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Future Forecast: More Severe Thunderstorms

Future Forecast: More Severe Thunderstorms

Climate models show increase in severe thunderstorms over the next century.

Future Forecast: More Severe Thunderstorms

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 21:30

Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

(Inside Science TV) -- Climate scientists are discovering more effects that global warming may have on the planet. Stanford University scientists found that the next century may see an increase in severe thunderstorms if climate change trends continue.

“These storms can result in catastrophic loss,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

“We find that over the next three decades, over the eastern United States, there’s a region [where] there’s a robust increase in the occurrence of severe storm conditions,” he said.

Diffenbaugh used climate models based on physics principles to project severe thunderstorm conditions for the next century. He found that global warming may increase the likelihood of these events.

“We find that with another degree Celsius of global warming, we’re likely to see an increase in the occurrence of the atmospheric conditions that create severe thunderstorms,” said Diffenbaugh.

Severe thunderstorms form from a combination of strong winds and energy from warm, moist air that rises to higher altitudes.

“What we’ve found is that additional global warming beyond what we’ve already experienced is likely to increase the amount of energy in the atmosphere from heat and moisture,” said Diffenbaugh.

The research shows that we could see about a 20 percent increase in severe storm conditions by the end of the 21st century, with the largest increases during the spring months. This could affect a lot of people.

“Certainly, the vulnerability of people and structures and where they are located will play an important role,” Diffenbaugh said.

Taking steps to slow down global warming could mean fewer dangerous storms in the coming decades.

Diffenbaugh says the storms he studied also create conditions that can lead to tornado formation, but stresses that he did not study the effect of global warming specifically on tornadoes.

Get Inside the Science

Global Warming to Drive Increase in Severe Thunderstorm Risk in U.S., Stanford Research Finds

Stanford University School of Earth Sciences

Noah Diffenbaugh, Stanford University

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.