Research suggested global warming would lead to an increase in humid air that fuels severe thunderstorms, however, it also suggested global warming would reduce strong winds that contribute to the storms.
"This study was the first to include both of these key factors in order to see which would have a greater influence on overall environmental conditions," said Diffenbaugh, who also is an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue. "The result was a general increase in days more favorable to storm creation. It appears that the increase in warm, humid air near the surface outweighs the reduction in strong winds higher in the atmosphere."
In addition, the study showed a strong seasonal and regional variation in the effects of climate change.
"Some areas were only affected slightly, while others more than doubled the chance for severe thunderstorms," Diffenbaugh said. "Also, the storm-favorable conditions appear to occur during the same seasons as they do today, with an extension of the season in some areas. This increases the seasonal extremes, as opposed to more storms spread throughout the year. It is essentially a longer, more intense storm season - sort of a feast or famine."
The team, which also included Michael Baldwin, a Purdue assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, and Purdue research assistant Eric Robinson, looked at weather conditions over the U.S. landmass from the middle to latter part of 21st century, using the regional climate model and three global climate models.
Diffenbaugh said the team used multiple climate models to achieve thorough research results and to reduce the impact of an idiosyncrasy of an individual model.
"The fact that there is so much agreement between the different models increases our confidence in the findings," he said.
Pairing the high resolution of the regional model with multiple global climate models ach
|Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner|