Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Ashley, Walker S.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Geographic and Atmospheric Sciences


A derecho is a long-lived, convectively induced, extratropical windstorm that produces severe wind gusts and an affiliated damage swath across an extensive area. This peril can generate billions of dollars in losses and poses a significant risk to life, infrastructure, and wind-sensitive industries. While the response of severe convective storms to anthropogenic climate change has received much attention in the literature, research assessing the genitors of derechos—mesoscale convective systems—has focused on understanding potential changes in the United States hydroclimate, not their severe wind potential. To date, there has been no research investigating spatiotemporal changes to derecho activity in the context of a changing climate.This study uses high-resolution (3.75 km horizontal grid spacing), convection-permitting, dynamically downscaled regional climate simulation output generated by the advanced core of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model to assess how derecho-producing convective systems may change across the contiguous United States during the 21st century. Three 15-year epochs including a historical period (1990 – 2005), and two, separate late-21st century periods (2085 – 2100) employing intermediate (RCP4.5) and pessimistic (RCP8.5) greenhouse gas concentration scenarios are evaluated. A mesoscale convective system identification and tracking tool catalogs derecho candidates across epochs using simulated radar reflectivity and maximum 10-meter wind speed as a proxy for near-surface severe wind gusts. Results indicate that convective windstorms, including derechos, will be more frequent, widespread, and intense in both future climate scenarios for most regions of the eastern United States. Events are likely to increase across all parts of the year, with significant changes in populations suggested during the early spring and summer months, indicating the potential for a longer, more extreme windstorm season. This research provides valuable insights for forecasters, emergency managers, and wind-vulnerable stakeholders on how these events may change across the 21st century so that they may mitigate, adapt to, and become resilient against severe convective storm perils.


75 pages




Northern Illinois University

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