Making up historical tornado data

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Tornado at Lebanon, Kansas, from the collection of S. D. Flora. In: ‘Monthly Weather Review,” July 1919, p. 448. From the Historic NWS Collection, Location: Lebanon, Kansas, Photo Date: 1913 October 09 – Can we reliably say that because this tornado was photographed, there are others not seen?

From the “if a tornado hits a cornfield in Kansas, does it make a sound?” department comes this story. It isn’t enough that climate researchers have to constantly adjust the historical temperature record of the past to make it cooler, increasing the trend, now there’s talk of adjusting the historical tornado record because the technology explosion of the present lends itself to better reporting.

Problem is, tornado formation, being highly chaotic, can’t be as easily interpolated, infilled, and adjusted like temperature data can. Just because a tornado occurred in two places, doesn’t automatically mean there was one in between them that was unreported. Thunderstorm cell formation is micro to mesoscale in size, meaning tornadoes are highly local, and not all cells produce tornadoes, even if there is a line of tornadic prone cells with a front. They’ll have to make up reports out of whole cloth in my opinion. Interpolation of tornado sighting data just isn’t sensible, but they are going to try anyway:

Their model calls for the reported number in rural areas to be adjusted upward by a factor that depends on the number of tornadoes in the nearest city and the distance from the nearest city.

Also, in my opinion, this is statistical madness.

From an FSU press release, by Jill Elish

Twister history: FSU researchers develop model to correct tornado records for better risk assessment

In the wake of deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma this past spring, Florida State University researchers have developed a new statistical model that will help determine whether the risk of tornadoes is increasing and whether they are getting stronger.

Climatologists have been hampered in determining actual risks by what they call a population bias: That is, the fact that tornadoes have traditionally been underreported in rural areas compared to cities.

Now, FSU geography Professor James B. Elsner and graduate student Laura E. Michaels have outlined a method that takes the population bias into account, as well as what appears to be a recent surge in the number of reported tornadoes, thanks in part to an increasing number of storm chasers and recreational risk-takers roaming Tornado Alley.

Their model is outlined in the article “The Decreasing Population Bias in Tornado Reports across the Central Plains,” published in the American Meteorological Society’s journal Weather, Climate, and Society. The model offers a way to correct the historical data to account for the fact that there were fewer reports in previous decades. In addition to Elsner and Michaels, Kelsey N. Scheitlin, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Ian J. Elsner, a graduate student at the University of Florida, co-authored the paper.

“Most estimates of tornado risk are probably too low because they are based on the reported number of tornadoes,” Elsner said. “Our research can help better quantify the actual risk of a tornado. This will help with building codes and emergency awareness. With our research, the science of tornadoes can move forward to address questions related to whether cities enhance or inhibit tornadoes.”

Although other researchers have proposed methods to address the population bias, all of them assume the bias is constant over time, Elsner said. This model is the first to take into consideration how the population bias has changed over time.

Historically, the number of reported tornadoes across the premiere storm chase region of the central Plains is lowest in rural areas. However, the number of tornado reports in the countryside has increased dramatically since the 1970s and especially since the 1996 release of the disaster movie “Twister.” The movie spawned a generation of storm chasers who are partially responsible for more tornado reports, Elsner said.

Interestingly, Elsner’s model was developed after he led a team of undergraduate and graduate students on a storm-chasing mission of their own.

“While we were driving around the Great Plains looking for storms, I challenged my students to think about how the historical data could be used to better estimate the risk of getting hit by a tornado,” he said. “The observations of other chasers and the geographic spacing of towns led us to our model for correcting the historical record.”

In addition to more storm chasers logging tornado sightings, greater public awareness of tornadoes and advances in reporting technology, including mobile Internet and GPS navigating systems, may also have contributed to the increase in reports over the past 15 to 20 years.

The increase in reports has diminished the population bias somewhat, but it introduced a second problem: There are more reports, but are there also, in fact, more tornadoes? In other words, is the risk actually increasing?

To address these issues, the FSU researchers first made the assumption that the frequency of tornadoes is the same in cities as in rural areas. They also operated on the assumption that the reported number of tornadoes in rural areas is low relative to the actual number of tornadoes.

Their model calls for the reported number in rural areas to be adjusted upward by a factor that depends on the number of tornadoes in the nearest city and the distance from the nearest city. The model shows that it is likely that tornadoes are not occurring with greater frequency, but there is some evidence to suggest that tornadoes are, in fact, getting stronger.

“The risk of violent tornadoes appears to be increasing,” Elsner said. “The tornadoes in Oklahoma City on May 31 and the 2011 tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., suggest that tornadoes may be getting stronger.”

The Oklahoma City tornado on May 31, 2013, was the largest tornado ever recorded, with a path of destruction measuring 2.6 miles in width. The Tuscaloosa and Joplin tornadoes are two of the most deadly and expensive natural disasters in recent U.S. history.

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92 Responses to Making up historical tornado data

  1. Mac the Knife says:

    Making Up Historical Tornado Data
    or perhaps just
    Making Up Hysterical Tornado Data

  2. hunter says:

    is this a bad thing for skeptics? that is a seperate question from “is it good science?”
    If it can be shown that there were even more tornados in the past, then those showings would make it more difficult for the alarmists of today to claim things are “worse than predicted”.
    Now is it good science? I leave this question to others.

  3. Dyrewulf says:

    Normally, I’d have something fairly sarcastic to say about the practice of ‘filling in the statistics with data that supports their theory,’ but really, Voltaire (the musician) says it for me: http://youtu.be/4bBD5yyT-s0

  4. crosspatch says:

    They should be fired immediately with no further debate. Anyone even publicly entertaining such a thing is not fit to be in the field of science. At this point they are not scientists, they are artists attempting to paint the desired picture. They should be shown the door. Today.

  5. Tim Ball says:

    Can you say “cook the books”. It is the only reason for this proposal.

    I don’t know if it is still the case, but Environment Canada policy used to say, appropriately, a tornado only occurred if it was observed.

  6. hunter says:

    Oooops….by the way the closing assertion: “The Tuscaloosa and Joplin tornadoes are two of the most deadly and expensive natural disasters in recent U.S. history.” is a very misleading claim, since it is not defined as to what “recent US history” means.

  7. I have no problem with annotating current recordings with whether the tornado would likely have been reported in 1900 and 1950. This is NOT an adjustment. It is an opinion, an estimate, of the increase in our technical capability to observe. This estimate can be debated, adjusted, and used or ignored as other researchers desire. Do this instead of adjusting historical records.

    If we cannot observe a tonado today…. it really doesn’t exist.

  8. otsar says:

    I smell insurance lobby money.

  9. EW3 says:

    The prof has quite a CV. http://www.coss.fsu.edu/geography//elsner/Elsner_fullvita.pdf

    He’s one money making machine, check out his grants.

  10. Theo Goodwin says:

    “Problem is, tornado formation, being highly chaotic, can’t be as easily interpolated, infilled, and adjusted like temperature data can. Just because a tornado occurred in two places, doesn’t automatically mean there was one in between them that was unreported.”

    I feel the pain in those words. I feel it every time that some Alarmist agency does not have the data that they want so they make up some data. Unfortunately, I feel that pain often. Alarmists believe that their theories or their models give them the power to create data and, even worse, they believe that the Scientific Method permits data creation out of whole cloth when theories or models are sufficiently beautiful or awesome. Call it “Valley Girl” data and “Valley Girl” science. According to actual scientific method, if no one experienced the proposed datum and there is no reliable instrument on the scene recording the proposed datum then the proposed datum is no datum at all.

    Just how low will Alarmist institutions go?

  11. cms says:

    Only one tornado in the top twenty five was in the 21st century. The most deadly was in 1925.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tri-State_Tornado
    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/killers.html

  12. GaryW says:

    It is kinda sad that these supposed tornado experts don’t know how the system works these days. The NWS Doppler radar is monitored during potential tornado outbreaks. Once the storms have passed, that info is used by emergency response folks to tour back country for possible unreported tornado touchdowns. The NWS folks are notified and examine tornado tracks to evaluate size for reporting. There are very few tornadoes that go unreported these days.

  13. James Elsner has already acknowledged to me by email that the data available for assessing tornado size and intensity is only possible back to the mid 1990′s, as data previously was “had problems”

    We also already know that the NWS changed their methods for measuting width in 1994 from average width to maximum width.

    http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/tornado-widthschanges-in-procedure/

    So why is Elsner misleading people by claims of “largest tornadoes” and “tornadoes getting stronger”?

  14. NotAGolfer says:

    Can’t satellites capture about any tornado these days?

  15. NotAGolfer says:

    Shouldn’t insurance companies mainly be interested in how many tornadoes hit populated areas anyway?

  16. Myron Mesecke says:

    I am an amateur radio operator. I can’t wait for next Spring when I attend the Skywarn class by the NWS. I will make sure this is a hot topic.The NWS depends on hams and other trained storm spotters to verify what the radar is showing and to give accurate information.

  17. Bob Shapiro says:

    So, are they going to say that, since there were fewer people to report tornadoes in Tornado Alley 50, 100, or 150 years ago, then they are going to adjust historical records upward? That would give the appearance that today’s level of tornadoes is no big deal.

  18. KNR says:

    ‘Problem is, tornado formation, being highly chaotic, can’t be as easily interpolated, infilled, and adjusted like temperature data can.’

    oh yes they can , using the ‘magic power’ of models they can make day into night and snow
    into fire . So this is easy stuff.

  19. Crustacean says:

    If, as is certainly the case, more tornadoes went unreported the farther back you go in time, then inventing “data” to “correct” for unreported storms will make the present appear less tornado-prone by comparison. So are these people subversives trying to undermine CAGW theory, or are they warmists who are just so carelessly presumptuous that they didn’t bother thinking through what they’re doing?

    Or (the likeliest explanation,) did this just look like an easy, undemanding way to get something published?

  20. Gail Combs says:

    OH Good Grief! That land is not empty. Leave it to the urbanites to completely neglect the fact people actually live in ‘Fly-over Country’

    Seems they forgot the Homestead Act of 1862 allowing citizens to claim up to 160 acres of land and prior to that the buying of a minimum of 320 acres in 4 installments. (1800) By 1934, over 1.6 million homestead applications were processed and more than 270 million acres—10 percent of all U.S. lands—passed into the hands of individuals. The passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 repealed the Homestead Act.

    They also forgot 14 million acres of rangelands leased to ranchers by the BLM and the logging of federal land.

    If you owned or lease land you are going to notice if a tornado did any damage. If it was decent size tornado the local town newspaper (desperate for a story) is going to report it.

  21. James Strom says:

    The point Anthony has made about hurricanes is that our observations are now more systematic and complete than in the past. So the reasonable “adjustment” would be to make the past more stormy. Same with tornadoes. It will be interesting to see whether FSU goes on to populate currently existing rural areas with unseen tornadoes, or puts new tornadoes into the distant past. At least one of these approaches, possibly both, seems pretty dicey.

  22. MattS says:

    Theo Goodwin,

    “Just how low will Alarmist institutions go?”

    They are already at the center of the earth, all directions are up.

  23. Famous urban Rock Legend that if you play the Pink Floyd classic concept album Dark Side of the Moon its synchronizes perfectly with the 1939 Judy Garland Hollywood classic Wizard of Oz.

    Check the Youtube clip, and I let you be the judge.

    PS THE book Wizard of Oz was of course written in 1900 at the very start of the 20th century, long before the Micheal Mann’s Hockey Stick began to take off. So they were very much worried about tornados back then.

  24. Ron Hansen says:

    I think an award should be given for the year’s outstanding CLIMATE AGNOTOLOGIST, and a weblog award also to the year’s outstanding CLIMATE AGNOTOLOGY BLOG.

    Possibly a poll or we could vote. That would be fun.

    There are soooo many candidates to choose from.

    Any suggestions?

  25. Crustaceon and others

    If, as is certainly the case, more tornadoes went unreported the farther back you go in time, then inventing “data” to “correct” for unreported storms will make the present appear less tornado-prone by comparison. So are these people subversives trying to undermine CAGW theory, or are they warmists who are just so carelessly presumptuous that they didn’t bother thinking through what they’re doing?

    Note that Elsner, while unable to deny decreasing tornado numbers, is trying to hang his hat on “stronger” tornadoes.

    Always watch the pea!

  26. steven says:

    What do you get when you cross a tornado and a hockeystick?

  27. philjourdan says:

    The reporting is better. Ok, we get that. Stop lying about the past! Put an asterisk by any records you see and say “we don’t know about the past”. It is called honesty.

  28. DAV says:

    At Briggs’s site there is this: “The love of theory is the root of all evil. ”

    So here we have a love of theory so great that the model of it MUST be right and the empirical data MUST be wrong. With such a model who need the data?

  29. What do you get when you cross a tornado and a hockey stick ? A lot of broken Timber scattered across Oklahoma and another speech from Obama.

  30. chris moffatt says:

    If what they are trying to assess is risk then surely tornadoes that weren’t reported because they weren’t observed are of no interest whatsoever? Maybe I’m missing something? Seems to me they’d want to know the ratio of tornadoes that hit something to tornadoes that verifiably occurred.

  31. Steven Mosher says:

    Imagine that you are keeping count of the number of lighting strikes in your town

    from 1900 to 2000 you count 1 lighting strikes per month. thats 12 per year since 1900.

    Next, iin 2001 you start counting lighting strikes at the golf course 10 miles outside town

    and in 2005 you start counting lighting strikes in the whole county using a satillite.

    for 100 years you are seeing 1 strike per month. then in the next 5 years the total at the golf course is 3. and then after 2005 the count for the whole county is 10 per month.

    have the number of lightening strikes increased?

    ‘adjusting” the past data is the wrong terminology. What they are doing is estimating the number in the past that would have been observed had the current observation system been in place.

    REPLY: and it’s STILL a bogus approach – Anthony

  32. PS correction should read

    and yet another long boring sanctimonious speech from Obama.

  33. Doug Huffman says:

    “The Tuscaloosa and Joplin tornadoes are two of the most deadly and expensive natural disasters in recent U.S. history.” Correlates nicely with burgeoning population (density) and inflated (dollar) values.

  34. philjourdan says:

    @Steve Mosher – and what tree rings do they use for this estimate?

    They have not yet been able to accurately forecast tornadoes, so what makes you think they can “estimate” them with any kind of accuracy?

  35. …..also a brand new episode of Storm Chasers on Discovery Channel

  36. Pamela Gray says:

    Who knew we had lost tornadoes? But the model he refers to in the article above is just a counting model. Here is another article on the next generation model that tries to calculate missing violent tornadoes. It includes code folks.

    http://myweb.fsu.edu/jelsner/PDF/Research/ElsnerMurnaneJaggerWiden2013.pdf

    Have fun.

    Ya know, I bet someone will come up with a model that finds the missing people who were looking at the missing tornado. That way we can predic…er…project where to stand next time.

  37. Man Bearpig says:

    Hunter says:
    ,,,
    Now is it good science? I leave this question to others.

    Science is not about being selective if one thing helps support a scientific theory or not, that is known as confirmation bias then you can’t just accept something because it makes something look better (or worse) .. What you can do is question the science this particular question raises the simple question … Why do they need or want to do this? what would be the purpose of such data?

  38. HankH says:

    In medical research, we don’t make up data we don’t have. It is what it is. If we think there is some deficiency in a dataset because of different instruments or methods compared to today, we call it out rather than cover it up. Climatology has become so adjustment happy, they’re forgetting that while it might be interesting to play “what if,” you can’t replace empirical data with manufactured data and pass it off as reality.

  39. Pamela Gray says:

    Think risk assessment dollars. A whole lot more rural countryside filled with “don’t need it, don’t want it, get the hell off my property” folks will have to buy tornado insurance. Plus ALL the stories and research press releases are perfectly made for “Bleed? LEAD!” front page sound bites. If you are a climate researcher, what’s not to like? You are a media darling!

  40. Man Bearpig says:

    This ‘data’ can only be used for comparative purposes? The trouble with this is, the people making the comparisons may well be the people that make the adjustments can get any result they like.

    Something that may not have been considered is that this ‘adjustment’ may be an effort to remove a series of single tornadoes that may have been reported two or three times bringing the historical record down. That is what my money would be on.

    Watch the pea!

  41. mkelly says:

    Steven Mosher says:

    September 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    They must make an assumption that there was a storm capable of producing lightning first. I did not know assuming something into existence was a proper scientific method. Just as these folks will need to assume storm of proper configuration existed to add in more tornadoes.

    However, they will need to be careful not to add in too many as that could assist ‘deniers’.

  42. TomRude says:

    Wait a minute, if they adjust upward historical data, then our time might hardly be unprecedented…

  43. Jimbo says:

    “The risk of violent tornadoes appears to be increasing,” Elsner said. “The tornadoes in Oklahoma City on May 31 and the 2011 tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., suggest that tornadoes may be getting stronger.”

    Are they getting stronger or not? We have the technology. You MAY be wrong. Tornadoes MAY be getting weaker.

    Anything to get their hands on moola.

  44. Steven Mosher says:

    mkelly says:
    September 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm
    Steven Mosher says:

    September 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    They must make an assumption that there was a storm capable of producing lightning first. I did not know assuming something into existence was a proper scientific method. Just as these folks will need to assume storm of proper configuration existed to add in more tornadoes.

    However, they will need to be careful not to add in too many as that could assist ‘deniers’.

    #############################################

    Huh, you didnt answer my question.

    First, they are not assuming something into existence.
    Second, assuming things into existence is the heart of the scientific method.
    did you think that the electron was observed first and then explained? did you
    think that people saw atoms before they posited them?
    Lets take the neutrino, that’s even a weirder case. In the case of the neutrino
    the experiements suggested that the law of conservation of energy was wrong.
    So, it was suggested that maybe a particle existed that couldnt be observed yet.

    here is what they are doing. they are making an estimate based on on a set of assumptions.
    nothing more nothing less. I assume you were born even though I never observed that you
    were actually inside a human female. Even though you have no video of the event.
    In fact there is no observational evidence of your birth. And if there were we would have to assume it wasnt faked. We infer it based on a whole host of assumptions. Those assumptions have worked in the past, have stood the test of time, and we assume that they will continue to work. But who knows you could be alien spawn grown in a petrie dish. Highly unlikely, in fact it would be crazy to believe that. But logically speaking its a possibility, vanishingly small with no evidence to support it, but logically possible.

  45. Robert W Turner says:

    Did they really suggest that tornadoes are increasing in size by pointing out three recent tornadoes as if their occurrence somehow shows that tornadoes are getting larger? You can’t get any more unscientific than this!

    Looking at the tornado data on NOAA’s website is interesting. Take Kansas for instance. We all know that there is a reporting bias that has increased the number of known tornadoes since the late 70s, but what is interesting is that the number of reported F3+ tornadoes hasn’t increased despite the reporting bias. What is even more surprising is that the number of days in which tornadoes have occurred in Kansas have actually slightly decreased since 1950 and the number of days in which an F3+ tornado has occurred has decreased more so. The actual data, at least for Kansas, suggest that there are less large tornadoes now than in the 50s-60s. NOAA seemingly agrees and they even suggest the total number of tornadoes has decreased as well. –

    “Tornado days are generally considered a better measure of tornado trends over time than tornado occurances due to the increased reporting of tornadoes since the 1980s-90s”

  46. IF they adjust the past history of tornado production could they please send me the Lat and Long, length of track, and F rating of the “new” archaic revised tornado data from the past so i can use it in my analog forecasts?

  47. chemman says:

    Man Bearpig says:
    September 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm
    Why do they need or want to do this? what would be the purpose of such data?
    __________________________________________________________________________
    Since it wasn’t observed or measured it is only speculation and not data.

  48. Pamela Gray says:

    Let me say this another way. First, rural areas with few tornadoes probably had more. So let’s quantify more and sell insurance. Now let’s sweeten the pot. Let’s put violent tornadoes in the middle of the little ones cuz they shoulda been there but no one was watching. Now let’s up the price of tornado insurance. Somewhere down the line we will be able to get away with manufacturing the data that shows all this stuff is getting worse too. Then we will also be able to manufacture the increase in heat because there are missing thermometers. And now we have confirmed global climate change. Kill the witches.

  49. u.k.(us) says:

    “The risk of violent tornadoes appears to be increasing,” Elsner said. “The tornadoes in Oklahoma City on May 31 and the 2011 tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., suggest that tornadoes may be getting stronger.”
    =============
    Stronger ?, really.
    How would one tell when wind speeds can vary by 50 MPH in the space of a city block.
    Maybe you meant larger ?
    Based upon the science of determining wind speeds from the damage path, which is a newer tool in its infancy.

    You say “suggest”, I say get more data.

  50. DesertYote says:

    hunter says:
    September 12, 2013 at 11:29 am

    is this a bad thing for skeptics? that is a seperate question from “is it good science?”
    ###
    If its bad science then it is a lie, which is bad for skeptics.

    Leave the lying to the watermelons, its the only thing they are good at.

    If you use the weapons of the devil, you will become the devil.

  51. Corey S. says:

    “That is, the fact that tornadoes have traditionally been underreported in rural areas compared to cities.”

    So, they are saying that those yokels in the sticks don’t know how to report a tornado, or neglected to when their homes or crops were destroyed? Seriously? Why don’t they just come out and call them dumb.

    If anyone has been to a ‘rural’ area, you would know that that type of event would be put down in the local newspaper. I am also sure that the tornado just didn’t sit there and hit that rural area, not moving on to a more populated area.

    “With our research, the science of tornadoes can move forward to address questions related to whether cities enhance or inhibit tornadoes.”

    All someone wants to know is if a tornado is coming. They don’t care about the science of the whole thing. That is why they have tornado sirens in cities that are prone to having twisters. What, are they going to move the cities, or get rid of them? Whether or not they ‘enhance’ them is irrelevant.

  52. Charlie A says:

    I guess I’m in the minority here in that I welcome this project. Just like we know that early 20th century hurricanes were underreported, it is likely that earlier tornadoes were underreported.

    If someone is trying to do trend analysis, it is best to do it with both the raw, unadjusted data; and also with the best possible adjustments/estimates/fudge factors. Of course, one should alway be careful to show what is actually being calculated.

  53. Theo Goodwin says:

    Steven Mosher says:
    September 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Poor Mosher, you still don’t understand that there is a world that is independent of you and that your theories about it and your models have no impact on it. You also don’t understand that you must respect that world. Your best estimates are not bounded by that real world. So they fall outside of scientific method and are no better than any other kind of make-believe.

    If every lightning strike left a permanent strike marker and these markers were easy to find and you were willing to test your estimates against the markers, then your estimates would be worth something because they would be bounded by the real world. But there is no such thing as a permanent strike marker. Your estimate, no matter how sophisticated, cannot be more real than the non-existent permanent strike marker.

  54. Theo Goodwin says:

    Corey S. says:
    September 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    “So, they are saying that those yokels in the sticks don’t know how to report a tornado, or neglected to when their homes or crops were destroyed? Seriously? Why don’t they just come out and call them dumb.”

    Guess who really is dumb? Apparently, these so-called “scientists” are looking for the evanescent tornado, the one that never touched down. (Farmers and foresters and all local people identify tornadoes by their tracks and those people know their farms and forests like they know the back of their hands.)

  55. And what will be the headlines tomorrow?

    Scientists find tornadoes are getting stronger!

  56. Jan Curtis says:

    The same can be said with Hurricane Statistics:
    http://www.theweatherspace.com/2013/09/11/noaa-pushes-humberto-to-hurricane-status-without-proof-to-fulfill-global-warming-agenda/
    NOAA Pushes Humberto To Hurricane Status Without Proof To Fulfill Global Warming Agenda

  57. Butch says:

    There is no such thing as an honest scientist anymore. Its and oxymoron. Scientists are either chasing popularity, grant money or the cheerleader! They are more that likely destined to achieve none of the above unless they are willing to lie, cheat and steal! We have entered the age of ObamaScience!

  58. Stevec says:

    Everyone knows tornadoes are more dangerous now because of all the sharks!

  59. Jan Curtis says:

    Let me understand this correctly. If in fact, historical tornado data are underestimating the number of tornadoes, then by increasing those numbers, doesn’t it lessen, not increase the trend slope for future tornado occurrences??????

  60. Jonathan Smith says:

    Steven Mosher – In your lighting example; instead of ‘guessing’ at the number of historic lightning strikes in the county it would be better to have 3 data sets. One going back to 1900 for lightning strokes in town; one going back to 2001 for lighting strikes in town + golf course; and one going back to 2005 for lighting strikes in the whole county.

    That lets you compare real historic data with current trends while allowing you to build new datasets which, over time, will eventually be able to address trends in enlarged coverage area.

    That’s roughly the equivalent of Stephen Rasey’s post from upthread to (instead of ‘inventing’ historic tornadoes) create a annotation in newer tornado records for tornadoes that (due to location, small size, or time of day) are considered unlikely to have been recorded if they’d happened ‘X’ years ago. That let’s you compare the real historic record with a reasonably filtered modern record to do ‘same to same’ trend comparisons without modifying the historic record. It’s going to be more far more reliable and defensible to filter out (some) observed events than to estimate unobserved ones.

  61. Gail Combs says:

    Charlie A says: @ September 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I guess I’m in the minority here in that I welcome this project…..

    If someone is trying to do trend analysis, it is best to do it with both the raw, unadjusted data; and also with the best possible adjustments/estimates/fudge factors. Of course, one should alway be careful to show what is actually being calculated.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    What you are doing is fooling yourself. If the data is spotty or does not exist it does not exist and wishing it into existence doesn’t get you more accurate data it just introduces MORE ERROR.

    What is happening is people have fancy new toys to play with and it is lots easier to sit in an A/C office and play with a computer than it is to get off your duff and search through the dusty newspaper morgues of every tiny little town in the USA. (My Father-in-law and his family ran small town newspapers for generations and yes the morgue still exists.)

  62. otsar says:

    Hmm let me see. I see one of many possibilities: The banks making seed loans to the farmers will require crop tornado insurance in areas, that had in the past, man made tornadoes, that never were. Banks making mortgage loans…

  63. Radical Rodent says:

    It is odd to note that people cannot couple increasing population with increasing victims of tornadoes (hurricanes/droughts/floods/whatever weather disaster happens). The reports are, even from the BBC, that this year has seen fewer tornadoes than normal. Similarly, the frequency and power of hurricanes has decreased over recent years, with none to date this year, yet the number of people affected has increased. The AGWists find this odd, and insist that hurricanes be recategorised, not to strength of wind, but to potential number of victims and damage done. Similarly, in the UK, more and more homes are being built on the flood plains of rivers. Well, guess what – the number of homes affected by flooding is increasing! Without having access to the figures, my own suspicion is that the incidence of widespread flooding in the UK is actually decreasing. Of course, this anomaly is overlooked by the AGWists – it is all the fault of climate change (or global warming or whatever they are calling it today).

    As someone has wittily noted on another post (not even sure it was the same subject): these alarmists want to take the guesswork out of Russian roulette – by loading all six chambers!

    Henry II had it easy – he only had one troublesome priest to be rid of.

    (Historians, please note: I only use this as an allegory; I know the king did not actually want Thomas Beckett slaughtered.)

  64. Gail Combs says:

    Butch says: @ September 12, 2013 at 2:56 pm
    There is no such thing as an honest scientist anymore. Its and oxymoron. Scientists are either chasing popularity, grant money or the cheerleader! ….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Yes there are still honest scientists you meet a lot of them here at WUWT. Dr. Tim Ball is one. However I will grant you scientists with integrity are few and far between and often get fired or otherwise abused for opening their mouths.

  65. What if the occurrence of historic tornadoes is related to ion dis-charges between the clouds and the ground/water table, and the increase in power grids with every power pole grounded locally at its base, and also at the transformers linking the net to the HV distribution systems. Then the increase in rural electrification would be adding additional discharge paths for the creation of more rural tornadoes, along with the intensification of urban occurrences where the grid and connected metal buildings, are the most dense?
    Prior to 1950 there was no formal process of reporting tornadoes, the only records kept/recovered were from the occurrences of injuries or death claims from insurance records, and the occasional news paper article of building damages.

  66. Kev-in-Uk says:

    I have absolutely no problem with someone playing around with the data for fun – but if this is intended to be a serious scientific endeavour, then that someone needs to be taken aside and given a serious slap! ‘Fixing’ data in such a way cannot possibly be validated, ever, period, full stop.
    My first reaction to this post, was OMFG ! – and I would anticipate all science trained folk hereabouts would think the same. It is in the realms of fantasy to invent ‘observations’ or ‘data’ and must be considered as completely false.
    @Mosher – yeah, they may well be ‘estimating’ ‘missed’ observations – but estimating based on current observations is a falsehood – even moreso, when they then try and say tornadoes are increasing/decreasing/whatever – talk about generating a false trend! -it would be farcical in the extreme. Jeez – the mere fact you try and defend this is laughable!

  67. page488 says:

    Every time I see the phrase “ever recorded” in some pronouncement purporting to be scientific, as if the phrase has some earth-shattering scientific significance, my brain shuts it out.

  68. kalsel3294 says:

    If they are really interested in trends, then surely confining the collection to those areas where accurate historical data is available would yield the correct result, unless of course it can be shown that increased population density attracts increased tornado activity.

  69. mkelly says:

    Steven Mosher says:

    September 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Steve no electrons were wished into existence they existed in fact.

    These folks have make up a storm that may never have existed.

  70. Gary Pearse says:

    “Twister history: FSU researchers develop model to correct tornado records for better risk assessment”

    Gee Whiz! What are you clucks going to do – correct payments for past risk? If the present means of determining how many tornadoes there are is satisfactory, how can “correcting” the past make better risk assessment for now, Explain how a destructive tornado of yesteryear avoided not being mentioned by the people whose farm was blown away.. If there was a tornado that did go undetected, it did so because it didn’t do any damage so there was no risk attached to it. Cor’ Blimey, when are these guys going to be arrested or have their toys taken away from them?

  71. Gail Combs says:

    My husband just gave me an example of how the ‘Data Accumulators’ are not bothering to do their homework and actually gather real data. First there was a tornado that went through the area in 1840 that was big enough to be the talk of the town years later that is not listed. Second the ‘Official Website’ also lists volcanoes as ‘Zero’ Only one problem there is a volcano (I have stood on top of it) and it was written about in the family newspaper more than once.

    As I said the newspaper morgue is intact and near Boston, you can even get to it by rail, but no one bothered to get off their duffs to actually do the work of gathering data. Just another sterling example of Steve McIntyre’s ‘Starbucks hypothesis’

    …From the first moment that I got involved with paleoclimate, it seemed obvious to me (as it is to anyone not on the Team) that, if the classic “proxies” are any good and not merely opportunistic correlations, that there is an ideal opportunity to perform out-of-sample testing of the canonical Team reconstructions by bringing the proxies up-to-date. I wrote an Op Ed in February 2005 for the National Post entitled “Bring the Proxies Up to Date”, where I expressed the view that this was really the first order of business in Team world….

    I’ve continued to satirize this failure pointing out that several of Graybill’s classic bristlecone sites were easily accessible from UCAR world headquarters in Boulder and that no heroic expedition was required to update…..
    …Pete Holzmann (Mr Pete), who lives in Colorado Springs, agreed with this satire and this led to what I’ll call the Starbucks Hypothesis: could a climate scientist have a Starbucks in the morning, collect tree rings through the day and still be home for dinner?

    To make a long story short, last summer, when my wife and I visited my sister in Colorado Springs and I thought that it would be rather fun to test the Starbucks Hypothesis…..

  72. Jtom says:

    I have to echo what Kev-in-UK wrote. Making unverifiable assumptions and running with them can make for interesting dinner conversation, but it is not science. Estimating the unknown AND unknowable does not advance science. How does one replicate this ‘research’? Use their same assumptions and confirm their math? AFA their assumption, did they make adjustments for regional droughts, excessive rain, cold snaps, and heat waves? Did they factor in ENSO and its effect on weather (and tornadoes are weather events, not climate)?

    As far as ‘infilling’ missing data, here’s a replicable sample of how ‘useful’ it can be: In the middle of summer go outside at 6am, noon, and 6pm. In each case the sun is visible in the sky. Since most of us are asleep at midnight, we will just infill the missing data, and clearly there is no reason not to believe the sun would be visible in the sky. Where do I get my study grant for how that impacts global warming?

    These so-called scientists are just looking to publish without doing any research.

  73. _Jim says:

    Steven Mosher says September 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Imagine that …

    I would hope that perhaps the use of certain noted ‘precursor’ and/or associated events such as would be noted or recorded by the US Weather Bureau in its observer records are consulted in this endeavor, esp. the written records of rainfall, the passage of fronts (can be noted in particular by next day’s temperature being lower) … I would say those are probably fairly good ‘proxies’ for the precursor T-storm events required for leading up and into “imagined” or hind-casted ‘tornado’ events …

    .

  74. Kev-in-Uk says:

    _Jim says:
    September 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Jim; that’s still BS fabrication – kind of like saying I saw clouds, so it must have rained…….and we all know how ‘local’ rain CAN be, especially on a showery day? The ‘precursors’ to any event does not mean that event will have happened. Heck, you drive a car, you know you can have an accident, but how often do you crash? The precursors are there, you are regularly in your car on a road!!

  75. _Jim says:

    page488 says September 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Every time I see the phrase “ever recorded” in some pronouncement …

    It helps in these occasions to think of what appears on the front of the various supermarket tabloids e.g. The Enquirer, The Globe, Weekly World News and Sun, …

    For entertainment purposes only: Weekly World News front page stories

    Yesterday’s story: “THE RETURN OF THE ZEPPELIN!” Obama to Fly First!
    http://weeklyworldnews.com/headlines/57772/the-return-of-the-zeppelin/

    .

  76. _Jim says:

    re: Kev-in-Uk says September 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Not really Kevin; Oops, I see by the moniker you’re in the UK … perhaps you do not associate the occurrence of severe weather as we do in the states with the passage of fronts.

    Anyway, you’re overlooking the obvious: This was a ‘homework’ assignment to the researchers as a necessary prerequisite which required verification before any W. A. Guesses were cast about as to the assumption of some ‘new’ number of tornadoes (also a rarity in jolly ‘ole England I take it?)

    .

  77. Jeff Alberts says:

    “from 1900 to 2000 you count 1 lighting strikes per month. thats 12 per year since 1900.”

    If, while reading the above, you thought “from nineteen hundred to two thousand…” Just slap yourself in the face, hard, twice.

  78. CRS, DrPH says:

    I don’t know about tornados, but we had these amazing tornadic waterspouts form over Lake Michigan today, just off the shore of Kenosha, WI! Clearly, carbon dioxide is the cause….

  79. Greg Goodman says:

    Tornado undercounting is a restricted to EF1 and below (where it is a marked effect).
    EF2 and higher is historically consistent and puts the lie to the idea that storms are either more frequent or that more powerful storms are more frequent.

    Thiat is a myth propagated by modellers that simple does not happen in the real world.
    http://climategrog.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=255

    They’d do better to adjust the models than the data.

  80. Geoff Sherrington says:

    If nobody above has already said this, pardon me.
    If you do an artificial adjustment along these lines, you are adjusting out any real variation that might be there. Suppose the natural variability was 3 events a month (or whatever) on 1900 and 5 events in 2000. If you inflate the past to 5 in 1900 and keep 5 in 2000 and infill, you are assuming that there is NO NATURAL VARIABILITY.
    If you adjust to give no natural variability, what the heck is your reason to do an analysis?
    You know the answer before you start.
    Maybe the 1900 observations were correct and there is a real trend in this imaginary example. No reason to infill.
    So why do it? No reason in any case.
    Useless as tits on a bull.

  81. Ian W says:

    Steven Mosher says:
    September 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm
    ……

    ‘adjusting” the past data is the wrong terminology. What they are doing is estimating the number in the past that would have been observed had the current observation system been in place.

    Steven,
    I am disappointed that you can make such a statement.
    What they are doing is ‘guessing’. They are making the assumption that tornado outbreaks were the same in the past as they are now in the spread of intensities and numbers. So if today there is a large F5 tornado and the season had n smaller tornadoes, then that means the same distribution of tornadoes existed in past seasons. This is a totally unscientific and assumption and has no basis in meteorology. There is no ‘standard distribution’ of tornadoes – geographic, strength or temporal that allows this type of infilling as their occurrence is chaotic. So the good professor, his students, and now you, are inventing relationships that do not exist. This cannot in any way be called scientific and the output is pure guesswork modeled by parameterized software.

  82. Henry Galt says:

    steven says:
    September 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    “What do you get when you cross a tornado and a hockeystick?”

    Ish calld a swizzleschtick old bean. ‘nother Pimms?

  83. Jquip says:

    Mosher — “‘adjusting” the past data is the wrong terminology. What they are doing is estimating the number in the past that would have been observed had the current observation system been in place.”

    Yes, they are estimating the past unobserved obsevables *by adjusting* the count past observed observables. Now, quite obviously this is not an empirical experiment. We cannot empirically observe unobserved observables that have already gone and went. So it is either a valid theory or simply not science.

    As to adjusting historical data or future data for the purpose of attaining continuity in measurements: Then it’s nothing more than a reference frame quibble. If their math is valid you can raise the past or lower the future. The math doesn’t care which. Pragmatically, however, it then requires that you update *every past tinkered estimate* on the production of each new future observable. Which is a little bit stupid. Other than that and attempts at deceitful chart porn, it is wholly irrelevant.

    Is it a valid theory? Sure, same problems with calling a duck a duck though. If they claim it is something other than a theory, then it’s pure bollocks. But it is a valid theory, albeit a non-replicable one. This is not the end of the universe of course, we simply cannot replicate on demand. It requires we *wait* and *watch* numerous tornado seasons go by, and see how the observed observables jive with their theory. If the past values end up being adjusted by future observables, then the theory is knackered. How knackered requires a host of future seasons to go by — without altering the theory — to know just how knackered.

    But until that point it is a pure theory that has *yet* to be legitimately tested. There is no need to give it any belief to the affirmative or negative. It’s simply idle trivia that does not warrant futzing around with actuarial tables or Tornado credits. Oddly enough, you might recognize that these statements apply to the vast raft of climate science.

    Nothing wrong with your notions as posted generally and I don’t mean to dog you on it. Just adding in the little things I thought should be mentioned.

  84. Paul Coppin says:

    “Reporting” – what does that mean? There is no serious statistical analysis of the observation methodology (or even of the how to do it). Every time we get a severe thunderstorm up here we get lots of scud reported as “wall clouds”, primarily because we get a few good tornados every few years, and thereafter, for the entire severe weather season, we get lots of reports – every storm damage becomes a tornado.. People still have trouble distinguishing the sky and especially straight line gust fronts that blow down trees and knock over sheds regularly here. Are funnel clouds under reported? Very likely. Radar observations here often show mesocyclonic rotation that occasionally drops an F0 or F1 twister here, and you can bet there are lots of “F-1″ dustups. In the past most of these were viewed as just a “thunderstorm” and ignored. Now they’re “extreme weather”

    We’ve had a noticable uptick in tornado warnings here, mostly as a result of a perceived failure to under report by Environment Canada. People today don’t seem to know what their forebears knew: bad thunderstorms can knock you down and beat you up. Every time it happens, people are running around screaming “why didn’t you warn us?”. Two days ago we had the provincial emergency management office issuing tornado warnings where none existed (and had not been issued by Environment Canada), causing local emergency response units to activate their call-out tree. I’m sure many civilians “saw” tornados during that thunderstorm.

    Increased severe weather, or increased “severe weather hysteria”?

    BTW – what happened to preview?

  85. ferd berple says:

    With our research, the science of tornadoes can move forward to address questions related to whether cities enhance or inhibit tornadoes.”
    ================
    nonsense. you are adjusting tornado counts upwards based on proximity to cities, which will artificially skew the question of cities contribution. depending on the amount of adjustment, you can control whatever answer you get, thus you will get the answer you subconsciously expect.

  86. ferd berple says:

    Radical Rodent says:
    September 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm
    Similarly, in the UK, more and more homes are being built on the flood plains of rivers. Well, guess what – the number of homes affected by flooding is increasing!
    ==========
    farmers historically built their homes on the hill, and farmed the lowlands alongside the river. knowing full well that every now and then the river flooded the lowlands, and the silt thus deposited is what made for great farming.

    eventually the farms were sold for development and parceled up for home building. The new owners, not being farmers, were only too keen to pay a premium for waterfront homes alongside the river.

  87. Kev-in-Uk says:

    _Jim says:
    September 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I still have to disagree. Of course, if you a decent set of barometric readings, wind readings, temperature values, etc – over a closely spaced/gridded area – you may well be able to INFER that conditions were or were not ‘favourable’ for the formation of tornadoes, which I assume is what you are alluding too. However, adjusting data to fit any such inference is still completely false, For a start, you have no way of indicating uncertainty levels in your ‘inferences’? In such observational data, an event happens, or it doesn’t – there isn’t really any halfy-halfy state. Think binary here. What would you do? Invent a system which says that if there is 50% conditions met for possible tornado formation, that one didn;t form – or vice versa, that when 51% conditions are met , there was an ‘unseen’ or ‘unrecorded’ tornado? Sorry, but IMHO that is all complete BS and fabrication.
    (and yes, we have weather fronts, and I understand them very well! – but no, we don’t really do tornadoes!)

  88. benofhouston says:

    Looking at it, the purpose and reasoning seems sound, but the methodology is backwards. What they should do is map all the current tornados, and all the past tornados. Then, they should find the blind spots in the past and put blinders on those areas for present tornados. This way, we can easily compare the two time periods.

    True, this will make it difficult to create a single, pretty chart, but it will involve real data and subsets of such, rather than making things up whole-cloth.

  89. Duster says:

    You would think that if we can image the track of dust devils on Mars, it should be fairly simple to look for similar tracks in satellite images and just count them. It would require far less guess work.

  90. dp says:

    If the observed data isn’t falling your way, make shtuff up with zero-skill modelers and their models. Is it any wonder mothers won’t let their children grow up to be climate scientists?

  91. Michael says:

    Someone with library research skills will have to verify this, but after the tornado swarm of April 3 1974, the speculation was that it was caused by the airplane carrying Vice President Ford to the opening day game in Cincinnati. The plane was running late and had to fly faster than usual to get to the game on time. Nature is always the fault of some human, usually on the political right. Statistics show this as much then as now.

  92. old44 says:

    I am about to embark on statistical modelling project that proves all dogs have five legs, if I can manage to get the words “Climate Change” into the title what are the chances of a government grant?

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