Two recent studies have looked at changes in climate which could occur in the future if global warming trends continue.

In one study, described in this article in, scientists used coral growth rings in the remote island of Kiribati to compare with measured temperature and salinity patterns in the western Pacific to find a 60-year upward trend in the frequency of El Ninos.  An El Nino is an atmospheric phenomenon related to warmer than usual water off the coast of Peru and Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean and cooler than usual water in the western Pacific ocean.  It occurs roughly every 3-5 years.  El Ninos are important to climate in the Southeast because El Nino winters are typically cooler and wetter than normal, especially along the coasts and in Florida.  If they happened more frequently, they could improve winter recharge of soil moisture but might delay planting in the spring.  El Ninos also tend to decrease the number of Atlantic tropical storms because the strong winds aloft prevent the storms from forming.  This is not good news for the summer, since a significant fraction of summer rainfall is tied to tropical systems.

Another study (article in Mother Jones) looked at how lightning occurrence might change in a warmer climate by looking at precipitation and convective potential.  The scientists showed that with every one degree Celsius of warming, lightning strikes go up by 12 percent due to increased convection in clouds.  While no one expects lightning deaths to increase, it could increase the number of wildfires caused by the lightning.  This preliminary study did not break down changes in lightning by region or time of year, so these results alone don’t provide a lot of useful information, but show how changes in one variable like temperature can also lead to changes in other weather and climate hazards.