The folly of linking tornado outbreaks to "climate change"

In times of tragedy, there always seems to be hucksters about trying to use that tragedy to sell a position, a product, or a belief. In ancient times, tragedy was the impetus used to appease the gods and to embrace religion to save yourselves. In light of this article on the Daily Caller Center for American Progress blames Republicans for devastating tornadoes it seems some opportunists just can’t break the pattern of huckster behavior in the face of disaster.

I can’t think of a more disgusting example of political opportunism that has occurred such as we witnessed today from The Center for American Progress via their Think Progress blog, as well as the New York Times op-ed piece that suggests predicting severe weather is little more than a guessing game. Certified Consulting Meteorologist Mike Smith of Wichita, KS based WeatherData Inc. said of the NYT piece:

The cruelty of this particular April, in the number of tornadoes recorded, is without equal in the United States.

This may or may not be true. The statement is at least premature. The NWS Storm Prediction Center March 8th changed its methodology which allows more reports of tornadoes and other severe storms to be logged (see first note here). We don’t know yet whether this is a record April.

Tornadoes in particular, researchers say, straddle the line between the known and the profoundly unknowable.

“There’s a large crapshoot aspect,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

To add to the mix, Peter Gleick says at the Huffington Post  “More extreme and violent climate is a direct consequence of human-caused climate change (whether or not we can determine if these particular tornado outbreaks were caused or worsened by climate change).”

In the Think Progress piece, again, Dr. Trenberth is quoted:

“Given that global warming is unequivocal,” climate scientist Kevin Trenberth cautioned the American Meteorological Society in January of this year, “the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming rather than the inane statements along the lines of ‘of course we cannot attribute any particular weather event to global warming.’”

It should also be noted that during that AMS conference in January, Dr. Trenberth called people who disagreed with that view “deniers” in front of hundreds of scientists, even after being called out on the issue he left the hateful term intact in his speech. Clearly, he is a man with a bias. From my perspective, these articles citing Trenberth are opportunistic political hucksterism at its finest. Unfortunately, many from these bastions of left leaning opininators don’t bother to cite some inconvenient facts, leaving their claims to be on par with superstitions that were the part of our dark past.

First, let’s look at the claim of tornadoes being on the increase, in parallel with the climate change that is claimed. In my previous essay Severe weather more common? Data shows otherwise I cited this graph from the National Climatic Data Center:

Obviously, when NCDC tallies the number of F3-F5 tornadoes from this recent outbreak, and gets around to updating that graph, there will be an uptick at the end in 2011 that is on par or even higher than the famous 1974 tornado outbreak. The point though is that despite the 1974 uptick, the trend was down.

The NYT article says:

The population of the South grew by 14.3 percent over the last decade, according to the Census Bureau, compared with 9.7 percent for the nation as a whole. Of those states hardest hit by tornadoes this year, some were among the fastest growing, notably Texas and North Carolina.

Let’s look at trends of tornado related deaths with population. From Harold Brooks. a research meteorologist with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma. we have this graph:

Source: NOAA’s US Severe Weather Blog, SPC, Norman Oklahoma

Let’s look at other figures. Today, Dr. Roger Pielke Junior got an updated graph from Harold Brooks at NOAA to bring it to 2010:

That graph is a testament to the improved lead times, accuracy, and and dissemination of severe weather warnings by the National Weather Service, whose members did an outstanding job during this severe weather event. CCM Mike Smith, in his book Warnings The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather talks about the vast improvements we’ve witnessed since the early days of severe weather forecasting. He writes today of the recent outbreak:

There is no question that the current storm warning program, a collaborative effort of the National Weather Service, private sector weather companies like AccuWeather, broadcast meteorologists, and local emergency managers have saved hundreds of lives during these recent storms through excellent forecasts and warnings.  This image shows the tornado warning (red hatched area) for Birmingham that was issued more than 20 minutes before the tornado arrived.

Can the warning program be improved? Certainly. The National Weather Service’s new dual-polarization radar will improve flash flood warnings and will incrementally improve warnings of tornadoes that occur after dark.

But in the immediate aftermath of these tragic storms we seem to have learned two things:  People need to respond to today’s highly accurate warnings. For some reason, the media (see examples here and here seems determined to downplay the quality of the warnings which may have the effect of driving down response rates.

Second, they must have a place to take shelter. Most mobile home parks and many homes in the South do not have underground shelters or safe rooms. Mobile home parks and housing developments should look to constructing these in the future.

With 30 minutes of advance warning in this case, and many other advance warnings during this outbreak, plus the supersaturation of live television coverage, plus the fact that weeks in advance, my colleague Joe D’Aleo, co-founder of the Weather Channel and now at Weatherbell LLC,  discussed the likelihood of a super-outbreak of severe weather occurring due to the juxtaposition of cold air from snowpack in the northern plains with warm moist air in the south, it would seem Dr. Trenberth’s claim of “a large crapshoot aspect” doesn’t hold up. The death toll issue seems to be shelter, not lack of forecasts, warnings, or awareness. People knew the storms were coming, they just had few options for shelters that would survive at F3-F5 category tornado intensity.

The attempts at linking the tornado outbreak this week to “global warming” have been roundly criticized in the meteorological community. Just yesterday there was a denouncement of the tornadoes to global warming link in this story from

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

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

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

Anticipating this sort of nonsense in the current political climate that seeks to blame humans for the weather, last month, the National Weather Association, representing thousands of operational meteorologists, forecasters, and television-radio meteorologists in the United States adopted their first ever position statement on climate change and severe weather events. They state:

Any given weather event, or series of events, should not be construed as evidence of climate change.

The NWA emphasizes that no single weather event or series of events should be construed as evidence of a climate trend. Daily weather is subject to extreme events due to its natural variability. It is only the occurrence of these events over decades that determines a climate trend.

No clearer statement could be rendered. It mirrors what a NOAA scientist at the Storm Prediction Center said yesterday to Fox News:

Greg Carbin, the warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said warming trends do create more of the fuel that tornadoes require, such as moisture, but that they also deprive tornadoes of another essential ingredient: wind shear.

“We know we have a warming going on,” Carbin told Fox News in an interview Thursday, but added: “There really is no scientific consensus or connection [between global warming and tornadic activity]….Jumping from a large-scale event like global warming to relatively small-scale events like tornadoes is a huge leap across a variety of scales.”

Asked if climate change should be “acquitted” in a jury trial where it stood charged with responsibility for tornadoes, Carbin replied: “I would say that is the right verdict, yes.” Because there is no direct connection as yet established between the two? “That’s correct,” Carbin replied.

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

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

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

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

1932 Deep South tornado outbreak  ≥330 fatalities, 2145 injuries

1952 Arkansas-Tennessee tornado outbreak 208 fatalities

1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak 256 fatalities

April 3-4 1974 Super Outbreak 315 fatalities

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

Here’s what it looks like on satellite measurements. Notice the cool blue:

The US. Climate Prediction Center talks about the reason for such outbreaks in relation to ocean temperature cycles:

What impacts do El Niño and La Niña have on tornado activity across the country?

Since a strong jet stream is an important ingredient for severe weather, the position of the jet stream helps to determine the regions more likely to experience tornadoes. Contrasting El Niño and La Niña winters, the jet stream over the United States is considerably different. During El Niño the jet stream is oriented from west to east across the southern portion of the United States. Thus, this region becomes more susceptible to severe weather outbreaks. During La Niña the jet stream and severe weather is likely to be farther north.

Note the collision zone in the US southeast during La Niña patterns.

Finally, Let’s examine the claims of global warming being linked to the tornado outbreak. If this were true, we’d expect the globe to be warmer, right?

Thunderstorms (and all weather for that matter) form in the troposphere, that layer of the atmosphere that is closest to the surface, and extends up to the stratosphere.

Image: - click for details
Dr. Roy Spencer, climate scientist from the University of Alabama, Huntsville, tracks the temperature of the troposphere. The university system that he tracks the temperature daily with is inoperable, due to the storms. People who have been watching it prior to this event know the current global tropospheric temperature is lower in April than the norm, but we can’t show it today. The last global value he plotted showed this:

The global temperature anomaly of the troposphere today is about the same as it was in 1979. If there’s any global warming in the troposphere, it must be a figment of an overactive imagination on the part of people who seek to link it to the recent tornado tragedy.

Dr. Roy Spencer sums it up pretty well on his blog today:

MORE Tornadoes from Global Warming? That’s a Joke, Right?

It is well known that strong to violent tornado activity in the U.S. has decreased markedly since statistics began in the 1950s, which has also been a period of average warming. So, if anything, global warming causes FEWER tornado outbreaks…not more. In other words, more violent tornadoes would, if anything, be a sign of “global cooling”, not “global warming”.

Anyone who claims more tornadoes are caused by global warming is either misinformed, pandering, or delusional.

The people that seek to link this tragedy to the political movement of climate change should be ashamed of themselves. The only “deniers” here are the ones who deny all the long established counter evidence of their bogus claims for political gain.


For those who wish to help with this tragedy there are options:

There’s a service called which can help you get status on relatives and friends who may be affected.

There are several ways to register or look for messages from those affected by a disaster:

  • From a computer, visit and click on the “List Yourself or Search Registrants” link under “How to Get Help.”
  • From a smart phone, visit
  • Call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to register.

There is of course financial help needed for the relief efforts of the American Red Cross. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to relief efforts from your cell phone bill. Or visit the main website.

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April 29, 2011 4:15 pm

Thank you for the preview button. Now I can look at the shoe size that I stick in my mouth before posting.
The Jesuits used to have a term (and may still use it) for people such as the AGW crowd. The term was “invincible ignorance”. “Religion of the Greater Gore and Gaea” certainly qualifies for the Jesuit term.

April 29, 2011 4:17 pm

“There’s a large crapshoot aspect,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “A little quirky thing can set one off at one time, and another time not.”
The guy is a stand-in for a scientist; a bullsh*t artist obviously. If little quirky things can set off a tornadoe, then why is it impossible for little quirky things to influence climate simulations in such a way that the error bar goes beyond all bounds after a week. Trenberth can’t be dumb enough to not understand this; he is in my eyes an obvious liar, producing dishonest pseudoscience.

April 29, 2011 4:20 pm

I do believe that Think Progress neglected the iveism in their name. Whether that was intentional or not, I don’t know.

April 29, 2011 4:23 pm

Slam Dunk!
Well done Anthony.

April 29, 2011 4:57 pm

This group of climate hucksters MIGHT as well cite the HAA RP project as responsible – becoming part of a group of certifiable crackpots!

Douglas DC
April 29, 2011 5:02 pm

“Never interfere with your enemy while he is making a mistake.”
Napoleon Bonaparte.
This is what I see here. This outbreak is the result of a cold pattern,
and just like all other major outbreaks it is occurring as we cool off.
not warm up. Also, we have much better detection,radar and forecasting.
in the last oh, 30 years….
Would love to see Joe Bastardi has to say about it…

April 29, 2011 5:08 pm

Anthony, can I also pose the very same question here? Please, pretty please…
Also fogot to mention the vortex aspect (coralis effect) but everyone probably knows that well.
From the Southeast Missourian:

“… meteorologists now have lots of radar and video imagery of the storms which may help them understand these worst-case outbreaks a little better. The Tri-State Tornado has long been a puzzle for meteorologists trying to figure out how a single tornadic storm can hold together for so long across varied terrain.”

Well… not if they insist on ignoring new theories, such as a new one on water vapors influence in relation to tornadoes, hurricanes and the overall global pressure system such as one by Dr. Anastasia Marakieva et al.
Take it from a sailplane pilot, get up there and play with those cute little cumulus clouds that sometimes become monsters. You will recognize the her idea, you will have felt it in the moisture.
It is not merely the heat that causes those events, heat has it’s role, but it is H2O vapor. Tornadoes are implosions, not explosions of heat and it is water vapor that drives them to fury.
Let’s see if I can paint it… the warm air rising is what creates the mild and slow ascent of air. That is the ‘engines’ of a sailplane. Also you have the relative humidity rising as you get carried higher and higher toward the cloud base. At the cloud base you hit 100% relative and condensation starts to occur and that causes conversion of 1000 units of water vapor to 1 unit of water in tiny droplet form intensifying the rise, and your variometer (measures rate of ascent/descent) clearly shows that as it pegs upward. Latent heat is being created but the drop in pressure (very local) is compensating this volume decrease.
Now, take a tornado. The same scenario is occurring as you stand on the ground looking upward at the wall cloud. The slight lowering of the wall cloud is that 100% relative humidity level. But thinks get out of control just ABOVE the wall cloud. You will see a very distinct violent mixing of the frigid upper layer aid being stirred in with the warm totally saturated air just below. This is where the violent implosion occurs and it is that 1) violent mixing of temperatures with the 2) total saturation that causes the violence right there.
A 1 volume of cold air and 1 volume of hot air when suddenly mixed will have a volume of 2. BUT, a 1 volume of cold air and a 1 volume of 100% saturated warm air suddenly and thoroughly mixed volumes will have a much lower volume as the condensation occurs immediately. BAM! The sudden implosion.
That is why very frigid upper air is dangerous if lots of moisture is around. That is here paper with the equations.
As long as enough warm to hot already near saturated air can flow into this event from below this mixing and volume implosion will continue. Walla, a tornado. On a bigger scale, a hurricane. On an ever bigger scale (but here slow and mild) ocean/continental systems. Some may be heat only but it doesn’t then make sense to me anyway.
Can not anyone see that?

Chuck Wiese
April 29, 2011 5:15 pm

Good job Anthony! Joe Bastardi had warned his bloggers and the public that a persistant La Nina signature into the spring would have this result. I had mirrored those comments as well a few months back. Just for fun, I went back into archives into the 1974-75 tornado season looking at weather map series for the month of April to see whether or not equivalent potential temperatures as a whole were higher now than then. They are not. That is also an offer of considerable proof that claims by climate modelers are false that attribute an increased evaporation rate off of the tropical oceans as a result of a higher CO2 concentration. These recent storms had no greater heat energy fuel than in earlier times, and as you are aware, the bigger triggering mechanism was just the usual culprit, strong cold air advection with the advancing cold front and a strong, over developed polar jet that provided plenty of shearing. It isn’t much more complicated than that. Kevin Trendberth and all of these other AGW sloths are a disgusting and painfully dishonest bunch. Trendberth and his colleagues are the true deniers.
Chuck Wiese

April 29, 2011 5:32 pm

Anthony, the tornado graph you posted starts in 1940…
..and still shows a downward trend.
If you can go back to 1884 to start the graph, it will show a downhill plunge…
…reason being, 1884 was known as the Enigma Tornado Outbreak.
Feb 19-20 there were more than 60 tornadoes on the ground, in one 15 hour period.
Estimated that up to 1200 people were killed. That’s at a lot lower population density than today.

April 29, 2011 5:36 pm

Warmists are doing exactly what they accused us of doing: using weather events to back up their case. Where is the peer reviewed evidence linking this outbreak in the US with man-made global warming. They demand we produce peer reviewed evidence but ommit it when they like.
My list of historical outbreaks on another thread with examples of over 300 deaths in each episode starting in the late 19th century. It’s worse than we thought!!!

April 29, 2011 5:39 pm

Anthony, I have been always quite suspicious about the warming of the stratosphere by “sunlight absorption by ozone.” According to established knowledge, stratospheric ozone is 0.000003% (three millionths percent). Oxygen and nitrogen are several orders of magnitud more abundant. If absorption of solar light (especially UVC) is a warming factor it is performed by O2 and N2, not by ozone whose ability to absorb UV radiation is minimal.
Ozone’s quantum energy is too high and can only absorb about 32 kcal/mol from incoming photons while O2 and N2 have an energy absorption of about 111,117 kcal/mol and 118,000 kcal/mol.

April 29, 2011 5:41 pm

While the subject is on tornadoes, I’ll add a bit to the mental picture I drew above…
Radiation just might play a big role in the science behind tornado and hurricanes. I’m not talking of “backradiation” or any of the screwball ideas in relation to CO2… get that out of your mind here, this is speaking of very local, less than a meter or centimeter effects.
When you quickly mix food coloring into water you will notice the ‘streamers’ of color streaming in close proximity to clear water streamers. This is the initial attempt to mix the two different substances. If one substance is frigid air and the other is air that is warm to hot and 100% saturated, I can easily see radiation playing in right there at that very local point.
Conduction can only occur on a molecule to molecule basis (mixing) but radiation can transfer energy across trillions of molecules at a time. I’ll call it long-reaching conduction. This long-reaching conduction though occurs as the difference of the two temperatures to the fourth power (see Stefan-Boltzmann). These streamers bring these two highly different (in temperature) substances in very close proximity to each other where this radiative, and instantaneous, transfer of energy can occur. It’s that instantaneous loss of heat by radiation from the water molecules that could, just could, also manifest as violent loss of volume. Needs some deeper testing there. It’s the fourth power that could make this violent and quick if the temperatures were highly different. Think of the frigid upper air and the warm moist air below being forcibly and quickly mixed together.
Does anyone see that mental picture?

April 29, 2011 5:49 pm

Obviously, when NCDC tallies the number of F3-F5 tornadoes from this recent outbreak, and gets around to updating that graph, there will be an uptick at the end in 2011 that is on par or even higher than the famous 1974 tornado outbreak. The point though is that despite the 1974 uptick, the trend was down.

The trend was going down during the warming period. This is desperate, desperate stuff.

April 29, 2011 5:50 pm

I’m so tired of hearing that global warming is unequivocal and that because the earth is warming, x, y and z are happening.
Horse hockey! If this ridiculous notion was correct, then we’d have seen more tornadoes 10 years ago.
It turns out, the good Dr. Spencer was spot on once again. “In other words, more violent tornadoes would, if anything, be a sign of “global cooling”, not “global warming”.
Anyone who claims more tornadoes are caused by global warming is either misinformed, pandering, or delusional.”

Tell me again what warming causes? Tell me again what is unequivocal? It’s simple foolish immorality cloaked in vapid sophistry to make such indecent posits while people suffer personal human tragedy.

April 29, 2011 5:55 pm

A message from a Warmist to other Warmists:

Britain’s cold snap does not prove climate science wrong
Climate sceptics are failing to understand the most basic meteorology – that weather is not the same as climate, and single events are not the same as trends
Guardian 6 January, 2010
George Monbiot and Leo Hickman

What has the trend been doing regarding F3-F5 tornadoes? ;O)

Bob in Castlemaine
April 29, 2011 5:55 pm

Perspective personified – thanks Anthony.
You know I can’t help but think the real reason for your recent weather in the US is that you’ve stopped burning witches.

Frank K.
April 29, 2011 5:57 pm

Thanks for this Anthony.
You know, I used to love meteorology. As a kid, I dreamed of becoming a meteorologist, and read many books on the subject from our local library. In college, though, I decided to a pursue a mechanical engineering degree. I did, however, end up focusing on thermo-fluid dynamics in graduate school, and computational fluid dynamics for my Ph.D. Much of my love for fluid dynamics and mathematical physics came from my interest in and observations of the natural flows in the atmosphere.
Now, I just get disgusted. It seems that climate elites and opportunists of every stripe have sought to politicize the weather. Every thunderstorm, every tornado, every hurricane is somehow “linked” global warming. That’s why I can barely stand to watch The Weather Channel any more.
And just wait until hurricane season begins. Any slight anomaly in the season will be amplified by the climate elites. People will be accused of causing(!) natural disasters if they choose not the believe the global warming hype. It makes me want to vomit.
I don’t think we’ll ever return to the past, when weather was apolitical. There’s too much money, greed, corruption, ego, and utter insanity to turn back the climate mania. The best we can do is to separate the climate elites from the government money trough which sustains them – and, unfortunately, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

April 29, 2011 5:58 pm

What we need here is a sense of proportion. It is gloves off time.
The Global warmers who claim these devastating tornadoes are connected with man-made CO2 are despicable cockroaches who should be drummed out of the scientific community.
Their anti-science puts their own sordid self-serving gravy train ahead of the need to save lives. For heavens sake we, WeatherAction – using solar activity (and lunar modulation) PREDICTED ALL SEVEN OF THESE EXTREME WEATHER PERIODS in USA this April. Someday, maybe, someday these advances in science might help warnings and SAVE LIVES. But NO the New York Times and their associated leeches, spongers, liars and brainwashers prefer people to die than science which can help save lives get a look in. Please see
Thanks Piers

April 29, 2011 6:00 pm

wayne April 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm:
… Well… not if they insist on ignoring new theories, such as a new one on water vapors influence in relation to tornadoes, hurricanes and the overall global pressure system such as one by Dr. Anastasia Marakieva et al. …

Not to endorse the above theory (ATTM), but, here is a video presentation on it:


April 29, 2011 6:01 pm

Dr. Roy Spencer
Anyone who claims more tornadoes are caused by global warming is either misinformed, pandering, or delusional.

Or off their medication.

April 29, 2011 6:01 pm

Your site becomes better and better using graphs, data reports and facts, while the warmist revert to the lowest common denominator. Name calling, howling at the moon and demands for sacrifice!
There is truly NO competition despite the warmist overwhelming financing, tens of thousands of Eco leftist organization and the ear of the most powerful elitist, bureaucrats and governments in the world. Thy still can’t mount a believable/truth/ fact base offensive (A castle built on sand and defended by straw men cannot persevere)
I give thanks to the unpaid but incredible smart skeptics and the most powerful tool the world has ever seen, the Internet, for disseminating facts and information.
We have got them by the short hairs! Good work to Anthony and everyone who devotes all this time, energy and research!

April 29, 2011 6:06 pm

Pssssst! James Sexton, they no longer care about global warming. They only care about the weather. You, like many of us, wonder why?
[your link]

April 29, 2011 6:09 pm

Frank K. says:
April 29, 2011 at 5:57 pm
I don’t think we’ll ever return to the past, when weather was apolitical
Frank, remember when people used to pray for rain…..
Now we know that lack of rain, too much rain, warm rain, cold rain, and snowrain…
…are all caused by man

April 29, 2011 6:19 pm

Ignore – following comments

April 29, 2011 6:22 pm

More Republican warming…NOAA Blizzard Warning:
729 PM CDT FRI APR 29 2011

April 29, 2011 6:28 pm

Thank you _Jim!
Didn’t know they had a video out… I’ll watch.
For sure the idea and paper is theirs, not mine, I just also know it does exist from experience. ☺

April 29, 2011 6:32 pm

While Think Progress’ blog contribution is less than useless,the NYT article did not suggest that predicting severe weather was “little more than a guessing game”. The clear point of the expert comments cited is that predicting exactly when and where tornadoes might form within thunderstorms is very difficult,no matter that the conditions and mechanisms producing the storms are better understood and forecast.

April 29, 2011 7:12 pm

I have seen some websites, like Space Weather, dicussing a Solar “Coronal Hole” event from April 28
is this true, and if so, what effect would this have on the globe this time?

April 29, 2011 7:17 pm

To state the obvious, this event needs to studied due to determine what appear to be some unusual climactic conditions.
We get the occasional tornado warning where i live.
I fear the warnings may never be able to predict an F5 (where the only safe place to be is below ground), but maybe the speed of communications can begin warn those in the path of utter destruction.
Personally, i always watch the big storms roll in. Fascination trumps safety.

April 29, 2011 7:25 pm

“”Anyone who claims more tornadoes are caused by global warming is either misinformed, pandering, or delusional.” Dr. Roy Spencer via WUWT”
That’s my latest tweet. Thanks Anthony.

April 29, 2011 7:34 pm

Trenberth is committing scientific fraud if he knows ( slide 26 of following ) that the atmospheric radiation window from the surface to space is 66 W/m2 and has not put forward a correction to his papers which show 40 W/m2 (eg TF&K 2008). His crediblity is in the same category as Mann. I would not be surprised if Trenberth actually knows, from measured data which shows CO2 lags temperature, that the AGW hypotheses as wrong.

Mike Smith
April 29, 2011 7:38 pm

“I fear the warnings may never be able to predict an F5 (where the only safe place to be is below ground), but maybe the speed of communications can begin warn those in the path of utter destruction.”
Let me reassure you: These tornadoes were VERY well forecast, including that violent tornadoes were likely. Take a look at this posting: If you look at the lowest row, you see the chance of EF-2+ intensity tornadoes is “high.”
The very next posting began: “An extremely dangerous, life-threatening situation continues to unfold this afternoon across a large part of MS and AL…with adjacent portions of TN and NW GA also expected to become a concern late this afternoon and evening.”
So, yes, most of the time these days meteorologists will accurately predict outbreaks of violent tornadoes.

John F. Hultquist
April 29, 2011 7:41 pm

In the WSJ for Friday (4/29/2011) there is an interesting Q & A with Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. One of the questions was . . .
Marc Myers, WSJ: Your voice always sounded like a warning. Was It?
Grace Slick.: Sometimes. For example, on “Somebody to Love,” the opening lines are:
When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies.
“When you learn that a truth is a lie, anger follows. There’s an annoyance in my voice because I’m annoyed.”
Gore and friends pushed the CAGW issue (I say, follow the money). They claimed the science was settled. It wasn’t and isn’t. Now they claim GHG and global warming increase tornadoes. As the information provided in Anthony’s post explains – this too is a lie.
Anger follows. Be annoyed.
Act annoyed. Financial help with shelters rather than wind turbines would make sense. Cash for clunkers? Make a list.

April 29, 2011 7:44 pm

Nick April 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm:
… The clear point of the expert comments cited is that predicting exactly when and where tornadoes might form within thunderstorms is very difficult …

Did you a) mean this, and b) are you serious?
Individual storms/tornadoes: A lot of dedicated observing has concluded it is the SW corner of a T-storm cell has the highest likelihood of producing a wall cloud and perhaps a subsequent tornado … never mind weak, infrequent spin-ups on the leading edge of squall lines that do little damage … tornadoes formation during/in hurricanes are a different matter which I’ll not address …
For an introduction, may I suggest these two sites for a quick ed. on tornadic thunderstorm dynamics:
General likelihood for the occurrence of tornadoes: The SPC (Storm Prediction Center) had that area rated as “High” that day –
Here’s the 1300 UTC Day 1 Outlook for instance for 27 Apr 2011:
I still don’t understand how they can make the claim “The clear point of the expert comments cited is that predicting exactly when and where tornadoes might form within thunderstorms is very difficult” unless they are severely deficient in even the elementary aspects of meteorology, and certainly below that of a novice storm-spotter to be sure.

April 29, 2011 7:44 pm

If warmer global temps were to elevate severe weather, the statistics of the global rise in temps don’t show it.
Ex: Cold air in Canada at x=4. Warm air in Gulf at y=8.
Warm the globe by 3.
Result: x=7, y=11
Now the temps are still 4 apart, but the contrast ratio is lessened.
(8/4=2) > (11/7=1.57) where the warm (energetic side) has less contrast to the cold side.

Claude Harvey
April 29, 2011 7:52 pm

Nobody gets it! It’s not global warming causing the tornadoes. It’s thousands of windmills. Those little beasts are tornado factories. Think about it! The propeller-ed marvels generate horizontal vortexes in their wake. When those vortexes turn vertical, voila! We have tornadoes. I’m pretty sure solar plants do the same thing by creating energy holes in the atmosphere. Nature detests a vacuum and fills it with in-rushing air. The earth’s rotation naturally causes that inrush to rotate and again, voila! We have tornado factories. (sarc)

Mike Bromley the Kurd
April 29, 2011 8:04 pm

Piers_Corbyn says:
April 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm
What we need here is a sense of proportion. It is gloves off time.

I disagree with the first sentence and doubly agree with the second, Piers. Is that proportional?
Time to start pressing for the sound defeat of this whole stinking gravy train. How can so few egomaniacal witch doctors hold sway over so many rational people? By force, plain and simple. They hold the guns and power…and the purse strings. The money they have squandered so far has been directed towards fabricating a bogeyman. Period. No solutions to any real problems at all. Meanwhile the real problems, too numerous to list, go unsolved. Real science languishes on the sidelines, censored by bursors with their heads in the sand. Pollsters rave about belief statistics of people who are starving and who don’t know what a poll is…
It was the aftermath of the horrible events in Japan, namely a cynical and opportunistic posting on Grist linking plate tectonics to climate change, that caused me to become militant. This ongoing outburst from the slatterns of climate preaching has served to destroy their credibility further: time to lace ’em up and punch their lights out.

April 29, 2011 8:08 pm

u.k.(us) April 29, 2011 at 7:17 pm
To state the obvious, this event needs to studied due to determine what appear to be some unusual climactic conditions.
We get the occasional tornado warning where i live.
I fear the warnings may never be able to predict an F5

They had a really, really good idea ahead of time … owing to a developed field of science/study termed “meteorology”.
Here’s what the science meteorology (courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center) prognosticated at about 11:00 AM EDT that morning here and pertinent parts excerpted below:
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Bold is mine – for emphasis.
Perhaps the best kept ‘secret’ is the SPC:
1) Convective Outlook –
2) Mesoscale Discussion –
web pages where these dynamics are discussed in advance of anticipated weather.

Steven Schuman
April 29, 2011 8:17 pm

Back in the fifties if we had weather like this, we knew the cause. That darn atomic bomb testing.

Jason Hoerner
April 29, 2011 8:39 pm

The lower troposphere temperature trend in the United States is down over the last 18 years (since 1993), according to RSS satellite data, and it’s flat in other global temperature indices. There’s no warming in the U.S. where all the tornadoes happened…

April 29, 2011 9:05 pm

Meteorology provides the most important part of building codes by contributing regional climatic data. That way we design, build and provide energy within that critical design temperatures. They also tell us to watch out for solar radiation and we are to reflect or protect from it. Solar emfs allowed to interact with anything produces results we won’t like and one is producing heat.
In work we completed in 7 provinces and 25 states we documented solar interaction with building development. We aren’t doing the job meteorology expects and the results are severe weather for all of us generating extreme heat atmospherically. In the summer building exteriors have reached over 200 degrees F on a 95 deg. day.
Here is an example of what we did around Earth Day in April to show solar interaction with building materials is generating extreme heat and it even happens in the winter.

April 30, 2011 12:13 am

Weather is not climate.
Unless it’s bad weather. Then it’s climate change.

toby G
April 30, 2011 12:58 am

What I want to know, is why in known tornado country people build their houses out of wood and plaster ..?!

April 30, 2011 1:19 am

Maybe this can help

Jonas N
April 30, 2011 5:01 am

I read through the comments at ThinkProgress, and I must say that ‘it is worse than we ever could imagine … ‘
Quite a few comments are stuck in ‘ awaitning moderation’, but the ones let through both give a hint of the ‘to-be-moderated’ contents and the level hang-around crowd there that isn’t moderated.
Both there, and at RealClimate (and other similar ones) I wonder if those running the site never are concerned with or heed the impression they give to them who aren’t already utterly entrenched in the mudslinging.
Most sympathetic comments are at Kindergarten- och schoolyard level …

April 30, 2011 5:50 am

The intellectual bankruptcy of the self-appointed leaders of the climate scientology crusade becomes more apparent with a few simple edits of the Trenberth quote in the head post:
Given that global warming [God’s existence] is unequivocal,” climate scientist [High Priest] Kevin Trenberth cautioned the American Meteorological Society in January of this year, “the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming [God] rather than the inane statements along the lines of ‘of course we cannot attribute any particular weather event to global warming [God’s wrath]’.
That they would use this type of specious reasoning to score political points is morally reprehensible.

Dave Springer
April 30, 2011 5:52 am

Annual number of tornadoes isn’t comparable year-to-year when the two years being compared are many years apart. The farther back in time you go the fewer people there were to spot funnel clouds and the less likely their observation would make it into any historic record. Comparing number of deaths suffers from a similar problem where population density increases every year so that a tornado that killed 10 people 50 years ago would kill 40 people today. Or maybe it would kill none at all because of better warning systems and preparedness. Even worse in number of tornados logged is that many of them are shrouded out of sight by rain so that a spotter can’t see it but modern doppler radar can see right through the rain shroud. The number of deaths is also extremely dependent on where the tornado strikes. One F-4 or F-5 with a base over a half mile wide leaving a 10 mile ground path through a metropolitan area would kill more people than all others combined for the past century. This has never happened that I know of which just goes to illustrate how little actual land area in the U.S. is metropolitan compared to what’s rural.

Jim S
April 30, 2011 8:45 am

My own anecdotal experience of tornado weather events (having grown up in the heart of tornado alley) is that you experience a significant temperature drop right before the storm rolls in. Everyone who has experienced this knows that tornados are on the way. It’s a spooky feeling and almost impossible to describe to someone who has not experienced it. I would think that cooler temperatures that extend further into spring would increase the chances of tornados and that warmer weather decreases their chance.

R. Gates
April 30, 2011 11:25 am

Would be nice to actually see skeptics and warmists alike looking at the science and actual statistics behind large tornado outbreaks. We know that the last big outbreak of this size in 1974 was also a La Nina Year. We also know that in the 15 La Nina episodes since 1950 that the temperature anomalies across the US show that in the March-May time frame the pacific northwest tends to be cooler than average and the SE tends to be warmer than average. Tornadoes are formed when cool air clashes (usually flowing from the west and north) collides with the with warm moist air being pulled up from the Gulf. Point is: this year’s large outbreak is certainly more related to La Nina, just as the flooding in Australia was. Might these kinds of outbreaks increase or diminish with climate change, human caused or not? Guaranteed they will…but we have far too little data to know which. Using the recent tornado outbreak as evidence or proof of anything other than commonalities of weather in La Nina years is absurd. The best use of research time and dollars related to these tornadoes is to look at the common threads of La Nina years in which we have a good amount of data covering the N. Hemisphere. Looking at the deeper common La Nina threads connecting 1974 and 2011 in order to predict future outbreaks and potentially save lives in the future would be a useful endeavor.

Jeff Alberts
April 30, 2011 1:24 pm

there always seems to be hucksters

Should be “there always seem to be hucksters”.

Stephen Skinner
April 30, 2011 1:31 pm

“Historically, there have been many tornado outbreaks that occurred well before climate change was on anyone’s radar. Here’s a few:”
These years can also be compared to the population densities to give an additional dimension to this data.
In addition. If tornadoes are caused by the collision of cold air from the north and warm from the south then this doesn’t square with the model of global warming. The arctic is supposed to warm to a greater degree than lower latitudes. If that is the case then the temperature gradient between the Arctic and lower latitudes should be lower, thereby lessening the energy available to tornadoes.

April 30, 2011 1:45 pm

R. Gates says:
April 30, 2011 at 11:25 am
Might these kinds of outbreaks increase or diminish with climate change, human caused or not?

I’d bet on more superoutbreaks tornadoes during cooling phases.
Joe Bastardi had something to say about tornadoes in March. Quite interesting don’t you think?

Joe Bastardi – MARCH 11th, 2011
“Tornadoes during a La Nina are stronger and remain on the ground longer than those observed during an El Nino. That means an increased danger of large destructive and deadly tornadoes during the cold phase. There is also an increased risk of “tornado swarms” or outbreaks of 40 or more twisters from a single weather system in a La Nina season.
We believe a recent climate shift favoring a cooler Pacific (negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO) and more frequent La Nina events suggests we have entered a period of increasing severe storms that could last a decade or more.
Note 1974 a major La Nina like this year saw major flooding in Australia’s Queensland and in Brazil just like this year. Note how this La Nina using Wolter’s Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) is among the strongest ever.”

April 30, 2011 3:18 pm

I suspect that cellphones are a significant factor in tornado reporting rates. Now when people see one they call 911 right away, while in the past they just ducked into the basement until the tornado was past, by which time the phones might not be operating.
On NBC News last night, Brian Williams could hardly wait to ask his meterologist “the question we all want answered,” namely “are we causing this somehow?” The meterologist deflected the question.
Williams’ “we must be to blame” syndrome is in the best Biblical tradition — The Assyrians overran the kingdom of Israel because the Israelites were sinners. Then the Babylonians overran Judea because the Judeans were sinners too. Clearly if we are being punished it must be for our sins.
Not to say that humans can’t mess up the environment with smog, water pollution, etc. But are we to blame for the whirlwind itself?

April 30, 2011 4:12 pm

R. Gates says:
April 30, 2011 at 11:25 am
Might these kinds of outbreaks increase or diminish with climate change, human caused or not? Guaranteed they will…but we have far too little data to know which.

Not guarateed at all. You forget “climate change” as defined is a global phenomenon. Tornados are not trees, so tele-connection doesn’t apply to them. They only operate using local heat.
If CONUS cools down, then that may increase the number of tornados – let’s make an assumption it does.
However if the rest of the world warms up (or even just a large splodge in the far north), then “global warming” will be said to have occurred. That means “global warming” causes more tornados.
If the rest of the world cools along with CONUS, then “global cooling” will have occurred, and tornados are caused by “global cooling”.
“Climate change” having (in common with most of the CAGW utterences) a predictive power of approximately zero.

April 30, 2011 5:37 pm

You guys should get a kick out of this.
On April 28th, Chris Hayes, the guest host for ‘The Last Word’ on MSNBC, likened Birthers to Skeptics.
Joining Chris on the show were Chris Mooney, a political journalist for Mother Jones magazine, and Jonathan Kay, a managing editor of Canada’s National Post newspaper, who also wrote a book about conspiracy theorists.
The whole correlation between Birthers and Skeptics was just the lead into the real story.
The bottom line is, is “Last Word” would have you believe that Republicans are pathological and need to see the Democrats as the one and true Order.
Just take a look at the quotes from the show.
You’re gonna love what Mooney had to say:

“There is a science of why we deny science, right? There are facts about why we can’t accept facts. Basically, it’s a theory called motivated reasoning.”

And a little further in the show, Mooney also said:

“I think there’s a reality gap between the parties. Republicans and Democrats believe different things about a lot of issues and it turns out Republicans are more likely to wrong.”

Then the host, Chris Hayes said:

“In the case of global warming particularly, which is a very, very high-stakes conspiracy theory, that a majority of Republicans out there share – John, what did you learn about how you break – you sort of break this kind of vicious cycle that conspiracists are under?”

To which John Kay answered:

In the case of global warming particularly, which is a very, very high-stakes conspiracy theory, that a majority of Republicans out there share – John, what did you learn about how you break – you sort of break this kind of vicious cycle that conspiracists are under?”

It seems to me that every accusation that the ‘hot-heads’ make, is really but a reflection of themselves. It’s like, the spin is to ‘time’ accusations by placing blame and name-calling the skeptic/republican/denier before the truth gets out and the alarmist/democrat/algorians are found out to be the ones in denial and in need of a bit a therapy.

April 30, 2011 6:48 pm

I’m sorry but what is the link here, I see one blog quoting another blog, I see no scientist blaminig the current tornado’s on AGW, what you seem to have is a story based on nothing. I have seen similar stories in a number of other skeptic blogs but I am yet to see one of them quote a scientist (or scientific organisation) link the two things. In fact seveal of the above link (if you follow them) have scientists says a link can’t be made
Again I’m sorry, but who the real “hucksters” in this are is painfully obvious.
Trenberth is quoted here several times but none of his comments link the two events in fact this one
Dates back to Jan 2011 long before the current Tornado events.
As with a number of the stories I have responded to here, I’m sure I will get the usual hostility but will any of it actually address the facts.
In many of the comments above I see the usual backslapping references to religion that have now become a standard part of the skeptics game plan, but in all honesty I see much more religious fervor in the skeptic answers above and little interest in either science or facts.

April 30, 2011 8:50 pm

P.S Your story also contains a graph which claims to be NCDC (but it is sourced from yet another blog site, the dailycaller) NCDC is part of NOAA, it took cust a couple of minutes to find this on their actual site it covers historic tornado activity
It certainly does not agree with your graph and apart from spikes which increase after the mid 1990s it also show a clear increase in in general year to year levels after the 1990s of around (10) tornado’s,
Your graph also seem to stop at 2005 leaving out some of the later years which had very strong activity (why is that I wonder)

Mike Smith
April 30, 2011 10:03 pm

Try this:
Both Trenberth and Mann link tornadoes and AGW.

Jeff Alberts
April 30, 2011 10:33 pm

April 30, 2011 at 8:50 pm
Dan, frequency is not the same thing as intensity. And frequency is directly proportional to our ability to detect, which has increased dramatically in recent decades. Hence your increase.

May 1, 2011 12:12 am

Prior to 1950 there was no active method of reporting tornadoes, so the record was collected from news paper stories, insurance claims and obituaries. Before the mid 1950’s when the state highway patrolmen were recruited as storm reporters only the ones that caused intense damage or killed some one were know from public records.
Active storm spotter services from local police and sheriff deputies started in the 1960’s and coverage has been greatly increased since the advent of Doppler radar.
The same problem exists with earthquake data bases, they grow exponentially as the data collection gets better coverage and instrument sensitivity, auto evaluation by computer for all of the small one that were never reported before.
It all comes down the better data bases give better references, than scattered parts of the real history do, so the past is artificially lower in activity, than the present.
With insured crops damaged by hail report numbers are looked at in detail, the stats on the total number of claims submitted falls off dramatically as the wheat get harvested every year, nobody can get paid for hail damage to stubble, so claims drop off much more sharply than the actual rates of hail occurrence. These still show up in corn and milo acreages, but the bulk of the mid west, Kansas and Nebraska grows more wheat than other crops.
With every way of evaluating natural storm destructiveness there are weaknesses in the way the data is gathered, it is not just the basic recording stations that are less than perfect at gathering the needed data to really know what is going on.
Mike Smith is right that the NWS severe storm warning system is much better than it was before Doppler radar came on scene. I would just like to be able to help them understand the lunar atmospheric tidal effects, that are as predictable as the ocean tides, can be used to figure when and where large outbreaks will occur months in advance, to give them more time to get ready for the outbreaks.
Richard Holle

christopher booker
May 1, 2011 3:43 pm

Anthony, that is an excellent post. Some of your readers may be amused by a tailpiece on this theme I put at the bottom of my column in today’s London Sunday Telegraph, as follows:
Inevitably the devastating tornadoes which have killed more than 300 people in the US prompted Newsweek to ask ‘Is global warming responsible for wild weather?’. The answer it found is ‘’yes’. Another Newsweek article cited ‘the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded’, killing ‘more than 300 people’, as among ‘the ominous signs that the earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically’. But this one was published on 28 April 1975, when Newsweek listed America’s 1974 US tornado disaster as one of the harbingers of disastrous global cooling, heralding the approach of a new ice age.
The links are as follows:
current Newsweek article, ‘Is Global Warming Responsible for Wild Weather?’
and for 1975 Newsweek article ‘The Cooling World’

Al Gored
May 1, 2011 4:22 pm

christopher booker says:
May 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm
The BBC will not be amused.

May 1, 2011 4:30 pm

“Huckster” is too light a word. These people are feeding off the dead.
They are (literally) carrion eaters specializing in cannibalism.

May 1, 2011 4:33 pm

_Jim says:
April 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm
Thanks for the reply and the links.
I guess my point was, that unless I see a tornado bearing down on me, I will not go underground.
I have opened the hatch to my crawlspace while awaiting a storm (once),
and wished I had the foresight another time.
The Chicago suburbs rarely get an F5 (or anything near one), and I know this.
The synopsis you supplied in your comment, was impressive in its detail and accuracy. I fear some/most of the general public never received it, or understood the implications.
That synopsis should put the fear of god into people, but does it?
On those sort of days, everybody needs to be watching the sky.
After dark, all bets are off.

May 2, 2011 7:17 am

I would love to see a graph of global temperature overlaid on top of the significant tornado graph. One could probably get a better grasp of how cooler temps lead to more significant tornadoes.

June 2, 2011 5:51 am

I’m just a close observer, and I’m not aligned with any particular agenda. I do suggest the presence of a pattern in the behavior of long-track tornadic supercells. I live in Oklahoma, on the southwest side of the OKC metro. On May 3rd, 1999, my residence was in the forecasted track of a mile-wide tornado. Instead of turning right, the storm paralleled HE Bailey turnpike, sparing my residence but eventually barreling into heavily populated areas up the ‘pike. This paralleling of major highways is a quite common occurrence. Im not necessarily concluding that the presence of highways is is the catalyst for tornadic supercells. I’m not opposed to the notion that our transportation routes are placed along pre-existing ‘lines’ upon which storms tend to travel.

Chris Allen
June 2, 2011 5:13 pm

A fantastic, well-researched post, Anthony. As a TV weathercaster for almost 25 years, it’s great to read someone who’ll cut through the bullcrap and state the facts – backing it all up with credible resources. Thank you!

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