Abrupt Southern Great Plains thunderstorm shifts linked to glacial climate variability

Christopher R. Maupin, E. Brendan Roark, Kaustubh Thirumalai, Chuan Chou Shen, Courtney Schumacher, Stephen Van Kampen-Lewis, Audrey L. Housson, C. Lorraine McChesney, Oruç Baykara, Tsai Luen Yu, Kemble White, Judson W. Partin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Thunderstorms in the Southern Great Plains of the United States are among the strongest on Earth and have been shown to be increasing in intensity and frequency during recent years. Assessing changes in storm characteristics under different climate scenarios, however, remains highly uncertain due to limitations in climate model physics. We analyse oxygen isotopes from Texas stalactites from 30–50 thousand years ago to assess past changes in thunderstorm size and duration using a modern radar-based calibration for the region. Storm regimes shift from weakly to strongly organized on millennial timescales and are coincident with well-known abrupt climate shifts during the last glacial period. Modern-day synoptic analysis suggests that thunderstorm organization in the Southern Great Plains is strongly coupled to changes in large-scale wind and moisture patterns. These changes in the large-scale circulation may be used to assess future predictions and palaeo-simulations of mid-latitude thunderstorm climatologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-401
Number of pages6
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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