Climatic Change

, Volume 133, Issue 2, pp 209–222 | Cite as

Ice storm frequencies in a warmer climate

  • Kelly KlimaEmail author
  • M. Granger Morgan


Ice storms can produce extensive damage to physical infrastructure, cause deaths and injuries, and result in large losses through business interruption. Total costs can be billions of dollars. If society is to increase its resilience to such events, we need a better understanding of the likely frequency, intensity and geographical distribution of ice storms. Unfortunately, due to competing temperature and precipitation effects as well as surface effects, it is unclear how climate change will affect the frequency, intensity and geographical distribution of ice storms. Here we perform a simple “thought experiment” using vertical temperature profile data to explore how these might change given plausible future temperature regimes. As temperatures increase, we find a poleward shift and a shift toward winter. Furthermore, southern locations experience fewer ice storms at all times of the year, while northern areas experience fewer in the spring and fall and more in the winter. Using an approximation for surface effects, we estimate that a temperature increase will result in an increased frequency of ice storm events throughout much of the winter across eastern Canada and in the U.S. west of the Appalachian Mountains as far south as Tennessee. Future changes in variability may enhance or moderate these changes.


General Circulation Model Thought Experiment Polar Vortex Statistical Downscaling Warming Scenario 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center and the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making (created through a cooperative agreement between the NSF (SES-0345798) and Carnegie Mellon. Also thanks for significant support and input from the University of Wyoming for providing the temperature soundings, from Professor John Gyakum of McGill for suggestions on the design of the non-uniform temperature increase experiment, and from Carnegie Mellon’s Patti Steranchak for reviewing the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10584_2015_1460_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (750 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 750 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Engineering and Public PolicyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgUSA

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