Journal of Climate

Published date March 13, 2015

The Effect of Global Warming on Severe Thunderstorms in the United States

  • Investigates how will warming temperatures influence thunderstorm severity
  • Uses climate models to diagnose changes in large-scale convective instability (CAPE) and wind shear, conditions that are known to be conducive to the formation of severe thunderstorms
  • Evaluates a set of models and chooses a set of four high-performing models
  • Calculates the twenty-first-century changes in the frequency of environments favorable to severe thunderstorms in these high-performing models as they are forced by the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 emissions pathways
  • Finds that for the RCP8.5 scenario, the models predict consistent CONUS-mean fractional springtime increases in the range of 50%–180% by the end of the twenty-first century; for the summer, three of the four models predict increases in the range of 40%–120% and one model predicts a small decrease
  • States that the disagreement between the models is traced to divergent projections for future CAPE and boundary layer humidity in the Great Plains