Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.
World News

Storms, wind and climate change: here’s what you need to know

Broken windows and collapsed walls. Power lines and toppled trees. The violent storms that swept through Houston and the Gulf Coast on Thursday left all the destructive traces of a hurricane, but they didn’t come from the tropics.

Severe clusters of thunderstorms cause significant damage across the United States each year, not only from rain and flooding, but also from hail, tornadoes, and walls of strong wind. Here’s what you need to know about these storms and how they could evolve in the context of global warming.

Global warming creates more favorable conditions for violent storms.

Subscribe to The Morning newsletter from the New York Times

As the planet warms, severe storms of all kinds are likely to produce even greater amounts of rain. The reason: Warmer air holds more moisture, effectively increasing a storm’s ability to carry precipitation.

Since the air can hold more moisture, it also means there is more water vapor in the sky that can condense into liquid and form clouds. The thermal energy released into the atmosphere by this condensation fuels storms. In short, more condensation, stronger storms.

Warming could also increase the instability of the atmosphere, which provides more energy to quickly lift moist air skyward during storms.

Scientists are still trying to understand how this happens.

Just because the ingredients are in place for a powerful storm doesn’t mean a powerful storm always materializes. Many other factors determine when and if storms form and how destructive they become, meaning it’s not simple to determine how global warming might affect overall storm trends.

“In theory, we understand very well what is happening,” said Andreas F. Prein, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “But how that then translates into severe convective storms, and what we saw yesterday, is a little more questionable.”

For example, there is no clear evidence that tornadoes have become more frequent or more intense in recent decades. However, they seem to occur in more concentrated bursts.

Thunderstorms can also produce strong winds that travel in straight lines rather than tornadoes. In a study published last year, Prein estimated that much larger areas of the central United States are now experiencing these straight-line gusts compared to the early 1980s.

Damage caused by storms is already causing heavy losses to home insurers.

The home insurance market is in turmoil in the United States, and not just because of hurricanes and wildfires. As a New York Times investigation showed this week, severe storms also cost insurers money on homeowners’ coverage.

These losses are affecting insurers in places like Iowa, Arkansas and Ohio, far from the coastal areas hit hardest by hurricanes.

Already, accumulated losses from severe thunderstorms are not much less than those from hurricanes, Prein said. “It’s a lot closer than you normally think.”

circa 2024 The New York Times Company


Back to top button