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Robert J. Trapp
,
Kimberly A. Hoogewind
, and
Sonia Lasher-Trapp

Abstract

The effect of anthropogenically enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations on the frequency and intensity of hail depends on a range of physical processes and scales. These include the environmental support of the hail-generating convective storms and the frequency of their initiation, the storm volume over which hail growth is promoted, and the depth of the lower atmosphere conducive to melting. Here, we use high-resolution (convection permitting) dynamical downscaling to simultaneously account for these effects. We find broad geographical areas of increases in the frequency of large hail ( 35-mm diameter) over the United States, during all four seasons. Increases in very large hail ( 50-mm diameter) are mostly confined to the central United States, during boreal spring and summer. And, although increases in moderate hail ( 20-mm diameter) are also found throughout the year, decreases occur over much of the eastern United States in summer. Such decreases result from a projected decrease in convective-storm frequency. Overall, these results suggest that the annual U.S. hail season may begin earlier in the year, be lengthened by more than a week, and exhibit more interannual variability in the future.

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Holly Mallinson
,
Sonia Lasher-Trapp
,
Jeff Trapp
,
Matthew Woods
, and
Sophie Orendorf

Abstract

Severe convective storms (SCS) and their associated hazards present significant societal risk. Understanding of how these hazards, such as hailfall, may change due to anthropogenic climate change is in its infancy. Previous methods used to investigate possible changes in SCS and their hail used climate model output and were limited by their coarse spatiotemporal resolution and less detailed representations of hail. This study instead uses an event-level pseudo–global warming (PGW) approach to simulate seven different hailstorms in their historical environments, and again in five different end-of-century PGW environments obtained from the worst-case scenario increases in CO2 of five different CMIP5 members. Changes in large-scale environmental parameters were generally found to be consistent with prior studies, showing mostly increases in CAPE, CIN, and precipitable water, with minor changes in vertical wind shear. Nearly all simulated events had moderately stronger updrafts in the PGW environments. Only cold-season events showed an increase in hail sizes both within the storms and at the surface, whereas warm-season events exhibited a decrease in hail sizes at the surface and aloft. Changes in the event-total hailfall area at the ground also showed a seasonal trend, with increases in cold-season events and decreases in warm-season events. Melting depths increased for all PGW environments, and these increases likely contributed to greater rainfall area for warm-season events, where an increase in smaller hail aloft would be more prone to melting. The differences in PGW simulation hail sizes in cold-season and warm-season events found here are likely related to differences in microphysical processes and warrant future study.

Significance Statement

It is uncertain how severe thunderstorm hazards (such as hail, tornadoes, and damaging winds) may change due to human-induced climate change. Given the significant societal risk these hazards pose, this study seeks to better understand how hailstorms may change in the future. Simulated end-of-century storms in winter months showed larger hail sizes and a larger area of event-total hailfall than in the historical simulations, whereas simulated future storms in spring and summer months showed smaller hail sizes and a reduction in the area where hail fell. An analysis of traditional environmental and storm-scale properties did not reveal a clear distinction between cold-season and warm-season hailstorms, suggesting that changes in small-scale precipitation processes may be responsible.

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