Stunning map of NOAA data showing 56 years of tornado tracks sheds light on the folly of linking “global warming” to severe weather

From the Data dot Gov website, this data set: https://explore.data.gov/d/8vq3-ke4t

…has been turned into a stunning image of the United states. Each line represents an individual tornado, while the brightness of the line represents its intensity on the Fujita Scale. The result, rendered by John Nelson of the IDV User Experience, shows some interesting things, especially the timeline bargraph that goes with the map, which show that the majority of US tornado related deaths and injury (prior to the 2011 outbreak which isn’t in this dataset) happened in the 1950’s to the 1970’s. This is a testament to NEXRAD doppler radar, improved forecasting, and better warning systems combined with improved media coverage.

Here’s the data description, the big map of the CONUS follows below.

The National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) routinely collects reports of severe weather and compiles them with public access from the database called SeverePlot (Hart and Janish 1999) with a Graphic Information System (GIS). The composite SVRGIS information is made available to the public primarily in .zip files of approximately 50MB size. The files located at the access point contain track information regarding known tornados during the period 1950 to 2006. Although available to all, the data provided may be of particular value to weather professionals and students of meteorological sciences. An instructional manual is provided on how to build and develop a basic severe weather report GIS database in ArcGis and is located at the technical documentation site contained in this metadata catalog.

It is also worth noting that the distribution of strong tornadoes -vs- weaker tornadoes (rated by the Fujita scale) is greatly lopsided, with the weakest tornadoes far outnumbering the strong killer F5 tornadoes (such as we saw in 1974 and 2011, both cooler La Niña years) by at least an order of magnitude:  

And here’s the entire map, click for a very hi-resolution version:

Mike Smith covers a lot of the history contained in this data set in his book Warnings The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather.

He talks about the vast improvements we’ve witnessed since the early days of severe weather forecasting and is well worth a  read if you want to understand severe weather in the USA and how the detection and warning methods have evolved. He has another book just out (Reviewed by Pielke Sr. that explains the failure of this system in Joplin in 2011.

In Mike Smith’s first book, “Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather,” we learned the only thing separating American society from triple-digit fatalities from tornadoes, weather-related plane crashes, and hurricanes is the storm warning system that was carefully crafted over the last 50 years. That acclaimed book, as one reviewer put it, “made meteorologists the most unlikely heroes of recent literature.” But, what if the warning system failed to provide a clear, timely notice of a major storm? Tragically, that scenario played out in Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011. As a wedding, a high school graduation, and shopping trips were in progress, an invisible monster storm was developing west of the city. When it arrived, many were caught unaware. One hundred sixty-one perished and one thousand were injured. “When the Sirens Were Silent” is the gripping story of the Joplin tornado. It recounts that horrible day with a goal of insuring this does not happen again.

Of course, alarmists like Peter Gleick (who knows little about operational meteorology and is prone to law-breaking) like to tell us severe weather (and days like Joplin) are a consequence of global warming saying at the Huffington Post:

“More extreme and violent climate is a direct consequence of human-caused climate change (whether or not we can determine if these particular tornado outbreaks were caused or worsened by climate change).”

But in this story from Physorg.com

“If you look at the past 60 years of data, the number of tornadoes is increasing significantly, but it’s agreed upon by the tornado community that it’s not a real increase,” said Grady Dixon, assistant professor of meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University.

“It’s having to do with better (weather tracking) technology, more population, the fact that the population is better educated and more aware. So we’re seeing them more often,” Dixon said.

But he said it would be “a terrible mistake” to relate the up-tick to climate change.

Again, for a full understanding I urge readers to click, read, and to distribute these two WUWT essays:

The folly of linking tornado outbreaks to “climate change”

Why it seems that severe weather is “getting worse” when the data shows otherwise – a historical perspective

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40 Responses to Stunning map of NOAA data showing 56 years of tornado tracks sheds light on the folly of linking “global warming” to severe weather

  1. Steve P says:

    Stunning map of NOAA data showing 56 year of tornado tracks shed light on the folly of linking “global warming” to severe weather

    Suggested:
    Stunning map of NOAA data showing 56 years of tornado tracks sheds light on the folly of linking “global warming” to severe weather

  2. To me it is more of a negative correlation, as the stronger the cold frontal boundary, the stronger the tornado outbreak. Global warming is good for fewer tornados not more…..

  3. Yes, “map sheds”, map being the predicate.

  4. Anthony Watts says:

    s added,

  5. Oh dear, I’ve become one of those people.

    In any case, I’d be curious to see if the alarmist statement (which I first heard well over 15 years ago) that “Tornado Alley” was changing because “Gobble Worming” is actually true.

  6. FYI: Some warmists at AAAS are pimping massive geoengineering to “fix” global warming.

    Live chat today at 1500 US Eastern time.

    http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/05/live-chat-can-geoengineering-sav.html

  7. Gary Pearse says:

    Dennis Ray Wingo says:
    May 31, 2012 at 8:42 am
    “To me it is more of a negative correlation, as the stronger the cold frontal boundary, the stronger the tornado outbreak. Global warming is good for fewer tornados not more…..”

    I have commented on the history of extreme events before, noting that the 60 year cycle is a good predictor of what is in the offing for floods, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and the like. So often we see “the worst so-and-so in 60 years”.

    Accordingly, looking at 1955 to 1975, I hereby predict a return to large numbers and strong tornadoes beginning, well close to now! Lets make it 2015 to 2035 as covering the core period of these re-invigorated events. The only trouble is the CAGW crowd has tied “extreme weather” to higher CO2. The battle will be re-engaged by the hiatus weary alarmists I fear – can’t we neutralize these guys by making prediction on the basis of other parameters?

  8. Andrew says:

    It’s interesting that the western part of the US has almost no tornadoes, but the east and especially central US get tons. I also notice the weird “gap” running north from about Georgia all the way up to Maine, in an almost fish shape. Now the central US is “tornado alley” and that’s pretty well known, but what’s with the “fish”?

  9. bill says:

    Would someone please explain why the tornadoes all stop as soon as they get to the Canadian and Mexican borders?
    Do they stop for similar reasons at the coasts?

  10. Billy Liar says:

    Andrew says:
    May 31, 2012 at 9:27 am

    … but what’s with the “fish”?

    Tornados don’t like mountains.

  11. Jimmy Haigh. says:

    Andrew says:
    May 31, 2012 at 9:27 am
    “…but what’s with the “fish”?

    ‘Tis very like a fish.

  12. Ian W says:

    bill says:
    May 31, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Would someone please explain why the tornadoes all stop as soon as they get to the Canadian and Mexican borders?
    Do they stop for similar reasons at the coasts?

    In the past pilots made similar mistakes to yours, diverting into Canada to avoid the storms in the US airspace only to find that the storms are in Canada too – just not part of the same severe weather reporting system.
    The storms are tracked by the US NexRad system (3D radars) and the radars are land based.

  13. andrew M says:

    seems awful light in northeastern montana/northwester ND, an area I have spent a lot of time in and seen a lot of twisters in…

  14. hunter says:

    A Nobel Prize winner in chemistry spoke in Houston last year.I pointed out to him, after his lecture on how we needed to act drastically on AGW because of incresingly extreme weather, that in reality extreme evnts are not increasing. He responded with a smirk. He is an elderly gentleman who studied and worked in Berkeley, so I can only imagine him hanging out with the likes of Ehrlich and the other domm mongers who work in the area.
    I wonder if he aware how he has used his great achievement to basically push bs.

  15. Ged says:

    @Andrew

    That void spot is the Appalachia mountains. Also notice that area towards the west where the intensities of the tracks decreases (around St. Louis), though not as dramatically as over the Appalachias? That’s the Ozarks.

  16. Gail Combs says:

    Gary Pearse says: @ May 31, 2012 at 9:11 am
    ….I have commented on the history of extreme events before, noting that the 60 year cycle is a good predictor of what is in the offing for floods, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and the like. So often we see “the worst so-and-so in 60 years”.

    Accordingly, looking at 1955 to 1975, I hereby predict a return to large numbers and strong tornadoes beginning, well close to now! Lets make it 2015 to 2035 as covering the core period of these re-invigorated events….
    __________________________________
    And if you do not think the “Climate Alarmists” are not aware of this 60 year cycle and are posed to take advantage of it, I have a nice bridge to sell.

    The Activists know darn well Global Warming is dead which is why they changed to “Global Climate Change” now as the temperature drops fueling more severe weather due to temperature differentials they are switching to the severe weather bandwagon.

    The idea is to distract people from the old cause “Global Warming” to the new cause “Climate Weirding” Watch in another fifteen to twenty years they will start to deny “Global Warming” ever existed just like they now deny “Global Cooling ” existed SEE: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/05/25/the-cia-documents-the-global-cooling-research-of-the-1970s/

  17. Mac the Knife says:

    Growing up in central Wisconsin, I was always told we lived ‘at the top of Tornado Alley’.
    Where’s the ‘Alley’???

    The only alley I see is Appalachia (the ‘bald area’ that coincides roughly with the Appalachian mountains, paralleling the East Coast).. and that is where the tornadoes don’t hit! Everything else, from the edge of the high plains east of the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians and south to the eastern seaboard and all of Florida, gets hammered!

    Having witnessed 2 tornadoes in Wisconsin, and the wreckage left by a handful more, I find this graphical presentation fascinating!

  18. Darren Potter says:

    Obviously, Global Warming has had an effect on Tornadoes, in that they primarily attack the Eastern half of the United States. /sarc

    Hey Phil C., which one is TAD061?

  19. Follow the Money says:

    This “severe weather” meme is getting old. It is being pushed in lieu of global warming evidence from those damn uncooperative thermometers. Can I suggest to warmista public relations firms a new meme based on extreme human events? Can’t we link the idea of a warming world to increasing atrocities like sending body parts through the mail in Canada, and cannibalism in Florida?

  20. Andrew says:

    Thanks guys. I suspected that there was a sort of inverse relationship with altitude going on but I couldn’t remember if the mountain range stretched that far North. Turns out it does.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/AppalachianLocatorMap2.png

  21. Darren Potter says:

    bill says – “Would someone please explain why the tornadoes all stop as soon as they get to the Canadian and Mexican borders?”

    The Tornadoes don’t actually stop at the borders, you have to think of Canada & Mexico in terms of MWP and 1998 (aka Mann’s Hockeyschtick) …
    ;)

  22. scott says:

    Just wondering if the tornado tracks are influenced by population and geography. I find it interesting that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has almost no tornadoes. I know that area well and it is very low population and heavily wooded making it difficult to know if a tornado came through or not. If a tornado missed you by 100 yards in the Upper Peninsula you would never know it, whereas in the plains you can see them ten miles away.

  23. MrX says:

    The matrix has taken over the alarmists. It is the world that has been pulled over their eyes to blind them from the truth.

  24. clipe says:

    Found on Google News.ca

    Weather explained, not sure why.

    http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/ontario-tornado-outbreak-of-19/65863

    An unusually vigorous low and cold front sweeping through the Great Lakes region sparked the tornado outbreak.

    That was then, so nothing has changed as of tomorrow?

    Friday..Isolated non-severe thunderstorms are possible over
    Northwestern Ontario near the Manitoba border and over Far Northern
    Ontario. Chance of non-severe thunderstorms with heavy downpours
    Over Southern Ontario in areas near and south of a line from
    Goderich to Toronto…

    Regions north and west of Lake Superior..Temperatures are
    Expected to drop to near the freezing mark overnight in some locales
    under clear skies and light wind. As a result, patchy frost is
    possible early Friday morning. Tender plants should be protected or
    brought indoors.

    Northeastern Ontario Friday night..A developing weather system
    approaching Northeastern Ontario and the Nickel Belt will result in
    significant rainfall for the region. Total rainfall amounts between
    20 and 30 mm are to be expected for most locales.

    http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/warnings/sws_e.html

  25. Now at aerology.com the maps don’t stop at the Canadian border anymore, web site upgrade just went live. Additional maps for Alaska, Canada, and Australia for the next two years (currently till March 8th 2014.

  26. clipe says:

    AT THIS TIME WILL MAINTAIN 30% SEVERE PROBS TO ACCOUNT FOR THE
    EXPECTED STRONG WINDS WITH THE FRONTAL CONVECTION AND FOR ISOLATED
    TORNADOES THAT COULD BE NOTED IF PRE-FRONTAL DISCRETE SUPERCELLS
    DEVELOP. HOWEVER...THERE IS SOME CONCERN THAT A MORE WIDESPREAD
    EVENT MAY EVOLVE IF LOW LEVEL LAPSE RATES/INSTABILITY RESPOND PRIOR
    TO FRONTAL PASSAGE AND SEVERE PROBS MAY BE INCREASED TO ACCOUNT FOR
    THIS SCENARIO IN LATER OUTLOOKS.

    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/outlook/day2otlk.html

  27. Richard Aubrey says:

    If the twister turns left, it tears up the corn and beans.
    If it turns right, it tears up a town and we get 10-50 deaths.
    Any way to link AGW to tornado right turns, presuming there are any?

  28. Clay Marley says:

    “Just wondering if the tornado tracks are influenced by population and geography.”

    Well, take a look at AZ. The few tornadoes are concentrated in Phoenix. Probably an observational phenomenon, not caused by topology.

    There’s a few small “holes” in the midwest alley. I wonder if these are just statistical variances or caused by something? My in-laws live in a small town in southeast KS just about in a hole. Local lore is that the town is in a valley that keeps the tornadoes away. Not sure I buy that; one would have to examine a topo map to see the valley. At any rate, might be an interesting exercise to see if frequency can be correlated with more subtle geographic variations.

  29. _Jim says:

    Mac the Knife says:
    May 31, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Growing up in central Wisconsin, I was always told we lived ‘at the top of Tornado Alley’.
    Where’s the ‘Alley’???

    Are you talking about the ‘spring season alley’ or the ‘summer season alley’?

    There are two, you know …

    The first season starts starting about March-April in Texas up and through OK and Kansas and
    getting into summer it’s appears more in the midwest (MI, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio) …

    Wisconsin seems to be part of the Texas OK KS … area (long and arcing up over into WI) but the season may be later for WI (spring/summer vs just in the spring).

    Tornado Alley(s)/activity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tornado_Alley.gif

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    A Discover article paints more like four alleys:
    1) Tornado Alley (TX, OK, KS, NE, IA etc)
    2) Hoosier Alley (IN, WI, WI, IL et al)
    3) Dixie Alley
    4) Carolina Alley

    Discover Article: http://news.discovery.com/earth/redefining-tornado-alleys.html

    (Full disclo: Grew up in N. Hoosier Alley now reside in lower ‘Tornado’ Alley)

    .

  30. u.k.(us) says:

    scott says:
    May 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm
    Just wondering if the tornado tracks are influenced by population and geography. I find it interesting that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has almost no tornadoes. I know that area well and it is very low population and heavily wooded making it difficult to know if a tornado came through or not. If a tornado missed you by 100 yards in the Upper Peninsula you would never know it, whereas in the plains you can see them ten miles away.
    ==========
    Good points, but I think the proximity of all that cold lake water may lessen the instability ?

  31. Tsk Tsk says:

    Neat plot. I agree with the Knife. I always thought Tornado Alley was right in the middle longitude of the country and basically ~1 state-width east of the Rockies. I never knew the deep South got such a pounding. OK, KS: yes; LA, MS: never thought it.

  32. Tornadoes do not like mountains do they. So to avoid tornadoes live in the mountains, and get flash floods, landslides, etc.. Nowhere is safe.(sarc)

  33. Jeff Alberts says:

    Billy Liar says:
    May 31, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Tornados don’t like mountains.

    There are plenty of very flat areas in Washington State, but still no tornadoes. It has more to do with temperature gradients and not just terrain. Thunderstorms are very rare in the western part of the state, because you don’t get the extreme temp fronts bashing into one another. Been out here for 11 years, having grown up in Virginia. I miss thinderstorms.

  34. jbwarriner says:

    RE: Clay Marley @ 5:46

    Local lore here in Vicksburg said a tornado would never cross the Mississippi because all that water would stop it … until one in 1953 took out much of downtown. We also have lines of 100-ft hills and valleys parallel to the river, across the typical paths … tornadoes don’t seem to mind them a bit.

    RE: Tsk Tsk @ 9:25

    It has been noted around here for quite a while that we here in LA, MS, and AL get a slew of tornadoes in Nov-Dec and again in Mar-Apr. Big’uns, little’uns, medium’uns, all sneaky behind the trees and hills. It is not just trailers attracting them but a large-scale seasonal flip of the weather systems.

  35. dvunkannon says:

    I downloaded the csv data from the Storm Prediction Center site. To estimate tornado energy, I multiplied track length * width * (F+2)^1.5. Summing this value over all the tornadoes in a year, there is no trend that I could see from 1950-2006, or for just F4+F5. From 2007, the data uses the EF scale, and I haven’t worked through that discontinuity yet.

  36. clipe says:

    An Experiment to Study the Effects of Lake Breezes On Weather in Southern Ontario

    http://www.yorku.ca/pat/research/ELBOW/cmosbull.htm

  37. clipe says:

    ” Friday..Isolated non-severe thunderstorms are possible…

    1984 Language Alert!

  38. clipe says:

    SEL8

    URGENT – IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
    TORNADO WATCH NUMBER 338
    NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
    800 PM EDT FRI JUN 1 2012

    THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A
    TORNADO WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF

    DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
    DELAWARE
    CENTRAL AND EASTERN MARYLAND
    FAR NORTHEAST NORTH CAROLINA
    SOUTHWESTERN NEW JERSEY
    SOUTHEAST AND EAST CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA
    CENTRAL AND EASTERN VIRGINIA
    COASTAL WATERS

    EFFECTIVE THIS FRIDAY NIGHT AND SATURDAY MORNING FROM 800 PM
    UNTIL 200 AM EDT.

    TORNADOES…HAIL TO 1 INCH IN DIAMETER…THUNDERSTORM WIND GUSTS
    TO 70 MPH…AND DANGEROUS LIGHTNING ARE POSSIBLE IN THESE AREAS.

    THE TORNADO WATCH AREA IS APPROXIMATELY ALONG AND 70 STATUTE
    MILES EAST AND WEST OF A LINE FROM 35 MILES EAST SOUTHEAST OF
    ROANOKE RAPIDS NORTH CAROLINA TO 45 MILES NORTHEAST OF HARRISBURG
    PENNSYLVANIA. FOR A COMPLETE DEPICTION OF THE WATCH SEE THE
    ASSOCIATED WATCH OUTLINE UPDATE (WOUS64 KWNS WOU8).

    REMEMBER…A TORNADO WATCH MEANS CONDITIONS ARE FAVORABLE FOR
    TORNADOES AND SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS IN AND CLOSE TO THE WATCH
    AREA. PERSONS IN THESE AREAS SHOULD BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR
    THREATENING WEATHER CONDITIONS AND LISTEN FOR LATER STATEMENTS
    AND POSSIBLE WARNINGS.

    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/watch/ww0338.html

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