Tornadoes and global warming – still no linkage

While Joe Romm, Bill McKibben, and others follow the fear card script to do everything and anything they can to link severe weather to global warming, they are clearly fighting a losing battle for public opinion on the issue. Now, even Andy Revkin at the New York Times doesn’t believe it anymore when it comes to tornadoes.*

He writes:

You can’t exclude climate change, but there’s simply no evidence through a half century of tornado history in the United States of a connection to warming.

Of course one of the strongest pieces of evidence has to do with the trend in the frequency of strong tornadoes, as shown in this somewhat dated graph from NCDC:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/tornado/tornadotrend.jpg

I’m looking forward to NCDC updating this data and graph. Obviously, there will be a new spike in 2011 rivaling 1974. But clearly, even with improved detection technology, the trend is down.

But this graph only goes back to 1950, and of course if we presented climate data only back that far, critics like the nefarious “Tamino” aka Grant Foster would have a cherry flavored cow, which is the typical M.O. for him. NCDC of course gets a pass.

Fortunately, I have some new tornado data to present that goes back further.

These two graphs below, courtesy of Dr. Indur Goklany, go back to 1900 and show the trend in death rates yearly, and by decade, since 1900:

Clearly death rates per million are down, which is testament to the improved warning technology, plus the skills and dedication of the National Weather Service and volunteer storm spotters at getting “eyes on” tornadoes to provide advance warning.

*UPDATE: Andrew Revkin writes in via email with this comment, which I am happy to reprint at his request – Anthony

You’ve cast my concerns about overstated discussions of tornadoes in the context of climate change as if this is new.

You must have missed my 2008 piece, including this section:

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/climate-roundup-tornadoes-coral-drought/

Frequency of strong (red) and weak (blue) tornadoes since 1950.

 

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
sandyinderby

Should that be 2011? in
there will be a new spike in 2001 rivaling 1974.
REPLY: Typo fixed, thanks – Anthony

Sadly, my Geography 5 teacher at Santa Monica College is going to pin the increase in deadly tornadoes on climate change and the increase of water temperature of 2 deg. C in the Gulf of Mexico. I should bring this article to class and show then climate change has nothing to do with the increase of the current tornado outbreak. She also doesn’t want to admit that volcanoes contribute to global cooling. Go figure.

Torgeir Hansson

Tornadoes, schmornadoes. Where I live we worry about earthquakes, and they are definitely tied to warming. It was warmer in 1989 than in 1906, and there was an earthquake in both years. And both happened on a warm day, at least compared to some of the days when there was no earthquake.
Say no more.

Obviously, there will be a new spike in 2001 rivaling 1974. But clearly, even with improved detection technology, the trend is down.
Don’t you mean 2011 as comparable to the 1974 spike? This must be a typo.

Al Gored

I think I just realized what may have inspired the movie The Wizard of Oz.

Jake

Does the shown graph, outdated as you say, go through 2005 or 2010? Hard to tell.

It is interesting. I saw the graph on tornado numbers, and said to myself: “if anything they are going down … I wonder why that is … is there any change in the way these are recorded”.
Next I wondered whether rising CO2 could have reduced the number of tornadoes at which point a bottomless bit of boiling speculation opened up and I chose not to enter in.

Interstellar Bill

Don’t tornadoes need a mass of quite cold air to collide with a ‘normal temp’ air mass? Slightly warmer Gulf air or not, if there’s no frigid air-mass there’re no tornadoes, just giant dust devils.
The warmist fear-mongers shouldn’t be so eager to trumpet what are actually the results of global colding.
They even gamely tried to pin the cold winter on their fantasies.
A few more cold summers may finally provide something they won’t admit even exists, namely, a disproof of AGW, especially when it goes on for decades.

Eyal Porat

If anything, the graph may show we are cooling.
The spike of tornadoes was in 1974 – “we are approaching an ice age” era, remember?

Alan the Brit

The trend seems to be clear! Of course it’s all too easy to forget that we live in age of near instantaneous communication of events around the world, that barely 50 years ago would have taken hours or days to establish, & 100 years ago, days & weeks to confirm! Media (& anthrotechnology), if nothing else, has improved speed of communication. Whether the accuracy of same has improved would be considered a moot point IMHO. So we have disaster upon disaster shown to the world at large at lightening speed, as if it were something unusual or even new, with no reference point from which to judge its validity, other than to append the usual “worse for 25/50/100 years” , (tick whichever is appropriate) banal remark.
OT Nice speech by your President, starting with some much shared humour, but of little substance in most of it other than the usual trite statements. I have nothing personal against the man, the Democrats were in their usual turmoil of “who do we run with, the first woman (Clinton) or the first black (Obama) candidate?” AND NO I am neither misogynist or racist, just C of E & an observer of people! Similar traits to President Kennedy he knows how to work a crowd, even if they are the lame-brain dead self-promoting self-enriching (at taxpayers expense) British politicians who couldn’t give a damn about anyone but themselves so long as the stupid prols believe they are doing good, but then I am biased, as many of you may deduce I have absolute admiration & respect for our political classes 🙂 Sarc off!

Ian H

I like the fitted straight line predicting negative deaths from Tornadoes about now. I hate the way in climate science every graph gets a straight line drawn on it which is immediately it seems abused to predict calamity a hundred years into the future. This graph provides a great example of what is wrong with this practice.
According to this graph dead people who have not been killed by tornadoes should start popping up out of the ground any day now. Zombie invasion anyone?

Ryan

In this is what matters – how much do the tornadoes affect you? In the end it doesn’t even matter how many tornadoes you are getting when the impact they are having is in permanent decline.
It doesn’t matter if glaciers are melting if the sea level isn’t rising
It doesn’t matter if the air temperature appears higher if the crops keep on growing faster.

Caleb

RE: Jake says:
May 27, 2011 at 12:28 am
Does the shown graph, outdated as you say, go through 2005 or 2010? Hard to tell.
It goes through 2007.

P. Solar

Scott Bixler says:
May 27, 2011 at 12:09 am

Sadly, my Geography 5 teacher at Santa Monica College is going to pin the increase in deadly tornadoes on climate change and the increase of water temperature of 2 deg. C in the Gulf of Mexico. I should bring this article to class and show then climate change has nothing to do with the increase of the current tornado outbreak. She also doesn’t want to admit that volcanoes contribute to global cooling. Go figure.

I’m actually starting to doubt this myself, if you are referring to any long term permanent impact.
The short term signal seems quite clearly present for major events but only lasts a few years. Now if you look at *rate of temp change* which is where you will see the effect of a “forcing” (but which few people do ), you will see a negative spike , ie temp dropping followed by temp rising.
This does not match the idea of a heavy permanent drop as seen in GISS-E for example.
Hansen et al are using exaggerated volcano forcing producing a permanent drop in temperatures to have an excuse for an exaggerated CO2 to pump it back up again.
If they stopped playing games with volcanoes they would probably find their models only needed something like the *real* calculated CO2 forcing “based on the science” rather than their fictional sensitivity.

P. Solar

Anthony, using death rate a climate indicator is pretty open to criticism. One obvious comment is that better predicition, warning systems and care of victims would be an important part of that downward trend.
If you want to comment on climate I would have thought climate parameters like force, frequency etc, would make the point more convincingly.

Michael Jankowski

I had someone try to tell me the other day that it was a “proven fact” that tornadoes were “getting larger and stronger every year.” Incredible.
There’s a list of the “official” worst-of-the-worst F5/EF5s from 1950 onward in the US at http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/f5torns.html – shows a nice downward trend.
By decade, it’s:
1950s – 17
1960s – 11
1970s – 14
1980s – 3
1990s – 10
2000s – 4
2010s – 4 so far (including Joplin)
Wikipedia lists some other “possible” F5/EF5s, which tallies up for the US to:
1950s – 21
1960s – 16
1970s – 14
1980s – 3
1990s – 12
2000s – 4
2010s – 4 so far

Les Johnson

Anthony: While not a tornado count, this site does track severe thunderstorm days in the US. Its updated daily.
http://www.spc.noaa.gov/exper/archive/events/index-eventdays-online.html
This site gives total tornadoes, but not broken out by severity.
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/tornadoes/2010/13

Matt

Wrong headline – there clearly IS a link between global warming and tornadoes. As it gets warmer, tornadoes get fewer.

Chris Wright

The first graph is curious. It shows an isolated spike in the seventies and there will be another one in 2011. But it doesn’t seem to match any obvious trend, almost as if these events come out of the blue. I’m reminded of a piece in WUWT afew weeks ago, about the appalling paper in Nature that claimed to establish a link between global warming and the terrible floods in England and Wales, in 2000. The people involved (I refuse to use the term ‘scientists’ in this connection) used an unending array of computer models to ‘prove’ the link. But, as Willis pointed out, if you actually look at the data you see a completely different picture. During the last century there was essentially no trend in the rainfall data, but there was an isolated spike in 2000. There was another, slightly larger, spike aropund 1930. Apparently there were two similar spikes in the 19th century.
There does seem to be a similarity between the flood spikes and the tornado spikes: they appear without warning and do not seem to be part of a trend – and certainly don’y correlate with climate change at all.
By chance, a couple of days ago I heppened to see the BBC Horizon program about freak waves. Amazingly, it appears that a ship is lost around the world every week, often with no obvious cause. Freak waves may be the answer. Ironically, according to the consensus view (the so-called ‘linear model’), freak waves are impossible – but now we know that freak waves do occur quite frequently – they are observed regularly by satelolits radars. The consensus turned out to be completely wrong – sound familiar?
Tornado outbreaks, flood disasters, freak waves: they all seem to appear out of the blue with no underlying trend. I wonder if there could be a deep, underlying connection?
Chris

ScuzzaMan

Yep, by end of next year tornadoes in the US will have given birth to 50 people …

Clearly death rates per million are down, which is testament to the improved warning technology, plus the skills and dedication of the National Weather Service and volunteer storm spotters
Could better housebuilding standards and storm shelters be helping too?

Tom in Florida

Matt says: (May 27, 2011 at 3:21 am)
“Wrong headline – there clearly IS a link between global warming and tornadoes. As it gets warmer, tornadoes get fewer.”
Exactly my thoughts, adding to the idea that warmer is better.

Craig S

Ian H says:
May 27, 2011 at 1:49 am
…..
According to this graph dead people who have not been killed by tornadoes should start popping up out of the ground any day now. Zombie invasion anyone?
…..
Shotgun? Check!
Axe? Check!
Armored V-8 Truck w/Nitro? Check!
I’m ready for the Zombie invasion, anyone else?

Chris Wright says:
May 27, 2011 at 3:23 am
Tornado outbreaks, flood disasters, freak waves: they all seem to appear out of the blue with no underlying trend. I wonder if there could be a deep, underlying connection?

The uptick in tornadoes was with warning. Joe Bastardi warned about it many months ago. Like it or not, the earth is now entering a cool phase. Also, there was a lot of snow in the northern US this past winter. When snow is on the ground, nights are colder. So all that snow provides more cold air. Tornadoes are formed with warm and cool air mix. Obviously it is more complex than that, but there is a reason why spring and autumn are tornado season and not summer or winter. This was not a freak wave. A little common weather sense was all that is needed to know this was going to be a bad tornado year.

Jason Calley

P. Solar says: “Anthony, using death rate as a climate indicator is pretty open to criticism. — snip –If you want to comment on climate I would have thought climate parameters like force, frequency etc, would make the point more convincingly.”
Yes, good point. Basing tornado analysis on deaths per year leads to the following conclusion. With a continuing decline in deaths per year, we will soon reach a state where we have fewer than zero deaths per year. Anti-tornadoes, spinning backwards, will pass over cemeteries, open the graves and raise people from the dead.
🙂

MikeL

So let me get this straight.. global warming is the cause of extreme weather events (ie. the devastating tornadoes) here in the US this year. According to the alarmist scientists this year has about the same average temperature as last year and the year before that. Then how come the global warming of the previous years did not produce a similar number of extreme tornadoes?

I’d think cold from the north would be a more important variable than warmth from the south. The Gulf doesn’t change on a daily basis, but cold penetration does.
I’ve been trying to find annual temp lists for places like Bismarck, but can’t find them. Does anyone have a good NOAA link to derive annual temp lists by season or by month for a city? Seems like that should be on the WUWT reference page in some form.
Might be relevant: the record low for today in Bismarck is -40 in 1974, the most recent mega-twister year.

Pull My Finger

Well according to McClatchey newspapers, (yea, I know, they are like the minor leagues as far as news services), it’s all global warming.

http://www.centredaily.com/2011/05/25/2736923/tornadoes-floods-droughts-scientists.html

Pull My Finger

-40 in MAY? That’s nuts.
I’ve noticed most of our local record highs in the spring date to the 30s and 40s.

mkelly

Mr. Revkin says: “You can’t exclude climate change, but there’s simply no evidence through a half century of tornado history in the United States of a connection to warming.”
This sentence to me is a nonsense. The first part “You can’t exclude” means that you include it. The second part “simply no evidence” means the opposite. Except he left himself and out by using “climate change” in the first part and “warming” in the second.
Climate change maybe included if you count cooling.

Karymsky, Kizimen, Shiveluch in Kamchatka are now active regularly pluming high fliers. Kamchatka region has been active well above normal since 2008. Then the Iceland volcanic eruptions, Grimsvotn honking high altitude. Start a storm cellar installations company and you’ll do well over the next few years.

This link has context now. An astounding public display of emotional disconnectedness:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2011/05/26/136676621/what-motivates-climate-change-deniers
A Quote: “I know what motivates my position [climate change causes tornadoes]: the sirens, the polar-bear pictures, the IPCC reports, fear for my grandchildren’s future. What motivates the denial?”
Er, Say again? Polar bear pictures?

Frank

Doesn’t everyone recognize that we have crossed a “tipping point” in 2010 and that now the number of strong tornados is going to skyrocket – just like it did in 2011. (:))

Douglas DC

It was 1975 that I reported a tornado in NE Oregon. seen by an FAA Flight Service station guy in Baker,Or. too. No one including the Pendelton Weather office believed us.
No kidding. If it happened now there would be evidence left -wrecked wind turbines…

Kip Hansen

That’s a down-trend, even though you’ve added 1 1/2 extra years to the last ‘decade’.

Les Johnson

Polistra: try this:
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/cag3/cag3.html
Click on “Cities”, then either cities in the list on the left, or on the map.
No Bismarck, but Dickinson ND is there.

Cyber

When I was flying back from Oakland California to get back to Joplin Monday morning (world’s shortest vacation to wine country that weekend), a lady at the airport said to me, upon hearing I was from Joplin, “You can’t tell me that these tornadoes aren’t caused by Global Warming.” And I said “They are caused by a strong Pacific ocean current effect from what I can tell, and there’s simply no evidence that a slightly warmer temperature would cause these storms.” She seemed genuinely shocked that I wasn’t prepared to blame the destruction in my town on other people’s SUVs I guess.

Pamela Gray

I wish it were the case that when warmers insist on linear trend lines, all other indices they wish to present must also be fitted with linear trend lines. Then they must use these lines to prove their mathematical case that global warming causes all these slanting up and slanting down statistics.

Bet we haven’t heard the last from Grímsvötn. Jön Frìmen, looking at the tremor signal doesn’t think so. Go to eruptions@bigthink and download the volcano app for android. It’s real cool, you have the location and all the info from the weekly volcanic activity reports (SMITHSONIAN) right there. You can practically see the temperature gradients sharpen from low altitude plumes near the equator and high altitude near the Arctic, or maybe it’s just me visualizing it.

Dave Springer

Any correlation between tornado frequency/intensity and solar magnetic or sunspot indexes?
Is it just coincidence that a near record high tornado year followed on the heels of a near record low sunspot year?
There’s actually some hypothetical basis to it. Tornadoes need clouds. Solar magnetic field is suspected of throttling cloud formation where a weak field allows greater cloud formation.
While it’s true that correlation is not causation a lack of correlation is pretty strong evidence of no causation. Correlation highlights things that deserve a closer look in regard to causation. Lack of correlation pretty much means “nothing going on here, move along now”.

Cyber,
You were much too nice to her. Kudos to you for being a nice guy. But I would have explained to her that “global warming” has amounted to only seven-tenths of a degree over 150 years, and that CO2 [“carbon” to the scientifically illiterate] is only 0.00039 of the atmosphere, and that $7 – $8 billion dollars is paid out every year by the federal government to ‘study global warming/climate change’, and while she was processing that new [to her] information, I would remind her that human nature being what it is, charlatans of all kinds have their snouts in the public trough.
That’s the long and the short of it. Money and power are the motivation, and honest science has nothing to do with the CAGW scam.

Kerry Eubanks

As many others have pointed out, fitting a linear trend to this kind of data doesn’t make sense. An exponential curve is more appropriate. Excel gave this result:
y = 377.59 * exp(-0.2642x) (R-squared = 0.8944)

Doug Proctor

Denying recent tornadoes are caused by Global Warming will probably provoke a backlash from the warmists that you don’t “care” about people. The association of unhappiness and climate change is a prime emotional motivator for the Gore-warmist. Technical relevance is trumped by tears and fears.

Robert Doyle

I must be dumb as a rock.
If warming was the trigger for tornadoes, then July & August would be the months
with the greatest number of these storms.
However, the storms peak late April to early June in most states.
Florida is a weather laboratory unto itself

Pat Michaels has an article at forbes.com that has some updated tornado numbers as well:
The Great Tornadoes Of 2011 Put In Perspective
-Chip

Kerry Eubanks

Sorry, I should have pointed out that the equation I gave a few posts earlier was for the death rate per million per year.

P Wilson

from the briefest of view of the graph going back to 1950-it looks like the average has decreased since the global warming scare of the early 1980’s onwards

Larry Hamlin

Excellent post. The L. A. Times ran a piece two days ago alleging to discuss the “science” of the recent tornadoes in the U.S. and after addressing the weather factors (warm Gulf of Mexico waters and a lower arctic jet stream) offered pure climate fear conjecture that global warming was creating more intense tornadoes. I wrote the reporter and pointed out that NOAA’s EF3-EF5 tornado tracking data from 1950 to the present completely debunked his opinion and that his biased observation had no business being addressed in a piece supposedly discussing the “science” of tornadoes. These climate fear alarmists will do doubt continue to try to make this tornado season akin to what they did to Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. They are wrong on both counts.

More to come I think. Plenty of colder air in the mountains according to this report;
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_MEMORIAL_DAY_SNOW?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-05-27-04-51-12

No linkage? Tell that to these guys:
“It is almost impossible for us to pinpoint these specific events…and say they were caused by climate change,” says William Chamedies, an atmospheric scientist and dean of the Nicolas School of the Environment at Duke University. “On the other hand we do know that because of climate change those kinds of events will very, very likely become more common, more frequent, more intense. So what we can say is that these kinds of events that we are seeing are consistent with climate change. ”
http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/US-Extreme-Weather-Consistent-with-Climate-Change–122577569.html
How do they “know that because of climate change those kinds of events will very, very likely become more common, more frequent, more intense”?