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More killer hail coming- an increase in the fraction of severe storms with large hailstones to increase with climate change

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26 June 2017 NewScientist By Raymond Pierrehumbert  Full story here

….Global warming favours larger hail because the warmer, wetter air results in greater condensation of water vapour in the lower atmosphere, which releases extra energy to strengthen thunderstorm updrafts. Integrating all these factors is a challenge, but a group of Canadian researchers has just published a study with this aim (Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE3321).

Using high-resolution models of anthropogenic climate change over North America and models capturing the detailed physics of hail formation, it forecasts changes in hailstorm properties over the coming century.

The key finding is an increase in the fraction of severe storms involving large hailstones. Some southerly regions may see a reduction in hail damage due to the major hail belts shifting north and, overall, the number of hail days will be reduced. But taken together, these results predict a 40 per cent increase in damage potential over North America. Global warming changes everything about our climate, and that includes hail. You might think that in a warmer world it would be harder to make great balls of ice, but that is not the case. One clue is that severe hailstorms mostly occur in the heat of summer….

…….the bigger they are, the faster they fall. Doubling the size of a hailstone increases its damage-producing energy by a factor of roughly 16. Which is why it’s important for us to know how global warming might influence this kind of weather.

As it is, hail cannot get that big on our planet (the modern record is a grapefruit-sized 7 inches), but it can still do plenty of damage. The great hailstorm of 1788 is one of several weather events that decimated French agriculture and helped incite the French Revolution. A 1990 storm in Denver dropped baseball-sized hail and caused damage to homes and cars equivalent to more than $1 billion dollars today. Those caught without shelter risk life and limb: hail killed 25 people and injured 200 during a violent storm in China’s Henan province in 2002….

Julian C. Brimelow, William R. Burrows & John M. Hanesiak. The changing hail threat over North America in response to anthropogenic climate change. Nature Climate Change doi:10.1038/nclimate3321 

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