BERKELEY — From storms to heat waves, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists predict weather events could become more extreme in the future.
They expect “once-in-a-century” storms could happen more than once in a lifetime. Scientists said intense weather could impact certain parts of the Bay Area much harder than others.
Climate scientist Daniel Feldman and his team use the incredible processing power of supercomputers in the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at the Berkeley Lab to forecast what the climate of the future will look like.
“We’re going to see events that we’ve never seen before,” said Feldman.
Their predictions came from taking global climate models which provide broad, big-picture forecasts with a large range from 30 to 400 miles, and downscaling them to just around three miles for a higher resolution. They also added important input parameters like hydrology, vegetation and our unique Bay Area topography to forecast down to area zip codes.
“We need to have all those details to plan out what does climate change actually means for us at the local level,” said Feldman. “Planning for climate change in San Francisco could mean planning for warmer weather, maybe getting an air conditioner for the first time.”
Berkeley Lab scientists forecast that by the end of this century, heatwaves in San Francisco could get four degrees hotter than the end of the last century. San Jose could get six degrees warmer. In Livermore and in Santa Rosa, heat waves could get eight degrees hotter. By the end of this century, heatwaves in Oakland could skyrocket, getting nine degrees hotter compared to the end of the 1990s.
Scientists said powerful atmospheric rivers could hit higher elevations like the Santa Cruz Mountains and the North Bay mountains even harder. The Russian River could likely see more flooding.
They said in Livermore, major storms could pack a punch with about 70% more precipitation than the last century. San Jose could see about 14% more rain. But places like San Francisco could actually see a 10% decrease in precipitation, and Oakland could see 19% less rain than the last century.
“Bay Area viewers can expect extreme weather patterns that a number of the very extreme weather patterns some of the big atmospheric rivers that we’ve been seeing over the past winter, that those are going to get supercharged,” said Feldman.
To predict these intense storms much faster, Berkeley Lab scientists will soon use artificial intelligence to run simulations and possible outcomes.
“The cool thing about AI technology is that it can give you the right answer pretty darn fast,” said Utkarsh Mital, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory project scientist.
For Feldman, his work is his passion. He’s a true atmospheric scientist, devoting his career to studying, understanding, and ultimately protecting our planet.
“We are as scientists really scratching the surface of the complexity that is of the Earth’s system,” said Feldman. “It’s also a beautiful place, and that motivates me to study it every day and every night and pretty much all the time.”
Berkeley Lab scientists said in between extreme storms, expect long, dry stretches resulting in devastating drought for the region.
Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego partnered with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Their research was funded by the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.