Key ingredients for severe thunderstorms include warm, moist air to fuel thunderstorm initiation and growth and winds that change with altitude, or wind shear, to help organize a thunderstorm and create rotation. Big changes of wind with height, or high wind shear, are especially important for tornado and hail formation.
The wind shear will likely decrease due to a lower temperature contrast from pole to pole.
Since one major factor favors a more conducive environment for severe thunderstorms to spark with a warming climate and another is less conducive for severe thunderstorm organization, it is very difficult to determine how severe weather will change in the future.
"We may see a shift toward non-tornadic wind storms in the future, but that's still a preliminary result," Brooks added. Straight-line winds may increase since high wind shear is not as much of an influence, while the frequency and strength of tornadoes may not change very much.
It is difficult to conclude confidently whether the regions that get the most severe weather and tornadoes will shift as the climate warms.
"The balance of the ingredients that we need [for severe weather and tornadoes]... are tied to really large-scale features on the planet," Brooks stressed. "Like the presence of the Rocky Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico. Since they aren't going to move in the future, the region where tornadoes occur are likely to be tied to their relationship to those two features."
How Do We Research Severe Weather in the Future
Researchers use a collaboration of climate models and basic concepts to examine the potential frequency and strength of severe weather in the future.
"Our primary understanding of what will happen in the future with severe weather is actually based on our current understanding... Then we look in the future from climate models and from basic physical understanding of how the atmosphere works to understand how those basic environments will change," Brooks said. "So, we essentially try to approach the problem of future climate changes based on thinking about them as the day-to-day weather forecaster."
There are still limits to research on severe weather changing with a warming climate due to the fact that the exact balance of changing thunderstorm ingredients is an unknown.
Furthermore, there has been limited research on how inhibiting factors of thunderstorms would change due to climate change.
From AccuWeather.com (find the original story here); reprinted with permission.