Thunderstorm straight line winds intensify with climate change

Author: Prein, Andreas F.

Description: Straight line winds (SLWs), or non-tornadic thunderstorm winds, are causing widespread damage in many regions around the world. These powerful gusts are associated with strong downdraughts in thunderstorms, rear inflow jets and mesovortices. Despite their significance, our understanding of climate change effects on SLWs remains limited. Here, focusing on the central USA, a global hot spot for SLWs, I use observations, high-resolution modelling and theoretical considerations to show that SLWs have intensified over the past 40 years. Theoretical considerations suggest that SLWs should intensify at a rate of ~7.5% °C−1, yet the observed rates show a more pronounced increase of ~13% °C−1. The simulation results indicate a 4.8 ± 1.2-fold increase in the geographical extent affected by SLWs during the study period. These findings underscore the importance of incorporating intensifying SLWs into climate change adaptation planning to ensure the development of resilient future infrastructure.

Subject headings: Atmospheric dynamics; Climate change impacts; Straight line winds; Thunderstorms

Publication year: 2023

Journal or book title: Nature Climate Change

Volume: 13

Issue: 12

Pages: 1353-1359

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Serial number: 3949