Media accurately reporting links between climate change and tornadoes

Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

Post by Ryan Maue

We all pray for the survivors and victims of the tornado tragedy in Joplin.

Headline story from USA-Today

The mainstream print media has done an excellent job reporting on the disaster.  When asking questions about relationships between climate change and tornadoes, it is very encouraging to see who is on the journalists’ Rolodex in this instance:  forecasters and scientists who are actually responsible for severe weather warnings and are true tornado experts — rather than the usual attention-seeking political climate scientists and their sycophant bloggers.  I’ll highlight some of the quotes by prominent experts in three articles from ABC, CBS, and Reuters.  Suggestions for comments: find alternative viewpoints, clip a sentence or two, and provide the “expert” along with the URL link.  The hand waving may require a wind warning…

Brave souls should get a vomit bag ready when listening to simpleton Al Roker pontificate on the cause of these tornadoes:  climate change which is bringing typically rural tornadoes into urban areas…yep.

WUWT May 9, 2011:  NOAA CSI: no attribution of climate change to tornado outbreak

Lead forecaster Greg Carbin of the National Weather Service’s National Severe Storm Laboratory was asked why the 2011tornado season has been so extraordinarily devastating. — Question (1):  Have there been more tornadoes in 2011 than previous years? From ABC News online: Joplin, Missouri Tornado: What’s Causing the Rise in Deadly Storms?

Carbin’s answer: “There is no indication of an upward trend in either intensity or numbers. We’ve had a lot more reports of tornadoes, but most of those tornadoes are actually the weak tornadoes, the F-0. When you take out the F-0 tornadoes from the long-term record, there is very little increase in the total number of tornadoes, and we don’t see any increase in the number of violent tornadoes. It’s just that these things are coming, and they’re very rare and extreme, and they happen to be hitting populated areas. So right now, no indication of an upward trend in the strong to violent tornadoes that we’re seeing.”

Next question (2):  Are strong tornadoes a result of global warming?

Carbin’s answer:  “With respect to a connection to climate change … it’s an unanswered question, essentially. We know that there are ingredients that thunderstorms need that could increase in a warmer world, but we also know there are ingredients that may decrease, so the connections if any are very tenuous and the scientific discoveries on this have yet to be made.”

CBS News onlineDeadliest tornado season in 50 years – but why?

Quoting the article:

 At the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma last week, lead forecaster Corey Mead was already tracking the early stages of a storm system that would devastate Joplin.

We don’t fully understand how tornadoes form,” Mead says. But, as CBS News senior business correspondent Anthony Mason reports, this 17-year veteran of the National Weather Service says forecasting has improved significantly.

“We can actually anticipate the potential for those types of storms several days out,” Mead says. “But the exact locations and timing of more significant tornado threats – sometimes we don’t know up until just a few hours leading up to the events.”

…City College of New York’s professor Stan Gedzelman … He says superstorms are formed by an instability in the air that usually occurs in the Spring. “Yesterday’s instability – and the instability of the storms that hit Tuscaloosa is just about as large as I have ever seen,” he says.

Gedzelman sees nothing strange in the weather pattern this year. But year-to-date, tornadoes have killed more than 500 people. That’s seven times the average, making this the deadliest tornado season in more than half a century.

“The warning system was absolutely as good as it could be,” Gedzelman says. In fact, Joplin residents were given a 24-minute warning. Studies have shown that warning of just 6 to 15 minutes reduce the expected fatalities by more than 40 percent.

“It’s really remarkable the accuracy of the forecasts,” Gedzelman says. “It’s just that the level of destruction is beyond belief.”

It’s rare for tornadoes of this force to form at all. It’s rarer still for them to find population centers like Tuscaloosa and now Joplin.

Next up in the mainstream media:  Reuters — La Nina weather pattern may be factor in more tornadoes

“La Nina typically has a more active southern jet stream. This spring that has played a role in the severe weather,” said Mark Paquette, meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.

Another factor may be warmer temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, which helped contribute to a warm and muggy air mass in the south, Paquette said.

But meteorologists said it was impossible to determine if climate change is responsible for the surge in natural disasters.

It could be climate change might cause more tornadoes, or less tornadoes, or there might be no change,” Wurman said.

The tornadoes that hit the south in April were exceptional in their number, according to weather experts. What was unusual about Sunday’s Missouri tornado was that it made a direct hit on a small city.

“It’s bad luck,” said Paquette. “Sometimes you have tornadoes that hit in the cornfields of Kansas or Nebraska or Iowa and the only person affected is that farmer and it doesn’t even hit his house. But here we have a tornado that hit a hospital.”

The expanding population of the United States, with accompanying suburban sprawl, has created more areas for tornadoes to cause serious damage.

Advertisements

80 thoughts on “Media accurately reporting links between climate change and tornadoes

  1. Poor suburban always gets blamed. Eighty years ago, farm communities were much than they are now. When those people moved to the cities to get work, they shrunk the density of people in the rural parts of the country that typically get hit by tornadoes. I doubt suburban sprawl around Boston is increasing tornado fatalities.

  2. Where is everyone getting the idea that the GOM is so warm this spring? Michael mann mentioned that “fact” in his hurricane forecast last week. According to UNISYS, the GOM is almost 2 degrees C below normal for the date right now.

  3. So much has been learned about climate hucksterism these last couple of years (and no better than here at WUWT) that fewer folks are willing to look like fools by exaggerating possible climate change connections to current events, especially terrible tragedies as occurred in Joplin.
    Only slightly OT, yesterday I visited Yosemite National Park for the first time. I was on guard, Yosemite being kind of a temple to Gaia for many eco-worshipers, and me not subscribing to their religion. But a great thing happened:
    At the entry gate, as I paid the fee, I asked the ranger on duty if the road through the
    east mountain pass out of the park was open yet. “No,” she said, “Not till July. We had too much global warming this winter, 40 feet of it.” And she kind of winked.
    I was in a good mood the rest of the day. I mean, if a kind of high priestess to Gaia can make a joke like that to a random citizen, we are winning.
    KW

  4. Phil Nizialek says:
    May 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm
    That’s the kind of data that the MSM prime time needs to be telling people. With an attention span on news reports of 30 seconds, nobody is going to dig deeper and find the facts that the Meteorologists are trying to get across.
    So, insert one warming allusion on the Nightly News, and that’s what people come away with. Most are quite aware of the very long Winter and cooler Spring, ergo you have the disconnect.

  5. I hope he, somewhere, told reporters that part of the reason there is an increase of reports. Especially of lower level tornadoes. Is due to the “ability” to detect those tornadoes, that have happened before, with newer more sensitive detection technology.

  6. I just watched ABC’s Nightline, and they called in one one of the high priestesses of AGW, Heidi Cullen. She referred to longer term events like droughts as something that could be linked to global warming, but said we can’t link this year’s tornado crop to it.
    For Heidi Cullen, that’s a lot more sensible than I expected to hear!

  7. In comments on the post below about NOAA’s elusive search for integrity, rbateman alerted me to this ABC report:
    rbateman says:
    May 23, 2011 at 8:00 pm
    You be the judge: What did Cullen allude to?
    http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/joplin-missouri-tornado-deadliest-year-13670115

    Note how Diane Sawyer opens the report by framing the question…”Is this a preview of life under global warming?”
    Reporter Jim Avila then asks noted (notorious) climate and tornado expert (/sarc) Heidi Cullen about the link between global warming and tornadoes…and attributes her as saying that global warming is responsible for “increases in humidity levels” and “a general increase extreme weather” (while showing images of wild fires, droughts, floods, tornadoes, etc.). Heidi then says that we should expect to see more wild fires, floods, drought, and general extreme weather in a “warming world”. When asked about tornadoes specifically, she hedges by saying “we really don’t have enough data to make the case…” Meaning, yeah you probably should expect more tornadoes but, darn it, we just don’t have enough data yet, but don’t worry, we’ll find it…
    I’m sorry…in my opinion, ABC News showed extremely poor taste injecting the CAGW political agenda into what has turned out to be an extremely sad and horrific event for the poor people of Joplin, MO.
    [ryanm: Dr. Heidi Cullen is not a tornado researcher or expert. She would not be deemed credible if asked to be witness in any court case. Dr. Greg Forbes, on the other hand, is indeed top notch caliber when it comes to severe weather. No one in meteorology that I know takes Heidi Cullen seriously.]

  8. Interestingly, the BBC ran an early web story on the Joplin tornado and they included a sidebar with historic information:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13497489
    March 1925: Deadliest twister in US history as so-called Tri-State Tornado kills 695 in Missouri, southern Illinois and south-west Indiana
    March 1932: Deep South tornado outbreak kills 332 people from Texas to South Carolina, with 270 dying in Alabama alone
    May 1840: The Great Natchez Tornado kills 317 people in Mississippi town, most living on flatboats on the river
    April 1974: 310 killed in 24-hour “super outbreak” of 148 tornadoes across 13 states.
    May 1896: Two weeks of storms kill 305 people in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    These are early-in-the-season reports. I do not see where their information came from for either the story or the sidebar.

  9. I think it’s our nature to ask why with all the deaths and people having to start their lives over from just rumble. I have experienced several major events in my life time now. The April ’74 event, EF 4 of Huntsville, AL, 1989 and recently the EF 4/5 tornado in AL. I live only 1/4 mile from worst damage.
    The last line in the above report sums it up, more suburban sprawl. Many of the local area to take such absolute devastation here on the April 27 were not here several decades ago. It was cotton fields and forests.
    Another thing to take into account, in the past if a house or business wasn’t hit then it didn’t get reported. Growing up in the 60’s I remember several such touchdowns but they were never reported in the news. NWS still to this day doesn’t always get the report so they can survey the damage , if the damage is rural isolated areas. I think it’s fair to say that we did have the same number of tornadoes hitting in past history.
    Today with cell phones it is easier to file a report as it is happening but when “the big one” comes along even cell phones fail as does emergency radio as it did recently here.
    NOAA weather radios save the day for many of us locally. having a game plan or a place that can take a hit was the other way to survive such an outbreak.
    In the 60’s we got used to seeing fallout shelter signs in the SE United States due to our Cuban neighbors . I remember they got used for tornado emergencies as my dad volunteer time with Civil Defense. Maybe time to revisit that idea if we can not improve building codes seeing what mother nature can dish out.

  10. We have simply been horribly unlucky as these tornadoes have swept right through populated areas. Had they tracked a few miles North or South, it would have made all the difference.

  11. Mother nature has a way of making up for lost time.
    After a couple of previous rather non-eventful tornado years…this season has collapsed into a tragic and historic continuous nightmare of large, long-track, and violent tornadoes.
    No other natural disaster on earth can reduce entire communities to splinters in a matter of seconds.
    On a much larger scale, the tsunami has the same effect but that happens in a matter of minutes. The EF4 or 5 tornado….a matter of seconds….and all of the trees are stripped of their bark and nothing is recognizable.
    Waiting for that dolt from the UK after the last tornado outbreak in AL who tried to compare such an outbreak to the big straight line blow in the UK in the 1980s….and blame US building codes on the problem.
    There is no comparison to an EF4 or EF5 tornado to any other hazard on earth, in terms of its immediate destruction.
    http://www.stltoday.com/news/multimedia/youtube_c551330c-8560-11e0-afe5-0019bb30f31a.html
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  12. Well OBVIOUSLY global warming doesn’t increase the frequency of tornadoes. That would be just silly.
    What it does is make them more likely to hit population centres because they get sucked toward them by the UHI. That is why the third world isn’t getting hit by increases in tornadoes while the first world is. We’ve got high enough UHI to suck the tornadoes off their path and into the cities, the third world doesn’t.
    This is part of the benefit of the whole carbon credit system. We in the first world pay the third world to NOT use fossil fuels, thereby not only protecting the world from the ravages of global warming, but also protecting the third world from having their cities destroyed by UHI seeking tornadoes. Third world countries are ill equipped to handle tornado attacks, so this is for their benefit.
    Set/sarcasm=off
    Condolences to the families who’ve lost homes and loved ones to this remarkable, but dangerous, weather phenomenon which from time to time in history strikes, unfortunately, more than fields or lakes.

  13. It was interesting listening to an interview between NBC reporter Brian Williams, who cut his teeth in Joplin, MO and the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore.
    Cantore, in the past, even though I think he is a very astute and articulate, meteorologist, dropped the climate change bomb and I was like “Jim are you ****ing kidding me??”
    SO…..tonight….with the apocalyptic remains of a Joplin neighborhood in the background, Brian Williams (who was a weatherman, not a meteorologist) made some interesting observations about the local economy of MO and how they deal with the tornado threat.
    But then he went on to say…”when I was here decades ago….there was nothing of this scale. What is going on??”
    In other words….cue the CACC chorus…..”it must be climate change.”
    Funny….neither Brian went there with his commentary NEITHER DID JIM CANTORE.
    Wow….common sense….rules, after all.
    Good to hear. Brian and Jim both, being intelligent animals, had the good sense to bite down on expressing their opinion in the given moment, and let the gravity of the tragedy and the awesome power of nature…to speak for themselves.
    These storms striking urban areas and urban encroachment bring a new level of horror to the situation.
    It is truly a remarkably BAD tornado season…but…not outside the realms of the variability of climate over the eons.
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA
    [ryanm: btw, the first three weeks of May 2011 saw the fewest tornadoes on record…]

  14. Ryan Maue says:
    May 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm
    Current Gulf of Mexico SST anomaly: Not record high…
    In fact, if the zero is correct it looks normal.

  15. winterkorn,
    Caution! They may calculate, who was on duty at the Yosemite gate yesterday, and fire her for joking about precepts of the new mass religion.
    If you think this is below the Big Brother’s moral level, think again.
    The eternal war between reason and obscurantism has never been more serious. Billions of people are losing old religions, and our reptilian rulers know only too well that “lackeys need God,” as Voltaire once put it. So, they are busy inventing new gods for their lackeys, and who are we, the non-suggestible misfits, to interfere?

  16. http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?bmb=1&desktop_uri=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DXT7CtF5ljxY%26feature%3Dyoutu.be&feature=youtu.be&gl=US&v=XT7CtF5ljxY
    That basehunter video third down is just ridiculously frightening.
    Notice at the beginning the you can barely see the violent suction vortices were it not for the power flash, and then you see them doing the whirling dervish death dance.
    Then, all of the sudden the cyclone organizes and intensifies and a huge wedge appears as if by magic.
    Then–even worse–the wedge quickly grows into the so-called “black fog”, approaching the width of a mile or more.
    Something about this tornado, when I am normally in awe….this one makes me just sick to my stomach to watch.
    The stuff that nightmares are made of…
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  17. Joe Bastardi, before he went behind the paywall, discussed how these outbreaks are attributable to the COLD in the north meeting the warm from the south. Check the wayback machine for his earlier forecasts a week or more in advance of the event, and his explanations. He is now hidden on weatherbell.com. For only $150/yr you can read him. The WSJ recently offered a print and e-subsription for about 1/3 that.
    Terry

  18. [ryanm: btw, the first three weeks of May 2011 saw the fewest tornadoes on record…]
    ================================
    Interesting how we are entering into a time of extremes.
    Statistically the quiet early May may mean something…
    But the historic death toll this year…be it from bad luck or not…makes that early May stat mean nothing at all.
    Also…even if early May was quiet….the sheer number of long track twisters this year has been really impressive.
    I am old enough to remember 1974 like it was yesterday, so 🙂
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  19. Terry Jackson says:
    May 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm
    Joe Bastardi, before he went behind the paywall, discussed how these outbreaks are attributable to the COLD in the north meeting the warm from the south. Check the wayback machine for his earlier forecasts a week or more in advance of the event, and his explanations. He is now hidden on weatherbell.com. For only $150/yr you can read him. The WSJ recently offered a print and e-subsription for about 1/3 that.
    Terry
    ==================
    And Bastardi said back in February that this would be a bad, BAD tornado season.
    He predicted it. Hats off to his long-range abilities.
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  20. I think I read that the Svensmark theory would, if we get a grand minimum, predict an increase in cyclone energy. Would that translate into more tornadoes too?
    Meanwhile, solar cycle 24 has gone into a frightening slide.

  21. Weather had always differentiated tween rural and urban areas. But now urbanites are seeing what ruralites have always experienced. and it’s all because of global warming. Tornadoes used to make their way around cities, especially big cities, and preferred smashing the rural locales.
    But now because of manmade co2 tornadoes are after every kind of city. They have decided not to make differentiations anymore.
    Al Gore’s movie never warned us about that. Global warming is turning out to be worse than even he thought!
    —————————————————–
    Al Roker is a weather expert—sheesh!

  22. Lots of tornadoes track parallel with Interstate 44, ice storms too. It is a corridor where the big air masses frequently collide, making life difficult and sometimes deadly. Strong, friendly people live there. Good people that have often helped out and sheltered folks from surrounding states during their times of need.

  23. Here in Scotland we’ve had some strong winds with gusts up to 100mph. Trees are down everywhere with the result that many roads and rail routes were closed. Just as the winds cease the Icelandic ash cloud is arriving.
    … so far no mention of global warming on the BBC.

  24. I guess the “we don’t know” answer is better than outright blaming this year’s tornadoes on man-made global warming, but the obvious, scientific answer to the question is an emphatic ‘NO”! If man-made global warming caused an increase in powerful tornadoes, then we would have seen an increasing trend in powerful tornadoes over the last 50 years. Instead, we have a decreasing trend. So if there is any connection at all, it would be that man-made global warming reduces the threat of the most powerful tornadoes. Any other answer is still a cop-out!
    [ryanm: one day soon, we will have cloud resolving, microscale climate models that run at resolutions of 100s of meters or less. The computing power required will exist eventually. Designing the modeling experiment will require at least another couple decades of work…]

  25. It is all due to the normal variation in the 18.6 year lunar declinational cycle. Maximum tornado production occurs just after maximum North culmination, and three to four days after maximum South culmination (back on the 18th +4 days = the 22nd and 23rd then also as the moon crosses the equator headed north (5-26-2011) so you can expect to see more storms through the 28th of May 2011 before it calms down again.
    1974 was 37 years ago or two 18.6 year cycles it will calm down in another year or so and be back to normal slow tornado seasons then for quite a while.
    http://research.aerology.com/lunar-declinational-affects-on-tornado-production/
    http://research.aerology.com/category/severe-weather/tornadoes/

  26. @savethesharks says:
    No other natural disaster on earth can reduce entire communities to splinters in a matter of seconds…..
    There is no comparison to an EF4 or EF5 tornado to any other hazard on earth, in terms of its immediate destruction.
    Um… pyroclastic flow?

  27. Ryan Maue,
    “We all pray for the survivors and victims of the tornado tragedy in Joplin.”
    I have the greatest sympathy and concern for the victims of this tragedy but I do not pray. Is it asking too much for believers not to make such remarks especially on a website dedicated to scientific inquiry? How about at least the usual inclusion of “thoughts” with the prayers or maybe “many of us pray”?
    Then when you click on the hyperlinked word “pray” there is a photo of a statue of praying hands with the caption “…this photo shows the only thing on the Joplin campus that was untouched by the tornado”.
    Do you really endorse the idea that a deity allowed an F-5 tornado to smash a religiously affiliated hospital killing five patients, not to mention the many innocent people in the surrounding community, but purposely intervened to spare a concrete statue of praying hands?

  28. Two thoughts. First,
    “Deadliest tornado season in 50 years – but why?”
    “The expanding population of the United States, with accompanying suburban sprawl, has created more areas for tornadoes to cause serious damage.”
    The population of the US in 1960 was 179,323,175 possible victims. In 2010, the population was 307,006,550 possible victims. That is an increase of 127,683,375 possible victims or an increase of 71.2%. We are lucky that there are not more deaths.
    Second,
    “La Nina typically has a more active southern jet stream. This spring that has played a role in the severe weather,” said Mark Paquette, meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.
    It is more than just La Nina. When you couple La Nina with a strong, negative PDO, you get severe tornados. Why does everyone miss the negative PDO? I expect this severe weather to last for around 20 years. Yes, it is about the change in climate, but it has nothing to do with global warming and everything to do with our current global cooling.
    Jeff Wiita

  29. Gedzelman sees nothing strange in the weather pattern this year.
    A strange comment really. He must not of been watching this years jet streams. The current large trough over the USA pushing cold air into warm is part of the current jet stream pattern that is a product of the low solar output.

  30. There has been a recorded outbreak of sanity at the Guardian.

    “Number of tornadoes recorded appears to have increased significantly, but the real answer is no one really knows”
    Grady Dixon, assistant professor of meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University, told AFP: “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. 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.”
    “Since more moisture gets added to the atmosphere as the climate warms, additional water vapour may help severe thunderstorms and tornadoes to form. On the other hand, wind shear is expected to decline due to climate change, which would argue against an increase in tornado numbers.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/24/tornadoes-more-common-climate-change

    When one stops guessing and actually asks questions and look at the data you tend to come to different conclusions.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/09/noaa-csi-no-attribution-of-climate-change-to-tornado-outbreak/

  31. It was the extremely cold central states air mass causing the warm, relative, air from the Gulf of Mexico causing an energetic cold frontal system that spawned these tornado clusters. It you call that climate change it is up to you but inaccurate.
    Before the media got as big or as news grabbing as it is today many tornadoes were not reported and there are also far more people around to report such events. Ergo- more reports so more tornadoes. But not true since we do not know exactly how many tornadoes there were 50/100 years ago. tornadoes are also more likely to destroy towns now since towns are now much bigger so statistically more likely to be hit. Still does not mean an increase in tornadoes.

  32. Ryan,
    If you have a less atmospheric pressure, you have less friction in the atmosphere that would slow down and break up tornadoes. So, they can be more powerful.
    Science has many time ignored the obvious just for the push of the dreaded AGW.

  33. “And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.”
    Condescension from the WAPO, Via 350.org.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-link-between-climate-change-and-joplin-tornadoes-never/2011/05/23/AFrVC49G_story.html
    Hattip to DGH above who also posted the link.

  34. Just a thought- but does the ‘Urban Heat Island’ effect give more likelihood to the chance of a tornado touching down where there is a relatively open area with lots of tarmac and buildings – where heat is causing updraft just as the cooler air of the thunderstorms is overhead… If so – would it be possible to modify the air movement by changing the shapes of streets and buildings?

  35. Sorry that last sentence should read : “Would it be possible to modify the air movement and decrease likelihood of tornado touchdown by modifying the shape and composition of streets and buildings?”

  36. davidmhoffer says:
    May 23, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    What it does is make them more likely to hit population centres because they get sucked toward them by the UHI. That is why the third world isn’t getting hit by increases in tornadoes while the first world is. We’ve got high enough UHI to suck the tornadoes off their path and into the cities, the third world doesn’t.

    (And yes, I noticed the /sarc). Anecdotally, I’ve wondered about this, not the “sucked toward them by UHI”, but by the increase in updraft over larger urban areas (even over smaller urban areas in discrete rural areas) , due to UHI. Watching urban development across the lower Great Lakes region, I seem to be seeing an increase in intensity in convective cells over a larger area that appears to correlate with UHI. Remembering back to my youth in the 50s and 60s, I remember summer thunderstorms as being more compact, discrete late afternoon cells over a city with population density of approx 50-60K. Much of the rural area surrounding that city is now built-up, and the greater region has grown by several orders of magnitude. Could we be seeing larger tornados in UHI areas simply due to the contribution UHI enhanced updraft may be providing to convective complexes? I appreciate there is a difference between larger air mass interaction and local convective updraft, but in either case, could larger area UHI not be an intensity factor?

  37. Washington Post has a front page article today linking the ‘increase in super strong tornados to climate change’ (paraphrased).

  38. Awful carnage in Joplin. Condolences to thosewho have lost loved ones..Will there come a time when goverment/insurance companies say sorry we will not insure you if you live in these severe weather areas.As some one who lives in England and has a benign climate i always ask myself when i see this sort of death and destruction, why would you live there knowing that could happen?.

  39. In this case I’m wondering if the warnings were up to snuff. Compare with the 1999 Moore tornado, which flattened a similar area and had a death toll of 36.
    In the last decade, many small-market TV and radio stations have been getting rid of live staff and running on autopilot computer systems, especially on weekends.

  40. Regarding tornadoes and populated areas in simple terms: The larger the target, the more likely it is to get hit. As the population grows towards 9 billion in the next 40 years, we can certainly expect a corresponding increase in storm damage and deaths, unless building codes are revised substantially. Solidly built dome structures would fare far better than slab sided structures with lots of glass.
    People should not blame mother nature. This is a result of our lack of foresight.

  41. Xenia in 74, Niles in 85. Both of these were tornadoes that wiped towns off of the map here in Ohio. In 85 we went into PA on a trip and noted that the niles tornado went along a river valley into PA, and removed all of the trees on the mountainsides for miles. How soon they forget.

  42. Jeff Wiita says:
    May 24, 2011 at 2:07 am

    “La Nina typically has a more active southern jet stream. This spring that has played a role in the severe weather,” said Mark Paquette, meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.
    It is more than just La Nina. When you couple La Nina with a strong, negative PDO, you get severe tornados. Why does everyone miss the negative PDO?

    It’s usually a bad idea to use absolutes in the presence of software engineers.
    From
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/01/big-time-la-nina-tornado-and-spring-flood-season-possible/ , Joe D’Aleo said “We believe a recent climate shift favoring a cooler Pacific and more frequent La Nina events suggests we have entered a period of increasing severe storms that could last a decade or more.
    I think you just lumped Joe in the “nobody” set. 🙂

  43. Robert Hooper says:
    May 24, 2011 at 4:15 am
    “Washington Post has a front page article today linking the increase in super strong tornadoes to climate change (paraphrased).”
    There is only one word to describe this callous attempt by the global warming industry and their enablers in the media to coop the horrible tragedy in Joplin for their personal gain:
    Opportunism
    “Opportunism is the conscious policy and practice of taking selfish advantage of circumstances, with little regard for principles.

  44. Paul Coppin;
    I appreciate there is a difference between larger air mass interaction and local convective updraft, but in either case, could larger area UHI not be an intensity factor?>>>
    Well there are others far more qualified to respond than me. I have to admit, I never gave my tongue in cheek remark a moment’s thought as anything but sarcasm.
    I will note though that I grew up on the prairies where you could see a lot of sky. Every once in a while you could like up, and WAY up there see an air mass spinning. OK, you couldn’t see it, you could only see the whisps of cloud swirling inside it. Often you could see two, spinning in opposite directions. My understanding has always been that this is how tornadoes form, and they only touch down if the right conditions in the air mass around them tips them sideways.
    As to that, I don’t see UHI being involved. We’re talking two air masses moving in opposite directions starting some air between them spinning. But UHI causing the conditions for the spinning air to tilt seem equally unlikely to me. UHI isn’t something that has a sharp demarkation point. It is a very gradual increases from the edge of the city to the centre. So even a large UHI of 2 degrees C would still be a gradient tens of miles long from city edge to city centre.
    Further, we’ve seen evidence that would make me think the opposite is true. No real increase in the number of tornadoes, the bulk of them touch down over water or fields where they do little harm. Cities have been growing in size, so with more area to hit, you would think the incidence of tornadoes hitting urban areas would rise accordingly. This year we’ve seen a spate of hits on urban centres, and given natural variability, that is what one would expect. A year here and there that stands out either for an unusual number of incidents, or lack thereof.
    I remember one year…would have been roughly 1990 give or take a couple years, when tornadoes just had it in for trailer parks on the Canadian prairies. I dimly recall one trailer park getting clobbered twice about a week apart (Edmonton?). It was a very odd year, a lot of lives and damage, and everyone started coming up with theories about what was causing it. Then it didn’t happen again for a few decades and everyone forgot about it.

  45. @Scottish Sceptic says: May 23, 2011 at 11:45 pm
    “Here in Scotland we’ve had some strong winds with gusts up to 100mph. Trees are down everywhere with the result that many roads and rail routes were closed. Just as the winds cease the Icelandic ash cloud is arriving.
    … so far no mention of global warming on the BBC.”
    Well, last night they were too busy trying to rubbish Shale Gas with the help of some “energy expert” from WWF.
    I particularly like the hand-wringing about the “effect on the landscape” if we have a lot of shale gas wells (accompanied by pictures of an exploration rig!). No mention to the wholesale destruction of UK landscape by BigWind, of course.

  46. I did not read all the comments. Watching the Weather Channel this morning, the expert repeated the claim about warm Gulf air. But couldn’t the snowmass remaining from the winter be keeping the cold fronts cooler? Isn’t the frontal instability influenced by the temperature differences, not the absolute temps?

  47. Jimbo says:
    May 24, 2011 at 5:47 am
    Heidi Cullen 2010 House Subcommittee
    “And the urgency is that the longer we wait, the further down the pipeline climate travels and works its way into weather, and once its in the weather, its there for good.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/11/18/heidi-cullens-weather-is-not-climate-moment-before-congress/
    Jimbo – she does have a Ph.D. in climate science from Columbia University…hold it…isn’t that where Hansen, Schmidt, and…

  48. Sharon Prince says on May 23, 2011 at 9:21 pm:

    Today with cell phones it is easier to file a report as it is happening but when “the big one” comes along even cell phones fail as does emergency radio as it did recently here.

    Could you expand on that in bold above please? It is an area I study/have studied …
    .

  49. polistra says on May 24, 2011 at 5:08 am:
    In this case I’m wondering if the warnings were up to snuff. Compare with the 1999 Moore tornado, which flattened a similar area and had a death toll of 36.

    Oklahoma, I would say, has better preparedness, as well as the citizenry have built additional auxiliary safety ‘structures’ (safe rooms and tornado cellars) in homes and trailer parks have built tornado shelters for tenants to seek shelter …

    In the last decade, many small-market TV and radio stations

    Let us NOT overlook the FCC mandated changeover to Digital TV with portable sets not as prevalent as they used to be and not to mention the sometimes poor digital reception that negates a picture/audio whereas a ‘picture’ with some snow was still usable (sound nearly ALWAYS came through).
    .

  50. Scottish Sceptic says:
    May 23, 2011 at 11:45 pm
    Here in Scotland we’ve had some strong winds with gusts up to 100mph.
    But you must have gotten lots of electricity from the wind mills. /sarc

  51. polistra says on May 24, 2011 at 5:08 am
    In this case I’m wondering if the warnings were up to snuff. …

    Word by an official Monday morning was sirens sounded 20 mins ahead of time … perhaps the citizenry are growing resistant to sirens?
    A few weeks ago sirens sounded in my small city as a T-storm w/’lowerings’ (updraft area but with no funnels nor rotation observed) moved W to E off just to my north as I viewed it … the city fathers/the EOC playing it safe I suppose.
    The weather people in the DFW market do an outstanding job of tracking and noting the position of storms on our area … this is augmented by three of the stations having their own real-time weather RADARs (each in a different location BTW) as opposed to simply re-packaging NEXRAD (WSR-88D) imagery which has a latency measured in minutes (10 mins in “clear-air mode” to around 4.5 minutes in “VCP 212” mode). (We also have two FAA-owned TDWRs active in the area.)
    In Corsicana, Tx an organization was formed years ago to provide their own timely weather RADAR imagery, in lieu of TV station or NWS RADAR:
    http://www.corad.org/

    Corsicana Radar History
    We built our first radar in 1977. It was an S band intensity only type with a CRT PPI display. It proved the value of the concept of live radar directed spotters for severe weather detection and tracking.
    In 1979 we received a grant from a local foundation to construct a new system with Doppler capability. We built this system on one acre of land owned by the Corsicana School District.
    It is housed in a 30 X 30 ft building, designed and built for the purpose. The transmitter is a FAA ASR-5 modified for weather radar use with all receiver components replaced. The dish antenna is 22 ft in diameter and is housed in a 28ft space frame radome atop an 80 ft tower.

    Ref. for various WSR-88D VCP modes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NEXRAD#Scan_strategies
    .

  52. Mycroft says:
    May 24, 2011 at 5:04 am
    Awful carnage in Joplin. Condolences to thosewho have lost loved ones..Will there come a time when goverment/insurance companies say sorry we will not insure you if you live in these severe weather areas.As some one who lives in England and has a benign climate i always ask myself when i see this sort of death and destruction, why would you live there knowing that could happen?.
    Mycroft,
    The property damage by all the tornadoes this year has been more than the previous years, the actual insured property volume and the actuarial data using the past has been actually creating a significant surplus. So, the insurance companies are doing alright.
    They will be increasing the premium very soon, and that will taper off after a few year.
    so, there is no chance of insurers backing off from tornado coverage ( part of windstorm/hail coverage ) on the standard HO ( HO-1 thru HO-8 )

  53. Jim,
    As the events unfolded that (April 27). The cell phones would work when the system wasn’t overloaded. As the tornado numbers increase so did the down time for cell phones to actually work. On my first try during the first round during lunch time, I had to try twice. First time to report massive rotation with hangings, by my second try and NWS picked up it was obvious one of those hangings was a large twin funnel on the outside of the rotation headed my direction.
    It took usually 2-3 times of trying and finding that the system was over loaded when I made calls, same for my daughter who kept texting info from her network of friends. When the big EF 4/5 hit, my daughter got a text reporting our grocery, gas and Rx stores were leveled and that was the last text. Later that evening while traveling to get to a relatives house who somehow had power I manage to get a call out again to NWS reporting the damage near the Limestone county line. Once I got the forecaster on the phone it was clear to hear in his voice they weren’t getting all the reports. Several days later we were eating with some cops at a relief site and talked about the event. This young cop got stuck in a car wash and had tried to radio base to report damage, he couldn’t. That evening all we heard on the few radio stations still on the air was to wait and see if power would be back during that night. No mention of all the damage . In my cell phone call while near Limestone county I had to relay all the places I was seeing emergency lights and where responders were turning traffic around.
    The Huntsville NWS office has a facebook page and one of the articles which was put up the week afterwards was about how difficult their jobs became when they didn’t get as many reports as they expected. They could see the radar returns showing that debris was being picked up but they weren’t getting the usual reports as to the type of damage that were out in the field.
    All areas in and outside the EF 4/5 zone had massive tree, power poles and tower damage including one media weather radar were taken out. So generators had to be brought in to help get the emergency communications back up. Heard also that portable towers for cell phone coverage had to be brought in.
    My guess is that Joplin is having a repeat of what we went though and seeing the twisted pieces of cars, houses there are still people to be dug out. When you are an emergency responder you got to have your teamwork to get the job done.
    BTW, our company is Verzion and they do many of the company contracts in Huntsville.

  54. I always enjoy Ryan Maue’s contributions as his writing style is highly entertaining (that is not taking anything away from the other writers). But I think he missed one nuance in this report – and that is the networks (and Reuters) have been boxing themselves in with their denial that extreme weather is due to AGW (the past winter’s snow storms). So while they would have loved to nail this tail on the donkey (AGW), they cannot so soon after denying that the tail belongs to the donkey.

  55. Lance says:
    May 24, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Please do us all a favor and try peddling your intolerance somewhere else.

  56. Mycroft: The problem is that such tornadoes can and do occur in almost half of the US.
    Those of us who live where tornadoes are possible, already pay a premium to cover the possibility of tornado damage.

  57. I read yesterday that the sirens were sounded 24 minutes before the tornado struck.
    Perhaps that could be part of the problem. The sirens were sounding too early, and since nothing had happened for almost half an hour, people were starting to come out of their basements and safe rooms when the tornado struck.

  58. I live in a middle sized city (250K), but even here, there are 3 stations with their own doppler radars. There must be some kind of agreement between the stations, because in times of bad weather, they combine the scans from all three radars into a single image, all three stations show the same triple scan. Each station has different software to display and help interpret the image.

  59. “Phil Nizialek says:
    May 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm
    Where is everyone getting the idea that the GOM is so warm this spring? Michael mann mentioned that “fact” in his hurricane forecast last week. According to UNISYS, the GOM is almost 2 degrees C below normal for the date right now.”
    I had not checked this but suspected it so. We have had over two months of strong, sustained winds off the gulf here on the coast. I’ve been here all my life and cannot recall a spring with sustained southerlies for this long a period of time. Normally we cannot fish the gulf in March due to winds, but they have usually settled by mid April.
    The normal warming of the gulf may be dissipating northward due to these winds. If so, the upside may be less energy for hurricanes. The downside would be the tornados we are seeing.
    The yin and yang of “Mother Gaia”.

  60. “Just a thought- but does the ‘Urban Heat Island’ effect give more likelihood to the chance of a tornado touching down where there is a relatively open area with lots of tarmac and buildings – where heat is causing updraft just as the cooler air of the thunderstorms is overhead… ”
    UHI probably does increase the likelihood of convection over or just downwind of cities.
    Living in a city also increases the likelihood that you will make it to the hospital before a heart attack kills you, that your children will be better educated, that you will have clean water to drink….the list is endless.
    The cup runneth over and we complain about spillage.

  61. New 3 part series on the BBC second part next week
    “A series of films exploring the idea that we have been colonised by the machines we have built. Although we don’t realise it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011rbws
    “This powerful idea emerged out of the hippie communes in America in the 1960s, and from counterculture computer scientists who believed that global webs of computers could liberate the world.
    But, at the very moment this was happening, the science of ecology discovered that the theory of the self-regulating ecosystem wasn’t true. Instead they found that nature was really dynamic and constantly changing in unpredictable ways. But the dream of the self-organizing network had by now captured our imaginations – because it offered an alternative to the dangerous and discredited ideas of politics”
    No idea how the second programme is going to pan out. The first one attacked the use of computer models in the financial markets. This is the BBC remember, can’t see it being aloud to question AGW.

  62. From the reports I read, the warnings and sirens worked as they should, the problem is that people ignored them.
    One 16-year-old visiting his grandfather in the hospital said that he heard them for almost 30 minutes but took no action until the building started to come apart. He and his grandmother ran for the hallway but he couldn’t move his grandfather. Fortunately, his grandfather only had minor injuries.
    Were they waiting for someone to tell them what to do? Are people so helpless these days that they can’t save themselves with plenty of warning? With a 24 minute warning, there was no need for anyone to die, let alone 116 people. Yes, some unfortunate people did take shelter and were killed by collapsed walls, but others were found in their cars.
    As for thinking the danger was over, etc. I can watch the progress of a storm myself – online or on a smart phone. I don’t even need the talking weather heads on TV or the radio. If I see the sky looking ominous, I can access detailed info in seconds.
    These are the real questions people should be asking.
    How very tragic.

  63. Good to hear some in the MSM are getting it right, but not last night (May 23) on the ABC news. Their sole “expert” climatologist said the we have to expect more severe weather events like this with a warmer Earth due to global warming.

  64. Common Sense says:
    May 24, 2011 at 12:15 pm
    Were they waiting for someone to tell them what to do?

    Because they use the warning system for everything. People get used to it, and stop listening. Like TSA’s color alert system. Oversubscribed.

  65. It is residential house building code and strength problem, stupid !
    American house is being built cheaper and faster than ever, like assemblying LEGO toys.
    If people knows it is the tornado prone area, why not build residential house like hospital shown on TV with concrete cement and steel bar than can stand with the tornado, flood, fire, just not earthquake.
    Don’t blame nature, blame people themselves on building the cheap wood structure house with paper like roof.

  66. Some of the usual suspects are starting to bring up the “climate change” angle. In a Bloomburg article today Trenberth opined:
    This year’s stormy season may be caused by a waning La Nina, a cooling in the Pacific Ocean, that is creating a zone suitable for tornado conditions as warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico collides with colder air in the north.
    Sea surface temperatures in the Gulf are now 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the pre-1970 average, said Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
    “Two degrees of that can be attributed to natural variability while one degree Fahrenheit is associated with climate change,” Trenberth said in an interview today.

    However, others the reporter interviewed declined to attribute the increase to climate change: Hayes, Schneider and Thomas Schwein, deputy director of the weather service’s central region, who was also on yesterday’s conference call, weren’t ready to attribute the outbreaks to climate change.

  67. The very best wishes and heart-felt care from Australian peoples to the people of Joplin, USA.
    Especially to those who lost family and loved ones.
    Jessie

  68. In today’s Winnipeg Free Press:
    **Tornadoes, severe storms continue to threaten U.S.
    Scientists say global warming to blame for powerful weather**
    By Renee Schoof and Jim Suhr
    Two are quoted: Anne Jefferson from University of North Carolina and Katharine Hayhoe Texas Tech University.
    Jefferson is not too impressive with her “warming” theory.
    McClatchy Newspapers / The Associated Press

Comments are closed.