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

Dr. Roger Pielke Jr  on his Blog, April 18th writes:

A new analysis of floods around the world has been called to my attention. The new analysis is contrary to conventional wisdom but consistent with the scientific literature on global trends in peak streamflows. Is it possible that floods are not increasing or even in decline while most people have come to believe the opposite?

Bouziotas et al. presented a paper at the EGU a few weeks ago (PDF) and concluded:

Analysis of trends and of aggregated time series on climatic (30-year) scale does not indicate consistent trends worldwide. Despite common perception, in general, the detected trends are more negative (less intense floods in most recent years) than positive. Similarly, Svensson et al. (2005) and Di Baldassarre et al. (2010) did not find systematical change neither in flood increasing or decreasing numbers nor change in flood magnitudes in their analysis.


Note the phrase I highlighted:“Despite common perception”.  I was very pleased to see that in context with a conclusion from real data.

That “common perception” is central to the theme of “global climate disruption”, started by John P. Holdren in this presentation, which is one of the new buzzword phrases after “global warming” and “climate change” used to convey alarm.

Like Holdren, many people who ascribe to doomsday scenarios related to AGW seem to think that severe weather is happening more frequently. From a perception not steeped in the history of television technology, web technology, and mass media, which has been my domain of avocation and business, I can see how some people might think this. I’ve touched on this subject before, but it bears repeating again and in more detail.

Let’s consider how we might come to think that severe weather is more frequent than before. Using this Wikipedia timeline as a start, I’ve created a timeline that tracks the earliest communications to the present, adding also severe weather events of note and weather and news technology improvements for context.

  • Prior to 3500BC – Communication was carried out through paintings of indigenous tribes.
  • 3500s BC – The Sumerians develop cuneiform writing and the Egyptians develop hieroglyphic writing
  • 16th century BC – The Phoenicians develop an alphabet
  • AD 26-37 – Roman Emperor Tiberius rules the empire from island of Capri by signaling messages with metal mirrors to reflect the sun
  • 105 – Tsai Lun invents paper
  • 7th century – Hindu-Malayan empires write legal documents on copper plate scrolls, and write other documents on more perishable media
  • 751 – Paper is introduced to the Muslim world after the Battle of Talas
  • 1305 – The Chinese develop wooden block movable type printing
  • 1450 – Johannes Gutenberg finishes a printing press with metal movable type
  • 1520 – Ships on Ferdinand Magellan‘s voyage signal to each other by firing cannon and raising flags.
  • 1776 The Pointe-à-Pitre hurricane was at one point the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. At least 6,000 fatalities occurred on Guadeloupe, which was a higher death toll than any known hurricane before it. It also struck Louisiana, but there was no warning nor knowledge of the deaths on Guadeloupe when it did. It also affected Antigua and Martinique early in its duration.
  • 1780 – The Great Hurricane of 1780, also known as Hurricane San Calixto is considered the deadliest Atlantic tropical cyclone of all time. About 22,000 people died when the storm swept over Martinique, St. Eustatius and Barbados between October 10 and October 16. Thousands of deaths also occurred offshore. Reports of this hurricane took weeks to reach US newspapers of the era.
  • 1793 – Claude Chappe establishes the first long-distance semaphore telegraph line
  • 1812 – The Aug. 19, 1812 New Orleans Hurricane that didn’t appear in the Daily National Intelligencer/(Washington, DC) until later September. Daily National Intelligencer. Sept. 22, 1812, p. 3. Dreadful Hurricane. The following letters present an account of the ravages of one of those terrific storms to which the Southern extreme of our continent is so subject. Extract of a letter from Gen. Wilkinson, dated New Orleans, August 22.
  • 1831 – Joseph Henry proposes and builds an electric telegraph
  • 1835 – Samuel Morse develops the Morse code
  • 1843 – Samuel Morse builds the first long distance electric telegraph line
  • 1844 – Charles Fenerty produces paper from a wood pulp, eliminating rag paper which was in limited supply
  • 1849 – Associated Press organizes Nova Scotia pony express to carry latest European news for New York newspapers
  • 1851 – The New York Times newspaper founded
  • 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson exhibit an electric telephone in Boston
  • 1877 – Thomas Edison patents the phonograph
  • 1889 – Almon Strowger patents the direct dial telephone
  • 1901 – Guglielmo Marconi transmits radio signals from Cornwall to Newfoundland
  • 1906 – Reginald Fessenden used a synchronous rotary-spark transmitter for the first radio program broadcast, from Ocean Bluff-Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Ships at sea heard a broadcast that included Fessenden playing O Holy Night on the violin and reading a passage from the Bible.
  • 1914 – teletype intrduced as a news tool The Associated Press introduced the “telegraph typewriter” or teletype into newsrooms in 1914, making transmission of entire ready to read news stories available worldwide.
  • 1920 – The first radio news program was broadcast August 31, 1920 by station 8MK in Detroit, Michigan, which survives today as all-news format station WWJ under ownership of the CBS network.
  • 1925 – John Logie Baird transmits the first television signal
  • 1928 – NBC completed the first permanent coast-to-coast radio network in the United States, linked by telephone circuits
  • 1935 – Associated Press launched the Wirephoto network, which allowed transmission of news photographs over telephone lines on the day they were taken.
  • 1942 – Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil invent frequency hopping spread spectrum communication technique
  • 1946 – The DuMont Television Network, which had begun experimental broadcasts before the war, launched what Newsweek called “the country’s first permanent commercial television network” on August 15, 1946
  • 1947 – Douglas H. Ring and W. Rae Young of Bell Labs proposed a cell-based approach which lead to “cellular phones
  • 1947 – July 27th. The WSR-1 weather surveillance radar, cobbled together from spare parts of the Navy AN/APS-2F radar was put into service in Norfolk, NE. It was later replaced by improved models WSR-3 and WSR-4
  • 1948 – Network TV news begins. Launched in February 1948 by NBC, Camel Newsreel Theatre was a 10-minute program anchored by John Cameron Swayze, and featured newsreels from Movietone News. CBS soon followed suit in May 1948 with a 15-minute program, CBS-TV News, anchored by Douglas Edwards and subsequently renamed Douglas Edwards with the News.
  • 1948 – The first successful “tornado forecast” issued, and successfully predicted the 1948 Tinker Air Force Base tornadoes which were two tornadoes which struck Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on March 20 and March 25.
  • In 1953, Donald Staggs, an electrical engineer working for the Illinois State Water Survey, made the first recorded radar observation of a “hook echo” associated with a tornadic thunderstorm.
  • 1957 the WSR-57 the first ‘modern’ weather radar, is commissioned by the U.S. Weather Bureau
  • 1958 – Chester Carlson presents the first photocopier suitable for office use
  • 1960 – TIROS-1 the first successful weather satellite, and the first of a series of Television Infrared Observation Satellites, was launched at 6:40 AM EST[1] on April 1, 1960 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  • 1962 – The first satellite television signal was relayed from Europe to the Telstar satellite over North America.
  • 1963 – First geosynchronous communications satellite is launched, 17 years after Arthur C. Clarke‘s article
  • 1963 CBS Evening News establishes the standard 30 minute network news broadcast. On September 2, 1963, the show expanded from 15 to 30 minutes.
  • 1966 – Charles Kao realizes that silica-based optical waveguides offer a practical way to transmit light via total internal reflection
  • 1967 – The National Hurricane Center is established in the Miami, FL National Weather Service Forecast Office.
  • 1969 – The first hosts of ARPANET, Internet‘s ancestor, are connected.
  • 1969 – August 14-22 Hurricane Camille, a Category 5 storm, gets widespread network news coverage from correspondents “on the scene”.
  • 1969 – Compuserve, and early dialup text based bulletin board system is launched in Columbus, Ohio, serving just that city with a
  • 1971 – Erna Schneider Hoover invented a computerized switching system for telephone traffic.
  • 1971 – Ray Tomlinson is generally credited as having sent the first email across a network, initiating the use of the “@” sign to separate the names of the user and the user’s machine.
  • 1972 – Radio Shack stores introduce “The Weather Cube”, the first mass marketed weather alert radio. (page 77 here) allowing citizens to get weather forecasts and bulletins in their home for only $14.95
  • 1974 April 3rd – WCPO-TV in Cincinnati carries the “Sayler Park Tornado” live on television as it was crossing the Ohio river. It was part of the biggest tornado super outbreak in history. It is the largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornadoes confirmed in 13 US states. Lack of timely warnings demonstrated the need for an expanded NOAA weather radio warning system.
  • 1974 – The first Synchronous Meteorological Satellite SMS-1 was launched May 17, followed later by GOES-1 in 1975.
  • 1974 the WSR-74 the second modern radar system is put into service at selected National Weather Service office in the United States and exported to other countries.
  • 1975 – The Altair 8800, the world’s first home computer kit was introduced in the January edition of popular electronics
  • 1975-1976 NOAA Weather Radio network expanded from about 50 transmitters to 330 with a goal of reaching 70 percent of the populace with storm warning broadcasts.
  • 1977 – Radio Shack introduces a weather radio with built in automatic alerting that will sound off when the National Weather Service issues an alert on the new expanded NOAA Weather Radio network with over 100 stations. Page 145 here
  • 1977 – The Apple II, one of the first highly successful mass-produced home microcomputers was introduced.
  • 1978 – NOAA Weather Radio receivers with automatic audio insertion capabilities for radio and TV audio began to become widely installed.
  • 1979 – The first commercially automated cellular network (the 1G) was launched in Japan by NTT in 1979, initially in the metropolitan area of Tokyo. Within five years, the NTT network had been expanded to cover the whole population of Japan and became the first nationwide 1G network.
  • 1980 – Cable News Network (CNN) is founded by Ted Turner.Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States.
  • 1980 –  A heatwave hit much of the United States, killing as many as 1,250 people in one of the deadliest heat waves in history.
  • 1981 – Home satellite dishes and receivers on C-band start to become widely available.
  • 1981 – The IBM Personal Computer aka IBM model number 5150, and was introduced on August 12, 1981, it set a standard for x86 systems still in use today.
  • 1982, May 2nd – The Weather Channel (TWC) is launched by John Coleman and Joe D’Aleo with 24 hour broadcasts of  computerized weather forecasts and weather-related news.
  • 1983 – Sony released the first consumer camcorder—the Betamovie BMC-100P
  • 1983 America Online (then as Control Video Corporation, Vienna, Virginia) debuts as a nationwide bulletin board system featuring email.
  • 1983 – The first 1G cellular telephone network launched in the USA was Chicago-based Ameritech using the Motorola DynaTAC mobile phone.
  • 1984 – The Apple Macintosh computer, with a built in graphical interface, was announced. The Macintosh was introduced by the now famous US$1.5 million Ridley Scott television commercial, “1984“. The commercial most notably aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on 22 January 1984 and is now considered a “watershed event”.
  • 1985 – Panasonic, RCA, and Hitachi began producing camcorders that recorded to full-sized VHS cassette and offered up to 3 hours of record time. TV news soon began to have video of news and weather events submitted from members of the public.
  • 1986 July 18th, KARE-TV in Minneapolis dispatches a news helicopter to catch live video of a tornado in progress, live at 5:13 PM during their news broadcast.
  • 1988 – Doppler Radar goes national – the construction of a network consisting of 10 cm (4 in) wavelength radars, called NEXRAD or WSR-88D (Weather Service Radar 1988 Doppler), was started.
  • 1989 – Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau built the prototype system which became the World Wide Web at CERN
  • 1989 – August Sony announced the Sony ProMavica (Magnetic Video Camera) electronic still camera, considered the first widely available electronic camera able to load images to a computer via floppy disk.
  • 1991 – Anders Olsson transmits solitary waves through an optical fiber with a data rate of 32 billion bits per second.
  • 1991  – The 1991 Perfect Storm hits New England as a Category 1 hurricane and causes $1 billion dollars in damage. Covered widely in TV and print, it later becomes a movie starring George Clooney.
  • 1992 – Neil Papworth sends the first SMS (or text message).
  • 1992 – August 16-28 Hurricane Andrew, spotted at sea with weather satellites, is given nearly continuous coverage on CNN and other network news outlets as it approaches Florida. Live TV news via satellite coverage as well as some Internet coverage is offered. It was the first Category 5 hurricane imaged on NEXRAD.
  • 1993 – The Great Mississippi Flood was carried on network television as levees breached, millions of viewers watched the flood in real-time and near real-time.
  • 1994 – Internet2 organization created
  • 1994 – Home satellite service DirecTV launched on June 17th
  • 1994 – An initiative by Vice President Gore raised the NOAA Weather Radio warning coverage to 95 percent of the US populace.
  • 1995 – The Weather Underground website was launched
  • 1995 – DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) began to be implemented in the USA
  • 1996 – Home satellite service Dish Network launched on March 4th
  • 1996 – Fox News Channel was launched on October 7, 1996 with 24 hour news coverage
  • 1996 – The Movie “Twister” was released on May 10, showing the drama and science of severe weather chasing in the USA midwest.
  • 1999 – Dr. Kevin Trenberth posts a report and web essay titled The Extreme Weather Events of 1997 and 1998 citing “global greenhouse warming” as a cause. Trenberth recognizes “wider coverage” but dismisses it saying:   “While we are indeed exposed to more and ever-wider coverage of the weather, the nature of some of the records being broken suggests a deeper explanation: that real changes are under way.”
  • 2002 – Google News page was launched in March. It was later updated to so that users can request e-mail “alerts” on various keyword topics by subscribing to Google News Alerts.
  • 2004 – December: A freak snowstorm hits the southernmost parts of Texas and Louisiana, dumping snow into regions that do not normally witness winter snowfall during the hours leading up to December 25 in what is called the 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm.
  • 2004 – DSL began to become widely accepted in the USA, making broadband Internet connections affordable to most homes.
  • 2004 – On November 19, the Website “Real Climate” was introduced, backed by Fenton communications, to sell the idea of climate change from “real scientists”.
  • 2004 – December The website “Climate Audit” was launched.
  • 2005 – August, Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic damage along the Gulf Coast of the United States, forcing the effective abandonment of southeastern Louisiana (including New Orleans) for up to 2 months and damaging oil wells that sent gas prices in the U.S. to an all-time record high. Katrina killed at least 1,836 people and caused at least $75 billion US in damages, making it one of the costliest natural disasters of all time. TV viewers worldwide watched the storm strike in real time, Internet coverage was also timely and widespread.
  • 2006 – Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and opening in New York City and Los Angeles on May 24. It went on to limited theater release and home view DVD. It was the first entertainment film about global warming as a “crisis”, with hurricane Katrina prominently featured as “result” of global warming.
  • 2006 – The short instant message service Twitter was launched July 15, 2006
  • 2006 – November 17th, Watts Up With That was launched.
  • 2007 – The iPhone, with graphics and Twitter instant messaging capabilities was released on June 29, 2007.
  • 2007 – The reality show “Storm Chasers” debuts on the Discovery channel on October 17, 2007, showing severe weather pursuit as entertainment.
  • 2007 – On October 10th, in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education and Skills Al Gore’s AIT movie was challenged in a UK court, and found to have nine factual errors. It was the first time “science as movie” had been legally challenged.
  • The 2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak was a deadly tornado outbreak affecting the Southern United States and the lower Ohio Valley from February 5 to February 6, 2008. With more than 80 confirmed tornados and 58 deaths, the outbreak was the deadliest in the U.S. since the May 31, 1985 outbreak that killed 76 across Ohio and Pennsylvania. It was widely covered live on US media.
  • 2010 – A heat wave in Russia was widely reported by global media as being directly a result of “global warming”. Scientific research from NOAA released later in 2010 and 2011 showed that to be a false claim.
  • 2011 – On January 4th, the Pew Research Center released a poll showing that Internet had surpassed television as the preferred source for news, especially among younger people.
  • 2011  – March, notice of an Earthquake off the coast of Japan was blogged near real-time thanks to a USGS email message alert before TV news media picked up the story, followed by a Tsunami warning. A Japanese TV news helicopter with live feed was dispatched and showed the Tsunami live as it approached the coast of Japan and hit the beaches. Carried by every major global news outlet, plus live streamed on the Internet, it was the first time a Tsunami of this magnitude was seen live on global television before it impacted land.

Compare the reach and speed of communications and news reporting at the beginning of this timeline to the reach and speed of communications and news reporting technology around the beginning of the 20th century. Then compare that to the beginning of the 21st century. Compare again to what we’ve seen in the last 10 years.

With such global coverage, instant messaging, and Internet enabled phones with cameras now, is it any wonder that nothing related to severe weather or disaster escapes our notice any more? Certainly, without considering the technological change in our society, it would seem as if severe weather events and disasters are becoming much more frequent.

To borrow and modify a famous phrase from James Carville:

It’s the technology, stupid.

Which speaks to the phrase: “Despite common perception” which I highlighted at the beginning. The speed of weather tracking and communications technology curve aids in our “common perception” of severe weather events. The reality of severe weather frequency though, is actually different. While we may see more of it, that happens because there are millions more eyes, ears, cameras, and networks than ever before.

1. There are less Tornadoes in the USA

12-month running sums of hurricane frequency (Dr. Ryan N. Maue, FSU)

3. And now, back to our original seed for this long thread, no effect in global flooding events:

Destructive floods observed in the last decade all over the world have led to record high material damage. The conventional belief is that the increasing cost of floods is associated with increasing human development on flood plains (Pielke & Downton, 2000). However, the question remains as to whether or not the frequency and/or magnitude of flooding is also increasing and, if so, whether it is in response to climate variability and change.

Several scenarios of future climate indicate a likelihood of increased intense precipitation and flood hazard. However, observations to date provide no conclusive and general proof as to how climate change affects flood behaviour.

Finally, this parting note.

While our world has seen the explosion of TV news networks, Internet News websites. personal cameras and recording technology, smartphones with cameras, and the ability to submit a photo or movie or live video feed virtually anywhere, anytime, giving us reporting of weather and disaster instantly on the scene, where tornadoes live on TV is becoming a ho-hum event, there’s one set of elusive phenomena that still hasn’t seen an increase in credible reporting and documentation:

UFO’s, Loch Ness monster,  and Bigfoot.

We still haven’t seen anything credible from the millions of extra electronic eyes and ears out there, and people still marvel over old grainy images. You’d think if they were on the increase, we’d know about it. 😉

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Al Gored
April 19, 2011 5:45 pm

“Is it possible that floods are not increasing or even in decline while most people have come to believe the opposite?”
Of course it is. It is called ‘manufactured consent.’ It is a product of about two decades of non-stop propaganda. Has created AGW-colored glasses for some people so they automatically see things from that false perspective.
And it is facilitated by the presence of cell phone etc. cameras everywhere so that now every minor flood in Timbuktu can be selectively photographed to make it look as bad as possible then broadcast worldwide along with the usual doomsday commentary.
For the same reason people have a false impression of crime rates. They are generally going down but the police state needs more money so, between selective news and TV cop shows, they keep the lemmings fearful and in ‘need’ of more police.
Oh yes. The crime rate on Wall Street has gone up, if that is possible. But since they own the police state they won’t be getting arrested, or even scolded. They promoted Geithner.

April 19, 2011 5:46 pm

Seems like any account of floods would have to factor in dams in a big way. Many floods, both small and large, have been prevented by well-maintained and well-controlled dams, and many of the biggest and deadliest floods have been caused by poorly-maintained or poorly-controlled dams failing.

April 19, 2011 6:09 pm

Anthony, excellent write up and spot on
Steve has been doing a lot of the same on his website.
Posting historical weather events that were a lot worse than
anything we’ve seen. It’s a fantastic history lesson.
What in this world would these same people say if we had another dust bowl and
decade drought? According to them, CO2 levels were too low for that to have happened.

April 19, 2011 6:15 pm

So long as prominent officials, scientists, and newspeople continue to repeat the ‘conventional wisdom’ that global warming is causing increasing numbers of severe weather events, it won’t matter what the facts are. The public at large will accept what it’s been told, especially if it’s dire and alarming.
After all, how can the headline, “Extreme Weather On The Decline” sell papers?
Well, here’s one headline that might work: “Snake-oil ‘Scientists’ Indicted for Lying about Extreme Weather.”
/Mr Lynn

Pamela Gray
April 19, 2011 6:17 pm

If this were the case with our eyes, that we see better as we get older, we would have the same perceptual problem with aging, as in, “my GAWD you look old up close!” Thank goodness our eyes age as we get older, so we DON’T see the increasing grey hairs and wrinkles up close. My boyfriend still thinks I am decades younger than he is. And I still swear he looks like Sean Connery.

April 19, 2011 6:20 pm

So, basically, Al Gore is a sensationalistic liar. Katrina happened, and would have anyway: it was inevitable. How do we undo this ongoing untruth?

Steve R
April 19, 2011 6:26 pm

Even without the advent of technology, I think its part of Human nature to believe that events of the “present” are somehow more important and significant. I think the young are more susceptible to this attitude than those who are older.

el gordo
April 19, 2011 6:27 pm

You’d think if they were on the increase, we’d know about it. 😉
I cannot speak for Nessy and the bigfoot character, but UFOs are a bit different.
Cosmological research into parallel universes and the nature of time (Stephen Hawking, Paul Davies et al) suggests the option of dematerialization.

Daniel H
April 19, 2011 6:30 pm

That Wikipedia timeline of communication technology omits smoke signals! How dare they!

April 19, 2011 7:18 pm

It’s called observational bias.
We did not have Nexrad Dopplar radar in the 1970s. If we did, we would have seen A WHOLE LOT MORE tornadoes.
We’ve moved into areas that used to flood, and we didn’t care when they did because nobody lived there. But now, people live there.
Go back in time to the 1970s and tell a hurricane hunter that in 30 years we’d be using satellites to measure the wind speed/strength of a hurricane the instant a batch of clouds came off the coast of Africa and let me know what kind of reaction you get.
When you actually LOOK for something, chances are good that you will find it. And chances are also good it has always been there. For example: When did we first discover a hole in the ozone? The answer is: the instant we started looking for one….

Tom T
April 19, 2011 7:32 pm

I get the point. But as descendant of Samuel F. B. Morse, I have to say that Morse invented the telegraph.

April 19, 2011 8:03 pm

1942 – Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil invent frequency hopping spread spectrum communication technique

Missing: any mention of SIGSALY – the digital-based speech encryption system (built around ‘vocoder’ technology, as used in cell phone voice encoding today) developed by Bell Labs and subsequently deployed for meaningful secure comms usage between the top echelons of our government – and Great Britain’s head … it was EVEN posted about here on WUWT … pls also note that patents involving this system, though filed in the 40’s remained classified into the 70’s (Doh!) …
So … WUWT?
WUWT mention and links- http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/23/no-joke-air-force-actually-creates-supercomputer-from-playstations/#comment-630382
Sigsaly/NSA – The Start of the Digital Revolution – http://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic_heritage/center_crypt_history/publications/sigsaly_start_digital.shtml
Wiki – look at the number of racks of equipment required! – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIGSALY
PS: Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil system amounted to a ‘list’ of frequencies one was supposed to ‘tune’ to to receive data … done so in a predetermined manner, like having a pre-determined, written-out list of CB channels one tuned to, in succession, at say, 1 minute intervals to receive a transmission … this is the essence of ‘frequency hopping’, not so much ‘spread spectrum’ (IF BW = signal BW for FH, IF BW = chip rate BW for SS).
I know; I am always the sourpuss with a different ‘take’ on things technical …

April 19, 2011 8:31 pm

Excellent, Anthony! Maybe by putting it in this manner, some will realize the truth and the facts can’t be stated enough. The “putting more energy in the system” thought is plainly in error. That said, I’ve seen where some are predicting an active hurricane season. If many make landfall, we’ll have more tornadoes this year. I only say this so our kindred spirits can prepare for the all out media blitz if and when such events occur, and they will at some point.

April 19, 2011 8:55 pm

The timeline is missing the 1st real scare story of note: the broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Despite the insertion of disclaimers that the broadcast was a fictional story, people still went into mass hysteria.
Today, too many are caught up in the Global Warming hysteria to take note of the weather around them being the same as their grandparents weather.

Peter S
April 19, 2011 9:26 pm

It is a bit like me saying “There is a bad flu virus going around. How are you feeling?”
Chances are, the answer will be “not quite as good as I was before you asked.” Because the very suggestion will have you feeling all sorts of symptoms you had never even thought about till I mentioned the possibility of you getting the flu.

April 19, 2011 9:40 pm

There are fewer Tornadoes in the USA.

April 19, 2011 9:57 pm

I had no idea Hedy Lamarr was a scientist. Cool.

Steve R
April 19, 2011 10:16 pm

Hedley Lamar was the evil RR dude in Blazing Saddles wasn’t he?

Yes and Hedy was an actress as well as inventor – Anthony

April 19, 2011 10:43 pm

I often wondered why there is a ‘common perception’ that ‘nature’ is on the ‘retreat’ in rural Europe due to farming etc. And then I got to thinking: well when was the last time I actually went _walking_ diagonally across a field ? Right, never happens. My view of ‘nature’ is by 99% generated by my ‘perception’ of same while driving in my car on a paved road. My view of ‘unspoiled nature’ typically consists of roadsigns and drainage ditches beside the road. But for each road segment between intersections: L the area contained may be L _squared_ . So by simple math – and by staying in my car – I really have very little ‘perception’ of the area I am passing through.

Harold Pierce Jr
April 19, 2011 11:57 pm

1985 First generation of IBM PC clones introduced.

Dodgy Geezer
April 20, 2011 12:00 am

“1843 – Samuel Morse builds the first long distance electric telegraph line”
An interesting timeline. But a bit American-centered?
For instance Samuel Morse may have built the first AMERICAN long distance electric telegraph line in 1843.
Once Henry had invented the relay in 1835, telegraph development bounded ahead in Europe. The Germans had a development system in 1835, Sir Charles Wheatstone had demonstrated his in the UK in 1837, and by 1839 it was in commercial use on the Great Western Railway. Rather famously, it was instrumental in apprehending a murderer in 1845….

Brian H
April 20, 2011 12:20 am

Extreme Decline in Extreme Weather!
Experts Baffled and Concerned.
“Our models are freaking out,” said one. “Do you have any idea how much psychotherapy for a GCM costs? It’s an emergency! Funding simply must be increased.”

April 20, 2011 12:21 am

I think there’s also an implied perception these days that we should be able to control nature. In the past, we tended to think that you can’t fight nature, but as science and engineering control many of the effects of nature, and we become more isolated from nature with cars and air conditioned offices and homes, we start thinking we can control nature. So we are less tolerant of weather events. We see these events (often repeated on a loop in the news cycles) and they’re more offensive to us. They MUST be worse than evah!

Martin Brumby
April 20, 2011 12:37 am

Of course, there are many severe weather events that the MSM takes very good care not to publicise. Maybe their editors haven’t got the memo pointing out that extreme cold is actually proof of Global Warming. But the fact remains that you need to scour the blogs to find dramas like this:-

Scottish Sceptic
April 20, 2011 12:59 am

Good article. However I would like to add a thought. For a while some have proposed that some allergies are caused by a hyperactive immune system caused by too little infection. The theory (and so far as I know it still is a theory) is that our immune system is “self calibrating” so it will increase sensitivity if it isn’t finding enough bacteria, viruses etc.
The theory is that in our modern clean world, our dirty-world developed virus doesn’t find enough work and becomes more and more sensitive until it starts attacking things which are no threat at all like the body itself.
I think our society is very similar. We have developed with the constant threat of the predator, the hostile bandits, life-killing injuries. In a world where most of us live comfortably with no meaningful (in historic terms) threat to our lives, our “threat focus” doesn’t have a real threat to focus on, and so our psyche developed to detect threat from the forest, becomes hypersensitised and starts to categorise things that are clearly no threat as some kind of life-or-death threat requiring a life-or-death response.
In that category I’d include global warming, health and safety, paedophilia (which has caused many communities to effectively lock up children for fear of the bogey man).
Like all these social threat-hypersensitivities, there is always a small “truth” at the heart of the issue, but this threat is vastly overstated and the response is out of all proportion to the known threat.
And of course the media hardly help, because they stoke up these social fears in order to sell papers.

April 20, 2011 2:23 am

UFO’s, Loch Ness monster, and Bigfoot.
Easy, UFOs are way ahead of us (and do not need an apostrophe) so they know how to screen themselves except when they want to be seen (usually in New Hampshire apparently)
Nessie is famously camera shy, more cameras, more shy
Big Foot is always home these days surfing the internet looking at grainy videos of humans mostly

April 20, 2011 2:23 am

People believe the opposite because they have been brainwashed by the media. The weather is not getting weirder despite over 30 years of global warming and the ‘hottest’ decade on the record. An honest Warmist should ask themselves why???

“Fluctuations in some climate parameters”


“The Weather Isn’t Getting Weirder”
“Gilbert Compo, one of the researchers on the project, tells me from his office at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “So we were surprised that none of the three major indices of climate variability that we used show a trend of increased circulation going back to 1871.””
“The Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project” – Compo et al.

Some may point to the Arctic but history tells us there is nothing unusual going on here.

Bloke down the pub
April 20, 2011 2:34 am

Nit picking I know, but Marconi’s first trans-Atlantic message was from Nova Scotia to Cornwall.
If, as seems likely, storms are less common as global temperatures rise, it won’t be long before we see an increase in activity as temps decline. The warmistas will then claim to be vindicated.

April 20, 2011 2:56 am

Has There Been An Increase In the Number of Natural Disasters?

“So have there been more natural disasters in recent years? In a word, NO.
What we have, rather, is an increase in our ability to detect hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.”

April 20, 2011 2:59 am

Some may point to Greenland but history tells us there is nothing unusual going on here.

“The temperature and renewal of these waters indicate that they currently cause enhanced submarine melting at the glacier terminus.”
Straneo et. al.

“Waters from warmer latitudes — or subtropical waters — are reaching Greenland’s glaciers, driving melting…”

“…the rate of warming in 1920–1930 was about 50% higher than that in 1995–2005.”
Petr Chylek et. al.

“The annual whole ice sheet 1919–32 warming trend is 33% greater in magnitude than the 1994–2007 warming.”
Jason E. Box et. al.

“We found that northern hemisphere temperature and Greenland temperature changed synchronously at periods of ~20 years and 40–100 years. This quasi-periodic multi-decadal temperature fluctuation persisted throughout the last millennium, and is likely to continue into the future.”
Takuro Kobashi et. al.

“The warmest year in the extended Greenland temperature record is 1941, while the 1930s and 1940s are the warmest decades.”
B. M. Vinther et. al.

“Particulars are given regarding the big rise of winter temperatures in Greenland and its more oceanic climate during the last fifteen years.”

“…glaciologists reported at the American Geophysical Union meeting that Greenland ice’s Armageddon has come to an end.” [January 2009]
American Geophysical Union

April 20, 2011 3:20 am

MattN says:
April 19, 2011 at 7:18 pm
It’s called observational bias.
When you actually LOOK for something, chances are good that you will find it. And chances are also good it has always been there.

This is indeed the problem of modern climate science research. They accept man-made global warming so they look for its effects.

“Modellers have an inbuilt bias towards forced climate change because the causes and effect are clear.”
(General circulation modelling of Holocene climate variability,
by Gavin Schmidt, Drew Shindell, Ron Miller, Michael Mann and David Rind, published in Quaternary Science Review in 2004.)

Carsten Arnholm
April 20, 2011 4:20 am

2004 – On November 19, the Website “Real Climate” was introduced, backed by Fenton communications, to sell the idea of climate change from “real scientists”.

… and exactly 5 years later the event was celebrated with the release of the Climategate emails…

Viv Evans
April 20, 2011 4:47 am

There’s one more thing to add:
people seem less and less capable of remembering weather events 20 or 30 years ago, even of 10 years ago. This seems to be due to the ever increasing media hype, when the headlines blare forth with ‘hottest/wettest/biggest’ week/month/catastrophe. It also seems due to the general perception that if something hasn’t been reported in the MSM, it simply hasn’t happened.
I bet if you ask young adults about the last Tsunami, the one before this one in Japan – half wouldn’t know …
In the UK, where we’re having a nice April, it is the hottest evah … Sadly, I remember very well such a hot April happening in 1981, and similar warm ones in 1991. But since the papers did not report weather as a record-breaking event at that time, it just didn’t happen – especially since anything that took place more than five years ago is old history with which nobody needs to bother now.

April 20, 2011 5:51 am

If headlines, those of the Weather Channel, use the word “extreme” or variation there of, then people tend to think it is. As the traders on Wall Street say we have headline risk.

April 20, 2011 7:06 am

It appears history is anathema to “climate science”
Nothing new here – we’ve been steadfastly teaching society to ignore history for decades now. The only “history” that’s real to anyone is what they see in movies.

Dick of Utah
April 20, 2011 7:36 am

Reporters must often take great risks to bring us the evidence of global climate disruption:

April 20, 2011 7:58 am

I just thiunk it is the 24 hour news channel cycle thing… some little flood in some part of the country gets hours and hours coverage! 50 years ago it would have been a small article in the paper in the middle somewhere.

Norris Nongle
April 20, 2011 7:59 am

So we have a greater ability to detect weather phenomena, more widespread and faster reporting and a journalistic obsession with bad news.
Another factor to multiply those by is increased population.
If a bad weather event happens, it is likely to affect far more people now than it did 100 years ago when there weren’t so many of us!
An obvious example: River floods occur even without human intervention; but if you build a village on a flood plain, nature becomes a threat.
Viv Evans says:
April 20, 2011 at 4:47 am
“There’s one more thing to add:”

I was going to say that too!

Brian in Bellingham
April 20, 2011 8:52 am

This reminds me of the “Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic”. Back in 1954, people in Western Washington State started noticing dings in their cars, and pretty soon everyone was seeing them. Many theories were floated, including cosmic rays, nuclear testing, a new radio transmittor that the Navy was using. The truth was that these pitts were probably there all along, but when the media started reporting them, people started looking closely at their cars for the first time and noticed them. It has become a textbook case of collective delusion.

April 20, 2011 11:58 am

John Daly and his website, “Still Waiting for Greenhouse” http://www.john-daly.com/
deserve mention. His website was in operation already in 1999 (I don’t know when it was first launched), and many of the frequent contributors at wattsupwiththat.com frequently already then contributed at http://www.john-daly.com/
John Daly was a true pioneer, one of the earliest — he should perhaps be called a frontiersman — who, like many do now, intrepidly debunked the greenhouse hype and the shenanigans of the IPPC and its fellow travellers.

geography lady
April 20, 2011 12:05 pm

Extreme weather events are so soon forgotten–seems like people have very short memories (5-10 years at best). When many of the extreme weather events happened (30, 40 or even 100 years ago), no one lived there where it happened or the people who experienced the event are dead or their memories are suspect/failing. I teach my students about the deadliest hurricane in the US (1900 Galveston hurricane) using some videos and internet sites. I use to ask them (before Katrina) what they think about the hurricane damage, and what is different now. They said that presently we won’t experience that now. Since Katrina, I ask them to compare the 2 hurricanes, the death and damages, what can we do to prevent this kind of destruction. I get some interesting view points. Most of the students are stunned that there was just such destruction from an extreme weather event in the past. Many have their eyes opened to know there were events in the past that destroyed man’s follies. Man has a tendency to move to areas that history has covered the destruction. This included weather, & geological events.

Rob Crawford
April 20, 2011 1:48 pm

“The crime rate on Wall Street has gone up…”
No, it hasn’t.

April 20, 2011 6:50 pm

Rob Crawford says:
April 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm
“The crime rate on Wall Street has gone up…”
No, it hasn’t.
How can you have more than 100% of something?

April 20, 2011 10:40 pm

If you believe (as I do) that the world is getting warmer you might be happy for several reasons:
1. More rainfall increases agricultural productivity.
2. Ice sheets and glaciers recede increasing agricultural productivity.
3. Carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing, improving agricultural productivity.
As a bonus, extreme weather should be less common because the polar regions are warming at least three times faster than equatorial regions which means that the temperature differentials that drive extreme weather are decreasing.
Did the rising CO2 levels cause temperatures to rise? The correlation is poor and even if it were good it would prove nothing.

April 21, 2011 5:31 am

@ Scottish Sceptic. The other factor in play here is that we are social monkeys. When you see a troupe of monkeys in the trees, some of them are looking out for predators and will set up lots of whooping and screaming when they see something afar off that may be a threat to the troupe. We have not evolved enough to have lost that instinct. The equivalent these days is the constant squealing of the mainstream media at any tiny thing that isn’t really a threat but might be. We lap this up. It is a major cause of stress and of me turning off the radio and TV news and switching to music on my i-pod.

John T
April 21, 2011 10:12 am

The problem is that “common perception” is driven in large part by the Full Moon Phenomenon -simply a manifestation of the way the human brain is wired. Our brains are very good an forming associations between disparate events, not so good at “breaking” those associations, even when faced with evidence there is no association.
So someone working in an ER, following a very busy night, might note the full moon and knowing the myth, form a positive association between a busy ER and a full moon. A few days later, they may have an even busier night, but the lack of a full moon won’t weaken the association that was made -there’s no “negative” association. Even if the person does happen to note they weren’t very busy during the next full moon, that association will still persist. The occasional reinforcement of two random events occurring simultaneously is enough to convince our brains that they are related, even if presented with hard evidence to the contrary.
Its understandable that this happens. But its something scientists should recognize. That’s why we rely on data, not perception.

April 21, 2011 8:17 pm

Thanks Anthony, excellent post!

April 22, 2011 12:16 am

“global climate disruption”, started by John P. Holdren in this presentation, which is one of the new buzzword phrases after “global warming” and “climate change” used to convey alarm.”
Sorry Anthony, global climate disruption is not a phrase invented by Holdren, it goes back to George Woodwell at Woods Hole Research Centre back in 1972. He has used it continually ever since, including this in 2001 when accepting the Volvo environmental prize, http://www.springerlink.com/content/w578406177777864/, and again in this PNAS paper in 2002, http://www.jstor.org/pss/3073453
He was stll referring to it in this lecture at MIT in 2004,
“The global climatic disruption now underway as a result of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere is the most serious environmental and political disruption that the world has ever faced.” Of course, Holdren was President and Director at Woods Hole from 2005 until he joined Obama, so I expect he borrowed it.
Even “climate change isn’t new”, Hansen used it in 1988, it didn’t get enough traction so they went onto global warming, which didn’t fit colder weather, so they went back to climate change and then climate disruption came back and next, who knows.
REPLY: I stand corrected, thank you. – Anthony

April 22, 2011 5:21 am

Another pertinent milestone:
1956: Interstate Highway System begins. (This enabled rapid deployment of resources, including the now-ubiquitous satcom trucks. Gotta catch that storm on the 6 o’clock news!)

Brian H
April 22, 2011 4:34 pm

With apologies to Bishop Berkeley, if a tornado happens on a lonely prairie, and no one videos it, did it happen?
Oh, and another error to correct, Anthony:
an historical perspective”, pliz.

Tony J
May 25, 2011 8:55 am

The article brings up some good points, but doesn’t it seem to be that some of the data claimed such as ‘There were more tornadoes before’ could be incorrect by the same assumptions as the author claims?
Lastly, I believe Global Warming deniers, Al Gore, and vocal advocates of ‘green’ miss the entire point about AGW. Scientists that know and understand that data focus on climate, because it blurs out localized events such as severe weather tends to ‘live in’.
Sadly, some of the same people that just mock AGW are the worst ‘scientific thinkers’ I’ve run into. Many of their arguments can be applied to the entire field of science. Has anybody here seen an electron? Or really believe in Blackholes, etc. Yet, they probably don’t sit around smugly saying – What a bunch of crock – about that!
Climate science is an evolving landscape of ideas and explanation. We can only look at the data and see what seems to be the most likely, and fall back on our understanding of basic physics in some cases. While I’m quite a skeptic, the evidence seems to be overwhelming that Humanity is changing the makeup of land, water, and air on Earth. I truly doubt there is absolutely no effect from our actions as denier claims, but I also don’t believe in a sudden ‘doomsday scenario’ either.
Personally, I know there are people out to make a buck on Carbon and ‘Green energy’, but this should not put our society off a path that depends less on polluting resources. We should always question ‘facts’ without the evidence to back them up – But to me it seems like AGW deniers are the worst offenders of ‘cherry picking data’.
When it comes down to it… What do you guys suppose is the correct path to go down? Do we continue to pollute our world until everyone is guaranteed cancer in their lifetime? Do we risk having a world that is hotter and has wilder weather?

Brian H
May 28, 2011 2:12 pm

Tony J says:
May 25, 2011 at 8:55 am

Sadly, some of the same people that just mock AGW are the worst ‘scientific thinkers’ I’ve run into.

When it comes down to it… What do you guys suppose is the correct path to go down? Do we continue to pollute our world until everyone is guaranteed cancer in their lifetime? Do we risk having a world that is hotter and has wilder weather?

Nice demonstration of the non-scientific mind at work! “Pollution” / “cancer” / “hotter” / “wilder weather”
-CO2 is not pollution, except by perverse bureaucratic fiat.
-You may been the first loony enough to suggest it’s related to cancer.
-“hotter” is egregious exaggeration, even if the planet weren’t currently cooling. The worst and most foolish AGW “scenarios” don’t get us anywhere near what has classically been called “Hot House Earth”, about 22°C, where Earth spent most of its time since life began, and during which it was hugely more prolific than currently.
-“wilder weather” fades away when the poles warm, as the heat transfer gradient is much flatter. The wildest wild weather, like the current burst, comes from large incursions of cold air into tropical or near-tropical air masses.
Your unwitting exemplification of the scientific gormlessness of most self-described “lukewarmers” is appreciated.

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