Climate Change

Can thunderstorms tell us more about climate change

Scientists spot correlation between storms in US Southern Great Plains and variations in climate

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 24 June 2021

There is a link between large thunderstorms in the Great Plains of southern United States and climate change, according to a new study.

Scientists from Texas A&M University, who published their findings in Nature Geosciences, claimed their findings could help predict storms and understand climatic variations.

Scientists analysed oxygen isotopes — some as old as 50,000 years — present in stalactites in Texas caves to understand the connection between past thunderstorms and their duration.

According to their research, the scientists claimed, storms coincided with abrupt global climate shifts during the last glacial period even as they shifted from being organised weakly to strongly.

They found a similar pattern between recent thunderstorms in the US and climate change. In recent years, thunderstorms in the Southern Great Plains of the US have intensified and increased in terms of frequency. 

Understanding the trends and correlation may help in understanding past thunderstorms, their duration and climate variability. These can be used to predict future thunderstorms as well.

“If we can run a climate model for the past which is consistent with cave records, and run that same model moving forward, we can trust its findings more if it matched the cave records versus if they didn’t. Out of two models, if one really matches the cave isotopes then you can trust that one in understanding storm distribution in the future, ” Christopher Maupin, co-author of the study, said.

Data also suggest that thunderstorms in the Southern Great Plains of the US are strongly related to changes in the large-scale wind and moisture patterns. These changes in the large-scale circulation can be used to assess future predictions.

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