Electrical storms also known as thunderstorms happen all around the world and in every state throughout the United States.
They typically bring thunder, lightning as well as hail or heavy rain. Layers of warm, moist air rise in a strong updraft to cooler areas of the atmosphere, whereupon thunderstorms form.
It’s estimated that there are as many as 40,000 thunderstorms happening every single day all around the world. That’s a lot of scared dogs!
Today, we’re going to discuss a topic and answer a question that often comes up during a strong thunderstorm. “Are thunderstorms getting worse?”
YES, in some areas thunderstorms are getting worse. More ocean water evaporates as a result of increasing temperatures, releasing energy as well as water vapor into the atmosphere. As a result, storms become stronger and produce more rain or snow.
Let’s get into it…
Are Thunderstorms Really Getting Worse?
Thunderstorms can be scary enough as they are. They’re often loud, powerful, and come with strong winds and rain among other intense weather.
It’s true that storms are becoming more and more common, getting much worse in some areas of the United States for a number of reasons.
As climate change continues, thunderstorms are moving East in the US, and by the end of the century thunderstorms over the central US will be fewer, but thunderstorms in the eastern states will become more common.
It’s thought that the eastern seaboard could see up to nine more thunderboomer days, and some eastern states could see up to two weeks more.
Whereas the southern Great Planes of the US, such as Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico could see an annual drop of somewhere between 5 and 15 fewer thunderstorm days each year.
The number of thunderstorm days is predicted to increase by roughly the same amount as the number of storms in the East.
Why Are Thunderstorms Getting Worse?
Anyone who experiences the tremendous summer thunderstorms of the Plains states will never forget their towering clouds, thunderous claps, or unexpected, torrential downpours.
But according to a recent study, these may change due to climate change.
By the turn of the century, it’s likely that the regular, powerful storms that provide 50 to 90 percent of the southern Plains states’ annual water will happen a bit less regularly, while more days with both weak and heavy thunderstorms would flood the East and Northeast.
Climate change is making the air warmer, thus allowing it to hold more moisture, and both of those factors increase the likelihood of thunderstorms.
Convective storms are predicted to intensify as the atmosphere warms and picks up more water because there is more energy to fuel the convective process.
Are Thunderstorms Becoming More Common?
Thunderstorms are most likely to happen during the spring and summer months, often in the afternoon and evening hours but they can occur at any time.
It’s true that thunderstorms are becoming more common in the eastern states of the US due to the effects of climate change.
The primary factor in the development of thunderstorms is warm, rising air. Convective accessible potential energy (CAPE) is the term used to describe the quantity of energy available for this rising air.
Greater potential for thunderstorms results from higher CAPE values, which indicate more energy that is accessible to travel throughout the atmosphere.
There is no fixed threshold at which a thunderstorm is deemed severe. Instead, CAPE values vary by season and location.
CAPE values of 1,000 J/kg or more are typical for thunderstorms, and readings over 4,000 J/kg signify extremely unstable atmospheric conditions.
To get an understanding of how thunderstorm potential has changed with rising temperatures, Climate Central analyzed trends in CAPE values across the U.S. from 1979 to 2021.
The spring and summer seasons saw the largest increases in CAPE values.
The Ohio Valley (central) region, with hotspots in Kentucky and Tennessee, has had the biggest increases, with 10-15 more days since 1979 having CAPE values above 1,000 J/kg.
Spring has also seen the largest increases. Since 1979, the Northeast has experienced 10 to 15 days or more during the summer with CAPE values above 1,000 J/kg.
Is Lightning Getting Worse?
A major study from 2014 estimated that if global warming continues at its current pace, the number of lightning strikes in the US could increase by as much as 50 percent by the end of the century.
Each additional 1 degree of Celsius of warming generates about 12 percent more strikes!
When it’s hotter, lightning strikes more frequently than when it’s colder, but how much more lightning should we anticipate as global temperatures rise?
There are currently over 25 million lightning strikes yearly. In order to model the frequency of lightning strikes across the continental United States, Romps et al. developed a proxy based on the energy required to cause air to ascend in the atmosphere and on precipitation rates.
For every degree that the world’s average air temperature rises, they forecast that the number of lightning strikes will jump by around 12%.
Hopefully, you now have an answer to “are thunderstorms getting worse” and understand the reason behind why it’s happening.
Thunderstorms are getting worse in some areas of the United States, particularly the eastern states such as New Orleans, Texas, and Florida.
As global warming takes its toll, there’s more warm, moist air which is the catalyst that helps to create powerful thunderstorms.
Lightning is also on the increase, with an estimated 50 percent increase in lightning strikes across the US by the end of the century.
Global warming is not only melting polar ice caps but is also playing a part in the weather we see globally, especially here in the United States.
Intense storms are becoming more and more common and are showing no signs of slowing down. For those storm chasers out there this is great news, but the high winds and flash flooding could mean more costly damages for many.
Thunderstorms can be incredibly dangerous, if you do live in the eastern states of the US, stay safe!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I’ll catch you in the next one.
Hey, I’m Sam – the founder of GustyPlanet. I’ve had a fascination with all things weather for as long as I can remember. I witnessed my first tornado at the age of 6, and since then became an avid storm chaser that is hooked on learning as much as I can about extreme weather. This blog was created to share my knowledge and to expand and delve deeper into the wonderful world of weather phenomena. I hope you enjoy your stay here and thanks for visiting.