy. They can link the proliferation to changes in the oceans. All knowledge that is important to better assess and prepare for the effects of climate change in the future.
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