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Surprising Science

Get Ready For Lots More Killer Thunderstorms In The US

For the first time, a new computer model links climate change to the increased frequency and strength of storms. Scientists estimate the number could increase by as much as 40 percent in the eastern US by 2070.

What’s the Latest Development?

A team of three scientists from Stanford and Purdue universities created a computer model that confirms what has long been suspected: Along with the increase in global temperatures as a result of climate change will come more intense and more frequent thunderstorms. The team even goes so far as to predict that by 2070 the number of such superstorms could increase by 40 percent in the eastern half of the US. Details of the research appear in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — which earlier this month published a study that predicted a decreased likelihood of a second Superstorm Sandy hitting the East Coast.

What’s the Big Idea?

Typically scientists have had a hard time connecting weather events to climate change. In the case of severe thunderstorms, previous models were inconclusive as to how the warming planet would affect the conditions needed for storms’ formation. The new computer model demonstrated that in certain cases, a net increase in severe thunderstorms would result. Lead researcher and Stanford professor Noah Diffenbaugh says that even if all carbon emissions were stopped now, more superstorms will still occur in the coming decades. However, “curbing the increase in emissions would affect the magnitude” of those future storms.

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Read it at Quartz


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