Future Australian severe thunderstorm environments. Part II: The influence of a strongly warming climate on convective environments

John T. Allen, David J. Karoly, Kevin J. Walsh

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The influence of a warming climate on the occurrence of severe thunderstorm environments in Australia was explored using two global climate models: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Mark, version 3.6 (CSIROMk3.6), and the Cubic-ConformalAtmosphericModel (CCAM). Thesemodels have previously been evaluated and found to be capable of reproducing a useful climatology for the twentieth-century period (1980-2000).Analyzing the changes between the historical period and highwarming climate scenarios for the period 2079-99 has allowed estimation of the potential convective future for the continent. Based on these simulations, significant increases to the frequency of severe thunderstorm environments will likely occur for northern and easternAustralia in a warmed climate. This change is a response to increasing convective available potential energy from higher continental moisture, particularly in proximity to warm sea surface temperatures. Despite decreases to the frequency of environments with high vertical wind shear, it appears unlikely that this will offset increases to thermodynamic energy. The change ismost pronounced during the peak of the convective season, increasing its length and the frequency of severe thunderstorm environments therein, particularly over the eastern parts of the continent. The implications of this potential increase are significant, with the overall frequency of potential severe thunderstorm days per year likely to rise over the major population centers of the east coast by 14%for Brisbane, 22%forMelbourne, and 30% for Sydney. The limitations of this approach are then discussed in the context of ways to increase the confidence of predictions of future severe convection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3848-3868
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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