The study results were compared to current environmental conditions and past environmental conditions shown to produce severe thunderstorms.
Harold Brooks, a member of the research team and researcher at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said bringing together experts in climate modeling with experts in severe storms to examine how climate change may affect weather was a new approach to a problem important to both groups of researchers.
"Identifying the environmental conditions that favor certain weather has been at the heart of forecasting research," Brooks said. "We applied that forecasting model to the data from climate change research. It is the same way your local forecaster predicts tomorrow's weather, but we took it out over a long time period. Although we can't say if a storm will occur, we can tell from the data how severe a storm will be if it occurs."
Brooks said individual storms were not examined in this study because they are too small for the current climate models to analyze and, in addition to certain environmental conditions, a trigger is needed to initiate a storm.
"We know the basic ingredients for making a severe thunderstorm are warm, moist air near the ground, cold, dry air higher above the ground, winds that increase in intensity from the ground up and a storm trigger," he said. "We have most of the recipe, and this is a good first look, but whether or not storms will initiate is an unknown."
Some triggers, such as topography, will remain constant. Others, such as storm fronts, could be changed by future global weather condi
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