U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



In: Climate Science Special Report: A Sustained Assessment Activity of the U.S. Global Change Research Program [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA (2017), pp. 375-404.


U.S. government work.


1. Human activities have contributed substantially to observed ocean–atmosphere variability in the Atlantic Ocean (medium confidence), and these changes have contributed to the observed upward trend in North Atlantic hurricane activity since the 1970s (medium confidence).

2. Both theory and numerical modeling simulations (in general) indicate an increase in tropical cyclone (TC) intensity in a warmer world, and the models generally show an increase in the number of very intense TCs. For Atlantic and eastern North Pacific hurricanes and western North Pacific typhoons, increases are projected in precipitation rates (high confidence) and intensity (medium confidence). The frequency of the most intense of these storms is projected to increase in the Atlantic and western North Pacific (low confidence) and in the eastern North Pacific (medium confidence).

3. Tornado activity in the United States has become more variable, particularly over the 2000s, with a decrease in the number of days per year with tornadoes and an increase in the number of tornadoes on these days (medium confidence). Confidence in past trends for hail and severe thunderstorm winds, however, is low. Climate models consistently project environmental changes that would putatively support an increase in the frequency and intensity of severe thunderstorms (a category that combines tornadoes, hail, and winds), especially over regions that are currently prone to these hazards, but confidence in the details of this projected increase is low.

4. There has been a trend toward earlier snowmelt and a decrease in snowstorm frequency on the southern margins of climatologically snowy areas (medium confidence). Winter storm tracks have shifted northward since 1950 over the Northern Hemisphere (medium confidence). Projections of winter storm frequency and intensity over the United States vary from increasing to decreasing depending on region, but model agreement is poor and confidence is low. Potential linkages between the frequency and intensity of severe winter storms in the United States and accelerated warming in the Arctic have been postulated, but they are complex, and, to some extent, contested, and confidence in the connection is currently low.

5. The frequency and severity of landfalling “atmospheric rivers” on the U.S. West Coast (narrow streams of moisture that account for 30%–40% of precipitation and snowpack in the region and are associated with severe flooding events) will increase as a result of increasing evaporation and resulting higher atmospheric water vapor that occurs with increasing temperature. (Medium confidence)