Forecasting Change: Impacts of warming on our thunderstorms

Average temperature has increased approximately 1.5 degrees in Orlando since 1970

Capehart Park, Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. – Forecasting Change this week is going to focus on the warming we have experienced in the last 50 years and the effect that warming is having on our thunderstorm potential.

First the warming. Since 1970 the average temperature in Orlando has gone up 1.5 degrees. For Florida as a whole, the warming is even higher. The state average is up by 2.5 degrees. And for the U.S. overall, the increase is 2.6 degrees. Check out the graphic below.

Warming at all levels

All that warming is having lots of effects. One of those is the increase in annual thunderstorm potential.

One key indicator of thunderstorm severity is Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE). Since 1970 the eastern U.S.A. has seen up to 15 more days of high CAPE. What does that mean? In simple terms it means we have more than two weeks more of days with severe thunderstorms. Those storms are the ones that produce most of the damage from high winds, hail, intense rain and tornadoes.

This graphic shows the increase for virtually all areas east of the Mississippi.

Thunderstorm potential

The western half of the county is experiencing the opposite. Out west the mega-drought continues.

The difference between the halves of the country show that the global warming can often be understood as “Global Weirdness!”

About the Author:

Tom Sorrells is News 6's Emmy award winning chief meteorologist. He pinpoints storms across Central Florida to keep residents safe from dangerous weather conditions.