Besides the obvious "it heats up the planet, dumbass" answer, global warming has many other effects on our weather. It can cause longer droughts, more rain, odd pressure systems, and severe storms. I've always wondered why this happened, and I found a good explanation in the August issue of Scientific American which I will paraphrase very loosely and briefly (I hope this is ok, bones!)

As the planet gets warmer, the higher temperatures accelerate the water cycle. Water vapor from the oceans evaporates into the atmosphere quicker and therefore becomes precipitation quicker. A warm atmosphere holds more moisture than a cool one, and drops water more frequently and in larger amounts. As the land heats up, parching occurs in dry areas. These large parched spaces increase the pressure gradients that cause winds to develop. This causes more violent storms, tornadoes and higher winds.

This is a very simplified explanation, but I hope it helps. This whole "our world is going to hell" deal can get pretty confusing sometimes.

On the other hand it some think that the general climate may become less violent. This is because the Polar Regions will warm up more than the equator. A large portion of the weather cycle is driven by the flow of heat to the Polar Regions of the earth. So during the ice ages it is likely that there were stronger storms particularly blizzards.

In addition it is not a one to one relationship. When we have an El Nino pattern of warmer water on the surface of the pacific there are actually fewer hurricanes.

Now don't get the idea that I am a global warming denier or that we should not do anything to reduce the impact of global warming. However I do think that it will not be the end of the world. It seems to be a feature of every age that people declare that we are on the edge of disaster. That things are only getting worse and worse in the world.

I think ultimately what global warming will be is a change. Some places will gain, and some will lose out. Nothing stays the same, and while this is scary we cannot stop it. We must learn to live with the fact that nothing is permanent.

Many people do believe that global warming will affect the poles more than the tropics, thus decreasing the earth's temperature gradient. However, at the same time, more general energy is going into the system. Therefore, i tend to believe that global warming will increase convective precipitation such as summer thunderstorms, 'monsoonal' patterns associated with differential land and ocean heating, and other generally localized storms such as hurricanes - while decreasing the severity of the fronts associated with the polar jet stream in the temperate areas. What this will mean is more violent localized storms, with possible long periods of drought in temperate areas such as the Midwest where most precipitation comes from interractions with the polar jet stream. This being said, i agree with the premise stated by Ja Son that the weather may become more severe in some ways.

I think the best way to predict the effects of warmer climates is to look back at times when the climate was warmer. In the time of the dinosaurs, the climate was warmer, in part because all the carbon which was later locked up in oil was still cycling through the systems of the earth. (until humans found it and started burning it again) At this time, there were no ice caps and no deserts. The earth was dominated by large shallow seas and vast swamps and jungles. Tropical forests grew as far north as England. These conditions might be conductive to great biodiversity in some areas... but they are probably not very good for us humans, a species which prefers drier grassland areas.

Incidentally, the El Nino pattern does not actually decrease hurricanes.. it just changes where they occur. In El Nino, the hurricanes in the Atlantic become less intense, but hurricanes in the east Pacific become much more abundant and intense. In fact, in the summer of 1997, a hurricane obtained such strength that it almost was able to strike Los Angeles still as a catergory 1 storm.. but the steering currents of the atmosphere prevailed and moved it harmlessly out to sea.

Also, El Nino is not a net warming of the Earth's waters, it is just a warning in some areas. In El Nino patterns, the water is actually cooler than normal near southeastern Asia, causing monsoons to fail and massive droughts.

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