The impact of climate change on hazardous convective weather in the United States: Insight from high-resolution dynamical downscaling

Kimberly A. Hoogewind, Michael E. Baldwin, Robert J. Trapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study explores the potential impact anthropogenic climate change may have upon hazardous convective weather (HCW; i.e., tornadoes, large hail, and damaging wind gusts) in the United States. Utilizing the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model, high-resolution (4 km) dynamically downscaled simulations of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 3 (GFDL CM3), are produced for a historical (1971-2000) and future (2071-2100) period. Synthetic HCW day climatologies are created using upward vertical velocity (UVV) exceeding 22 m s-1 as a proxy for HCW occurrence and subsequently compared to the environmental approach of estimating changes in daily frequency of convective environments favorable for HCW (NDSEV) from the driving climate model. Results from the WRF simulations demonstrate that the proxy for HCW becomes more frequent by the end of the twenty-first century, with the greatest absolute increases in daily frequency occurring during the spring and summer. Compared to NDSEV from GFDL CM3, both approaches suggest a longer HCW season, perhaps lengthening by more than a month. The change in environmental estimates are 2-4 times larger than that gauged from WRF; further analyses show that the conditional probability of HCW given NDSEV declines during summer for much of the central United States, a result that may be attributed to both an increase in the magnitude of convective inhibition (CIN) and decreased forcing for ascent, hindering convective initiation. Such an outcome supports the motivation for continued use of dynamical downscaling to overcome the limitations of the GCM-based environmental analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10081-10100
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume30
Issue number24
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Convective storms
  • Storm environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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