, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 103-112

Compilation and Discussion of Trends in Severe Storms in the United States: Popular Perception v. Climate Reality

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Abstract

The ongoing greenhouse gas buildup and increase in near-surface air temperatures may have an impact on severe weather events in the United States. Output from some numerical modeling simulations suggests that the atmosphere over mid-latitude land areas could become more unstable in the future thereby supporting an increase in convective activity. However, despite the numerical simulation results, empiricists have been unable generally to identify significant increases in overall severe storm activity as measured in the magnitude and/or frequency of thunderstorms, hail events, tornadoes, hurricanes, and winter storm activity across the United States. There is evidence that heavy precipitation events have increased during the period of historical records, but for many other severe weather categories, the trends have been downward over the past half century. Damage from severe weather has increased over this period, but this upward trend disappears when inflation, population growth, population redistribution, and wealth are taken into account.