Severe thunderstorms, often exhibiting destructive rainfall, hail and tornadoes, are one of the primary causes of catastrophic losses in the United States. Severe thunderstorms, such as this one observed in Oklahoma in 2009, that could create tornadoes will become more common with global warming. Severe thunderstorms are one of the primary causes of catastrophic losses in the United States and often exhibit the conditions that generate heavy rainfall, damaging winds, hail and tornadoes.
Sparse historical data describing the atmospheric conditions that cause severe thunderstorms has limited scientists' ability to project the long-term effects of global warming on storm frequency.
Scientists have identified two main ingredients involved in generating a severe thunderstorm. To transform into a severe thunderstorm, CAPE must also interact with strong vertical wind shear – essentially a moving wind current that organizes the atmospheric energy and moisture such that it can sustain a storm. Although the climate model experiment does indicate an overall decrease in the average amount of wind shear, the researchers found that the bulk of that decrease occurs on days that produce levels of CAPE that are much lower than is normally seen during severe storms.
The net effect is that the increases in CAPE on other days drive increases in the occurrence of severe thunderstorm environments. The researchers also reported that sustained global warming is likely to cause robust increases in storm days over large areas of the eastern United States not only in spring but also in winter and autumn. An additional few days of severe storm conditions might not seem like a large change, but Diffenbaugh emphasized that the projected increases are in fact substantial compared to the frequency of occurrence in the current climate.
Diffenbaugh also emphasized even a single severe storm can cause very high levels of damage.


Diffenbaugh hopes to build on this research to improve the understanding of the atmospheric dynamics that lead to the development of severe thunderstorms, and to better incorporate those processes into climate models. Worldwide, there are an estimated 16 million thunderstorms each year, and at any given moment, there are roughly 2,000 thunderstorms in progress.
Thunderstorms are most likely in the spring and summer months and during the afternoon and evening hours, but they can occur year-round and at all hours.
Along the Gulf Coast and across the southeastern and western states, most thunderstorms occur during the afternoon. Thunderstorms have three stages in their life cycle: The developing stage, the mature stage, and the dissipating stage. But, using a complex ensemble of physics-based climate models, researchers led by Noah Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford, have produced the most comprehensive projections of severe storm conditions for the next century. The video contains time lapse footage of the thunderstorm, footage of the vivid rainbow, and a time lapse of another approaching storm at sunset.
Under the right conditions, rainfall from thunderstorms causes flash flooding, killing more people each year than hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning. The developing stage of a thunderstorm is marked by a cumulus cloud that is being pushed upward by a rising column of air (updraft). More than 100 lightning strikes have hit Northland this morning as another severe weather warning is issued for the district, with heavy rain and more thunderstorms expected later today.
Expect more late-day scattered showers and thunderstorms across the Charlotte region today, Friday and Saturday, with highs reaching the lower 90s.


Strong (up to more than 120 mph) straight-line winds associated with thunderstorms knock down trees, power lines and mobile homes. Thunderstorms, lightning and severe weather can and do occur any time of the year at almost any location on earth. Thundersleet and lightning during freezing rain is common with warm frontal thunderstorms in the winter, which occur in association with elevated instability present overtop of a subfreezing surface layer.
Normal 'garden variety' thunderstorms (just like the ones in spring and summer) are very common during the winter months in the United States, particularly in the southern half of the country east of the Rockies. Another good case study on the subject is the state of West Virginia, no stranger to wintertime lightning with thunderstorms observed at least once between November and February nearly every year.
Thunderstorms are common among the snowy peaks of very high mountain ranges (such as the Himalayas and the Alps) during strong storms. At the ground, the gust front moves out a long distance from the storm and cuts off the warm moist air that was feeding the thunderstorm. As a storm chaser, I have frequently observed and captured lightning and severe storms during the winter.



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