Straight-Line Winds and Climate Change

by Daniel Brouse
May 18, 2024

May 18, 2024: "Deadly storm wallops Houston as ferocious winds leave a destructive path across the South." The storm left death and destruction, and thousands without power. The forecast predicts an unprecedented spring heatwave, putting all those without power in a deadly situation. The greatest short term climate change risk to human health is deadly humid heat (wet-bulb temperature).

Weather Like the Deadly Houston Windstorm Is Being Fueled in Part by Climate Change

Scientists have detected an increase since the 1980s in what are known as straight-line winds, and climate change is playing a significant role. These winds, which are often associated with severe thunderstorms, can reach speeds exceeding 100 mph and cause damage similar to that of a tornado, but they move along a straight path.

Understanding Straight-Line Winds

Straight-line winds, also known as derechos when they cover a particularly large area, are powerful, sustained winds that originate from downdrafts in thunderstorms. Unlike the rotating winds of a tornado, straight-line winds blow in a single direction, hence their name. These winds can flatten trees, knock down power lines, and cause extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure.

The Role of Climate Change

Recent studies indicate that climate change is contributing to an increase in the frequency and intensity of these wind events. The following factors explain how climate change is influencing straight-line winds:
  1. Increased Atmospheric Instability: As global temperatures rise, the atmosphere becomes more unstable. Warmer air holds more moisture, leading to more intense thunderstorms, which are a primary source of straight-line winds. The increased energy in the atmosphere enhances the formation of severe weather systems capable of producing strong downdrafts.
  2. Enhanced Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE): CAPE is a measure of the energy available for convection, which is a key process in the formation of thunderstorms. Higher CAPE values are associated with more vigorous updrafts and downdrafts, resulting in stronger winds. Climate change is leading to higher CAPE values in many regions, contributing to more powerful straight-line winds.
  3. Changing Wind Patterns: Climate change is altering global wind patterns, which can influence the development and movement of severe weather systems. These changes can result in more frequent and intense straight-line wind events, particularly in areas that are becoming more prone to severe thunderstorms.

The Impact of Straight-Line Winds

The deadly Houston windstorm is a stark reminder of the destructive power of straight-line winds. The storm left a trail of devastation, with thousands of residents losing power and homes being damaged or destroyed. The aftermath of such storms can be particularly dangerous during extreme weather events like heatwaves, which are also becoming more common due to climate change.


As the climate continues to change, the occurrence of extreme weather events like straight-line winds is expected to increase. This poses significant challenges for communities, infrastructure, and emergency response systems. Understanding the role of climate change in these events is crucial for developing strategies to mitigate their impact and enhance resilience against future storms. Scientists and policymakers must work together to address the root causes of climate change and implement measures to protect vulnerable populations from the growing threat of severe weather.

What Can I Do?
Our climate model uses chaos theory in an attempt to adequately account for humans and forecasts a global average temperature increase of 9℃ above pre-industrial levels. Everybody has the responsibility not to pollute. There are plenty of things you can do to help save the planet. Stop using fossil fuels. Consume less. Love more. Here is a list of additional actions you can take.

How is All Real Estate at Risk From Climate Change?

Extreme Weather Events Brouse (2024)
Toppled Tipping Points: The Domino Effect / Brouse and Mukherjee (2023)
Sea-level Rise: Greenland and the Collapse of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet / Mukherjee and Brouse (2022 and 2023)
Sea Level Rise: Then and Now / Mukherjee and Brouse (2023)
Feedback Loops / Daniel Brouse and Sidd Mukherjee (2016)

The Age of Loss and Damage

Climate Change: Rate of Acceleration

Climate Change: How Long Is "Ever"?

The Human Induced Climate Change Experiment

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