Home News Thunderstorms, winds and climate change: Here’s what you need to know

Thunderstorms, winds and climate change: Here’s what you need to know


Windows were shattered and walls caved in. Power lines and trees were downed.those severe storms Taking Houston by storm Thursday’s Gulf Coast bore all the destructive traces of hurricanes, but they weren’t coming from the tropics.

Severe thunderstorm swarms cause widespread damage across the United States each year, causing not only rain and flooding but also hail, tornadoes and walls of wind. Here’s information about such storms and how they might change in a warming climate.

As the planet warms, severe storms of all kinds are likely to bring heavier rainfall. The reason: Warmer air holds more moisture, which effectively increases a storm’s ability to carry precipitation.

Because the air can hold more moisture, it also means there is more water vapor in the sky that can condense into liquid and form clouds. The heat energy released into the atmosphere by this condensation is the source of thunderstorms. Simply put, the more condensation there is, the stronger the storm will be.

Warming could also increase atmospheric instability, providing more energy to quickly lift moist air into the sky during storms.

Just because the elements for a powerful storm are in place, doesn’t mean a powerful storm will always occur. Many other factors determine when and if storms form and how damaging they are, meaning it’s not easy to determine how global warming might affect overall storm trends.

“In theory, we have a pretty good idea of ​​what’s going on,” said climate scientist Andreas F. Prein of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “But how does this translate into severe “The convective storm, and what we saw yesterday, is a little bit questionable.”

For example, there is no clear evidence that tornadoes have become more frequent or intense in recent decades.However, they do seem to occur in more concentrated burst.

Thunderstorms also produce strong winds that fan out in straight lines rather than tornadoes. in a study In a report published last year, Dr. Prein estimated that a larger area of ​​the central United States is experiencing these straight-line gusts than in the early 1980s.

The U.S. homeowners insurance market has been in turmoil, and not just because of hurricanes and wildfires.as a New York Times investigation The severe storms recorded this week also caused insurance companies to suffer losses on homeowners insurance.

The losses are affecting insurance companies in states far away from coastal areas hardest hit by hurricanes, such as Iowa, Arkansas and Ohio.

Dr. Plein said the cumulative damage caused by storms was not much less than that of hurricanes. “This is much closer than you usually think.”

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