Article | Published:

The changing hail threat over North America in response to anthropogenic climate change

Nature Climate Change volume 7, pages 516522 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Anthropogenic climate change is anticipated to increase severe thunderstorm potential in North America, but the resulting changes in associated convective hazards are not well known. Here, using a novel modelling approach, we investigate the spatiotemporal changes in hail frequency and size between the present (1971–2000) and future (2041–2070). Although fewer hail days are expected over most areas in the future, an increase in the mean hail size is projected, with fewer small hail events and a shift toward a more frequent occurrence of larger hail. This leads to an anticipated increase in hail damage potential over most southern regions in spring, retreating to the higher latitudes (that is, north of 50° N) and the Rocky Mountains in the summer. In contrast, a dramatic decrease in hail frequency and damage potential is predicted over eastern and southeastern regions in spring and summer due to a significant increase in melting that mitigates gains in hail size from increased buoyancy.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the Changing Cold Regions Network (CCRN) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada for their financial support. We are grateful to the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) for making the model data freely available and particularly to S. McGinnis for his assistance in obtaining the NARCCAP data. Finally, we are indebted to the following individuals: B. Bonsal, N. Taylor, G. Gascon, N. Sharp, A. Pankratz and S. Kehler.

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Affiliations

  1. Meteorological Service of Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Edmonton T6B 1K5, Canada

    • Julian C. Brimelow
  2. Atmospheric Science and Technology Directorate, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Edmonton T6B 1K5, Canada

    • William R. Burrows
  3. Centre for Earth Observation Science, Department of Environment and Geography University of Manitoba, Winnipeg R3T 2N2, Canada

    • John M. Hanesiak

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Contributions

J.M.H., J.C.B. and W.R.B. conceived and designed the experiments. W.R.B. and J.C.B. analysed the data, and W.R.B. performed the experiments. J.C.B. wrote the paper and created the figures; W.R.B. and J.M.H. contributed to the interpretation of the data analyses and editing of the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Julian C. Brimelow.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3321

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