Another blow to warmist hysteria over weather is not climate unless we say it is: “2011 damage is qualitatively indistinguishable from 1974″

April 3rd 1974 Tornado Outbreak - click to enlarge

Until the April 26/27th 2011 tornado outbreak, The April 3rd 1974 was the biggest outbreak of tornadoes in US history. Last year, the usual suspects railed about how the outbreak was a clear consequence of global warming> climate change> climate disruption, even going so far as saying such linkage was “required by ethics” (insert facepalm here).  I called them all “Hucksters“. The wailing was sort of like when 1934 was the warmest year in the USA until James Hansen came along and “adjusted” 1998 to be warmer.

I and many others said it connecting AGW to the 2011 outbreak was rubbish- there’s no connection in the data, and that it was what you expect to get when you have La Niña conditions like we did in the spring 0f 2011. WeatherBell’s Joe D’Aleo even predicted the likelihood of severe weather ahead of time based on La Niña conditions and snow cover. (Update: Here’s two reports from him before the outbreaks:)

La Ninas are often far more costly than El Ninos  (PDF)

La Nina of 2010 2nd strongest (PDF)

During El Niño the jet stream is oriented from west to east across the southern portion of the United States. Thus, this region becomes more susceptible to severe weather outbreaks. During La Niña the jet stream and severe weather is likely to be farther north.

Note the collision zone in the US southeast during La Niña patterns. 1974 was a La Niña year too.

Then the wailing shifted to monetary damage claims, about how much more damage there was than in 1974 in terms of cost, not just in tornadoes, but well, everything weather related. While I can’t comment on everything, I can say with certainty the tornado claims are rubbish thanks to a new paper just published by Kevin Simmons, Daniel Sutter and Dr. Roger Pielke Jr..

Simmons, K., D. Sutter, R.A. Pielke, Jr. (2012), Blown away: monetary and human impacts of the 2011 U.S. tornadoes. Extreme events and insurance: 2011 annus horribilis (Edited by C. Courbage and W.R. Stahel) The Geneva Reports: Risk and Insurance Research , Published March 2012.

Pielke Jr. writes on his blog:

1. When using our dataset, it is best to use the damage numbers as tabulated by the US NWS as they are consistent over time

2. That said, 2011 damage is qualitatively indistinguishable from 1974 and 1954 1953 at >;$20B

3. That would give a simple baseline expectation of 1 in 20 for 2011, but half or twice that would not be implausible given the uncertainties, so between 1 in 10 and 1 in 40

4. For 2012 and looking ahead there are two big question marks, one more certain than the other. Urbanization is increasing, which means that the chance of large losses increases (somewhat at the expense of smaller and medium losses of course). And there has been a notable and significant decline in the incidence of strong tornadoes in recent decades

Here’s the summary from the report:

=============================================================

As 2011 began, the big news in the American sports world was the showdown between
Auburn and Oregon for the national championship in college football. The big political
story was the Tea Party, which had just helped Republicans regain control of the U.S.
House of Representatives. In Hollywood, speculation was rife on who would win an
Oscar. In other words, 2011 began as most years do. No one foresaw that the first five
months of the year would reset the expectations of meteorologists, insurance companies,
and the public regarding the toll tornadoes can impose on the U.S. today.

The decades leading up to 2011 convinced many that the tornado threat had been reduced to the point that 100 fatality tornadoes and 500 fatality years were in the past. After all, neither figure had been exceeded in the U.S. in over 50 years. The National Weather Service implemented a nationwide network of Doppler weather radars in the 1990s. Warning lead time doubled, and then almost doubled again, providing sufficient time for families to receive a warning and take shelter. Television stations used sophisticated graphics to cover tornadoes with ever-increasing accuracy. Street level tracking software allowed TV viewers to know the exact location of a tornado and how close it might get to their home.

In this environment, a tornado that killed 10 or more people was national
news and could grab the attention of the public for days and perhaps weeks. In 1999 one
of the most powerful tornadoes ever documented struck a metropolitan area and resulted in 36 deaths, which while tragic, was only a fraction of the toll that might have been expected from a tornado like this at the start of the 20th century. The benchmark for what constituted a major tornado event was much different than 1974, when the 3-4 April “Super Outbreak” killed over 300 people. Things were different now, or so many people thought.

We begin by summarising the damages and fatalities from U.S. tornadoes in 2011. Next,
we examine the tornado outbreak as it relates to the historical record. The next section
looks at the role that extreme weather played, followed by a discussion of some of the
vulnerabilities that are known to increase fatalities from tornadoes. We then consider
what can be done to limit damages and fatalities from future tornado outbreaks. Finally,
we discuss whether or not this was an event that can be expected to occur again and then
we conclude.

Three previous seasons—1953, 1965 and 1974—now rival damage in 2011. Normalised
damage exceeded US$20 billion in 1953 and 1965 and exceeded US$10 billion in
1974. The 1953 season provides perhaps the best historical comparison with 2011, as much of the damage in 1965 and 1974 occurred in just one outbreak. Damage in 1965
is attributable to the Palm Sunday outbreak, while damage in 1974 occurred in the 2-3
April “Super Outbreak”. 1953 had multiple damaging outbreaks in different parts of the
country. One of the worst tornadoes of 1953 occurred in Worcester, MA, and ranked first
in normalised damage until the Joplin tornado of 2011.

(Note: I think Pielke Jr. meant to say 1953 and not 1954 in his point #2 above, I’ve asked for clarification. UPDATE: Pielke Jr. verifies 1953, corrected here and at his blog – Anthony)

=============================================================

This echoes what I have been saying, from The folly of linking tornado outbreaks to “climate change”:

Historically, there have been many tornado outbreaks that occurred well before climate change was on anyone’s radar.  Here’s a few:

1908 Southeast tornado outbreak 324 fatalities, ≥1,720 injuries

1920 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak ≥380 fatalities, ≥1215 injuries

1925 Tri-State tornado ≥747 fatalities, ≥2298 injuries

1932 Deep South tornado outbreak  ≥330 fatalities, 2145 injuries

1952 Arkansas-Tennessee tornado outbreak 208 fatalities

1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak 256 fatalities

April 3-4 1974 Super Outbreak 315 fatalities

All of these occurred before “climate change” was even on the political radar. What caused those if “global warming” is to blame? The real cause is La Niña, and as NOAAwatch.gov indicates on their page with the helpful meter, we are in a La Niña cycle of ocean temperature in the Pacific.

I recommend reading my essay: Why it seems that severe weather is “getting worse” when the data shows otherwise – a historical perspective

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42 thoughts on “Another blow to warmist hysteria over weather is not climate unless we say it is: “2011 damage is qualitatively indistinguishable from 1974″

  1. To AGW catastrophists, ignorance is bliss. But continuing to drum historical context-and-perspective home may yet penetrate even the most addled pates.

  2. I remember the ’74 outbreak very well – we had some tornadoes in Virginia which is a pretty rare event . Even though it was a la nina year I recall that , at least the southwestern part of the state , the winter was pretty harsh – cold with persistent snow cover . Farmers hadn’t put up enough hay and by April their cattle were starving . An aquaintance of mine almost got arrested for animal cruelty , even though he was helpless to do much about the unfortunate conditions .

  3. I don’t know it it’s mentioned in the paper, but there is another factor in the casualty and damage rates that make a difference. In the first half of the 20th century, people residing in tornado prone areas lived mostly in agricultural settings on small farms and ranches. They were more dispersed. Now there are more small towns and cities with suburbs where buildings are closer together. In other words there are more densely populated areas in regions prone to devastation by tornadoes. I don’t know if the researchers account for this but it seems logical that when you have many more targets with denser population levels, the chances for loss of life and property damage increase.

  4. Maurizio Morabito (omnologos) says:
    March 28, 2012 at 10:56 am

    AGW catastrophists are veritable deniers. Today the IPCC SREX report is out and it’s full of gems like the one about unknowable climate extremes

    That’s the handy thing about tipping points and “unknowable climate extremes”. They can’t be forecast, are caused by perhaps large, perhaps tiny changes in “forcings”, and therefore the Precautionary Principle becomes a raging monster: doing anything is potentially disastrous. So hunker down and shiver — and pour rivers of money on the climastrologists on the off chance they may figger out what to do, what to do …

  5. Off topic, Mikey Mann has posted a major screed on CNN.com.

    [REPLY: It is OT. Next time, please, submit it to Tips & Notes and include a link if you can. -REP]

  6. Hmm… I’m back on my look back-60-yrs-or-so if you want to predict extreme weather events, floods, droughts….. From the article:

    “The 1953 season provides perhaps the best historical comparison with 2011…”

  7. Noting the damage is quantified in dollar terms, which are presumably inflation adjusted for comparison, should an allowance also made for developments in build quality over the last 60 or so years? Two sides to that: replacement costs of cheapjack 1950s buildings may have been not much; could it be that to cause the same value of damage to modern buildings, there must be more/stronger tornadoes? Or does a tornadoe take down any structure, regardless of build quality?

  8. If it is the case that some structures can withstand tornadoes, then there’s a thesis waiting to be written: “Tornadoes and Building Codes: modern developments”. Because who’s the biggest loser: insurance companies. Who has a big fat input into building codes: insurance companies. Now if insurers are not demanding (and getting) changes, doesn’t that suggest nothing much different is happening? Also be interesting to see how insurance rates have changed over 60 years in tornadoe prone areas. Surely if tornadoes are more frequent and more violent, and adjusting the building codes is irrelevant, then insurance rates would have gone through the roof, would they not?

  9. But, but, but …

    It’s climate weirding. The past climate does not matter because everything is going weird now.

    This must be true because yesterday evening the BBC devoted a whole TV program to explain it.

    Richard

    PS
    For the benefit of the gullible, my comment is sarcasm. The BBC did broadcast the program but I lack sufficient stupidity to believe such nonsense.

  10. The problem is a lot of people believe whatever they want to believe. They’ll praise the data that supports their cause but disregard the data that doesn’t.

  11. The ignorance of these hand wringers is beyond belief. Then this is just another symptom of the “true belief”. Sometimes I think Eric Hoffer must be withing is his grave. Strange how we laugh at those who predict the end of the world but give press to this host of nonsense that passes for information.

  12. I don’t know about anyone else but it doesn’t even seem like severe weather is getting worse (to me).

    Things look about the same as they have my whole life. Some years are bad ones and others are not. It’s always been that way. But there doesn’t seem to be more of anything, i.e. tornados or hurricanes, etc.

  13. We had a tornado go through our town recently. The US government was just about knocking doors down and shoving money at people who had tornado damage.

    It is the only time I have ever seen the US government go out of its way to make sure everyone knew the public trough was available.

  14. Bill asked: “Or does a tornadoe take down any structure, regardless of build quality?”

    I’m not all that knowledgeable, but my understanding is that an F5 will take down any wood-framed building. And that an F4 will take down most of them. I’ve done a lot of earthquake work here in California and the hardware they use to anchor buildings to foundations and the general improvements in building engineering can pretty much save most buildings from severe earthquakes. Much of the same hardware is used to anchor buildings to withstand tornadoes and hurricanes. Clips and fasteners that anchor the roofs to walls, and holdowns that anchor walls to foundations, provide much more structural resistance to uplift and horizontal forces. But, as I said, that doesn’t guarantee they will survive F4 and F5 tornadoes.

    Another factor in tornadoes is huge pieces of debris flying around at 200 mph and higher. When a 3 ton tree or a pick up truck hits your house, it’s going to do a lot of damage. I’ve heard it said that a wall stud flying through the air that fast can penetrate a cinder block wall.

  15. @ Bill
    Bldg codes have come a long way with respect to Earthquakes / Hurricanes over the last 50 years, with respect to tornados yes the increased design for hurricanes would help, except the Bldg codes don’t require for the engineer to design for hurricanes unless you’re on the coasts or inland for ~200 miles from the coast (with lowering design winds). New earthquake design might help in larger/tall structures, however in residential/ low structures not so much. The old adage they don’t build em like they use too really does play a bigger role. I grew up in a small town where the houses were built with CDX plywood sheathing walls and roofs with full basements and sill plates anchored every 16 inches, still older homes had tongue and grove sheathing (much strong still). All of the shops in town had well built structures with full brick veneer, stucco over metal lath anchored to block etc. Today my house in the southeast has very little OSB board the rest being pressed board sheathing on the walls and OSB for roof sheathing. Foundations are minimized to poured footings with block piers, that may or may not be anchored in (depends on your locality). The newwer built local shops are made from metal studs with pressed board sheathing with stucco or metal siding, etc. If I’m in a tornado what would you want between you and the winds brick or stucco over pressed board? (Note new buildings are built to code; however in the need to control costs, a developer will build the cheapest structures while meeting code). I’m I being overly narrow in this? Just look at any town that has seen growth over the last 50 years, the old downtown have old quality built structures while the new growth zones have Best buys, Lowe’s etc. EF 4/5 everything totaled, regardless of structure. EF 3 old bldg damaged, however can be repaired, new bldg’s might not collapse, but in the end the damage is so great the structures ultimately are replaced due to repair costs. I agree this would be a great study to see the impact on cost from violent storms. Note I’m a PE and prior to going to school for engineering was a carpenter. We need to challenge the AGW at every corner

  16. Per:

    http://ks.water.usgs.gov/pubs/fact-sheets/fs.024-00.html

    “During the 20th century, floods were the number-one natural disaster in the United States in terms of number of lives lost and property damage. They can occur at any time of the year, in any part of the country, and at any time of the day or night. Most lives are lost when people are swept away by flood currents, whereas most property damage results from inundation by sediment-laden water. Flood currents also possess tremendous destructive power, as lateral forces can demolish buildings and erosion can undermine bridge foundations and footings leading to the collapse of structures. The accompanying map and table locate and describe 32 of the most significant floods of the 20th century.”
    ===========
    Umm, do I think ahead, or just wait for the taxpayers to offset my foolishness.

  17. RAPEING OF CORAL REEFS: ” Heavy Duty Desalination Systems around the world are dumping. Millions of tons of Chemicals, including cleaning chemicals 24/7/365 basis.These are killing the Corals, Flora ,Founa & the Reefs. Those became whiteish color since 1990 & 50% World wide damaged. Mentioned about these in IDA WORLD CONGRESS ON WATER PUBLISHED PAPERS ( 1995- UAE & 1997- SPAIN ) & immediately after 1997 World Congress finished me from Abu Dhabi Water Administration.Wrote about to then UN SECRETARY GENERAL with a 101 page file. He got Golden Cermonial Sword from UAE Royals during 1999. . That is how our environment is rapeing by Authorities “

  18. As a light plane pilot I’ve had to be very conscious of the weather and weather patterns. I fly in the upper Midwest and the East Coast with forays south to Biloxi and east-west between D.C. and Chicago. I noted years and years ago how the jet streams affect my flying weather. The one that centers around the Canadian border moves north and south and brings havoc with it. At the same time the one along the Mason-Dixon Line moves generally in concert with it bringing the wet stuff from the Gulf. Somehow I don’t think they are driven by the exhaust gases of my aircraft.

    In summer you can watch the extreme thunderstorms develop along fronts guided (molested) by the jet stream. If the stream loops down far enough to run into hot, wet air driven up by the southern stream we get tornadoes and and monster hail storms. I don’t think my barbeque grill is responsible.

  19. I’m not sure how long your “La Nina” continued last year, but I’ll protest southern Florida being included in the “dry” zone within the above chart. Until that October front pushed thru in 2011, it felt like everyday there were afternoon storms. Everyday is not as far an exaggeration as one may think. If someone wanted to study cloud formation, 2011 would have been optimum.

    Most of winter was without rain, even when dark clouds formed, and cloud formation was low as well. We just got some showers, as we enter our 8 month or so warm weather climate. I guess we’ll see how it goes compared with a description of the atmosphere this year.

  20. A few years back, Prof Mueller gave a talk in relation to his ‘Physics for future presidents’ lectures, where he said that there has been no increase in tornado damage, if adjusted for inflation. Instead he cited things like better observation, news reporting, etc that let us perceive an increase, if any. It think that was an ’08 or ’09 talk, but I could be wrong.

  21. Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
    Living in Oklahoma, this seems worth reposting on my own blog. While, Oklahoma is not mentioned, the May 3rd, 1999, Oklahoma City tornado is mentioned as on of the most powerful ever. In my nonexpert opinion, it was the most powerful ever measured, though it was not the “biggest” by some measures. So, it is appropriate to call it “one of the most…”. The 2011 Joplin tornado is discussed. Joplin is in the stomping grounds of my youth. I know Joplin and OKC quite well. The Oklahoma City tornado was much bigger, doing more damage over much more area, affecting multiple communities. Still, Joplin is MUCH smaller than OKC, and it is the only large town for many miles. The impact of the 2011 tornado on Joplin must not be underestimated. Still, the media simply forgot about history when they started covering Joplin. The sensationalism and alarmism reported were completely unjustified, given that many people involved should have had firsthand experience with the OKC monster, and many should have had first-person knowledge of the 70s super outbreak. Likewise the recent devastating rural tornadoes, essentially wiping communities off the map. Pitcher, Oklahoma, is an example local to me, between Joplin and OKC.

  22. This article could have been improved by leaving out the unnecessary ad hominems. “Warmist hysteria.” “Then the wailing shifted”. etc.

  23. At their knee, I learned about climate change from grandparents who had managed to eek a living out of an old ranch and weathered weather like they did the annual calving season. You win some, you lose some, and it will come round again. Our current crop of “scientists” blathering on about anthropogenic climate change from their Ivory tower (Oregon State University) offices ought to spend their summers bucking bales with the old timers in Wallowa County during hay season. And be forced to wear a dunce cap whilst they sit upon the stool in front of their classes during the school season. Guest speakers will be the old timers providing a good amount of attitude adjustment upon the heads of college students in attendance.

    That school used to be useful and was considered a magnet school for farm boys and girls, reverently referred to as Moo U. Now it’s just a tool …and don’t even get me started on the previously known top-notch Forestry Department.

  24. If not for potentially disastrous climate change we’d be looking at likely catastrophic global cooling and for tax purposes the former what you want to fund liberal utopianism.

  25. . . . .Until the April 26/27th 2011 tornado outbreak, The April 3rd 1974 was the biggest outbreak of tornadoes in US history. Last year, the usual suspects railed about how the outbreak was a clear consequence of global warming> climate change> climate disruption . . .

    I saved the graphics from AccuWeather for 3 days running of the April, ’74 tornado outbreaks:

    Super Tornado outbreak April 14,15 and 16th, 2001.

    At a glance, the predominate feature on all three graphics would be the powerful jet stream and the front of cold dry air slamming into the warm gulf moist air? The tropical Gulf of Mexico is always warm and moist – that’s pretty much a constant. Does it matter whether or not the Gulf is 1 or 2 degrees cooler, or warmer? Not a all. This is simply about the collision. The Gulf will always be available to provide the warm moist air – just need the circulation in the right place at the right time – but without the occasional driving force of the unusually cold air mass pushing into it – springtime is about spring showers and daffodils.

  26. @Pamela:

    grandparents who had managed to eek a living

    How did they get anything done if they were constantly squealing in shock?

    Perhaps they did some eke-ing inbetween episodes of eek-ing?
    ;)

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