More criticism of the paper 'Tornado Activity is Occurring Earlier in the Heart of “Tornado Alley”'

WUWT has previously covered a press release from The OAS on the paper, now, Mike Smith, a CCM at WeatherData Inc. writes at Meteorological Musings:

Another Shabby Attempt to Tie Increased Tornadoes to Global Warming

The paper, Tornado Activity is Occurring Earlier in the Heart of “Tornado Alley” brings up some interesting points about the peak of tornado season occurring earlier in the spring in the conventional “tornado alley” of the Great Plains. The paper is an attempt to link global warming to a change in tornado season between 1954 and 2009. Its primary conclusions appear sound. That result is not surprising given the rise in global temperatures during that period of time (see graph).


My objections are not with the primary thrust of the paper. It appears to be a useful addition to the literature.

My objection is the paper’s attempt to make the change in the time of the peak tornado season into something sinister. For example, the first sentence in the paper (it appears in the Abstract) is,

“Tornado frequency may increase as the factors that contribute to severe convection are altered by a changing climate.”

It also says,

“The lack of evidence is due in part to sampling effort: the number of reported tornadoes has increased over time [Dixon et al., 2011].”

The reference to Dixon has to do with Dixie tornado alley, not the one in the Great Plains.

So, let’s go through this yet again. Let’s begin with all tornadoes of F-1 intensity or greater:


Even though world temperatures have risen, there is absolutely no upward trend in tornadoes. This is especially surprising given the storm chase program that started in 1972 and Doppler radar installations beginning in 1991. There are many small tornadoes that now get into the books that never would have been recorded a half-century ago.


Mike has further graphs and analysis here: Another Shabby Attempt to Tie Increased Tornadoes to Global Warming

I suggest you bookmark his website, and may I recommend his book Warnings: The true story of how science tamed the weather.

I’ve read it, and I’ve lived and experienced much of what he’s written about in the quest to make forecasting, especially severe weather forecasting, more accurate, timely, and specific. For those of us that prefer practical approaches over the rampant speculation on mere wisps of connections to climate, this book is for you.

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September 27, 2014 7:53 am

“Even though world temperatures have risen, there is absolutely no upward trend in tornadoes.”
Everything is trending towards something, to some degree, over some time period. In itself that has no meaning.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  yam
September 27, 2014 7:57 am

By your assertion, then claims from the climate fearosphere that tornado activity is trending upwards has no meaning, right?

Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)
Reply to  Alan Robertson
September 27, 2014 8:23 am

Well, that gives it a new twist(er)…..

Reply to  Alan Robertson
September 27, 2014 8:45 am

I see you are prepared to Mann up for the imputation.
If a trend had been detected from 1954 to 2009 then that in itself would have no meaning.

Reply to  yam
September 27, 2014 11:09 am

If anything, they are trendind downwards

Reply to  Paul Homewood
September 27, 2014 3:09 pm

My recent paper “A New Parameter to Predict Tornado Frequency Increase as a Function of Global Warming” shows a trend can be forecasted using the appropriate mathematical techniques.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  yam
September 27, 2014 9:12 pm

If you measure something and there is no signal just noise there will be no meaningful trend. You might find so short term trends but again the mean nothing because it is still noise. That the problem with weather is, it is just noise. Last year has not meaning to next year when it comes to tornadoes same for temperature yes you can find some trends but given enough time it will return to just noise.

September 27, 2014 8:05 am

I can’t believe we have this same discussion for years. I have had tornadoes kill people on all sides of the building I was in a couple of times. They are scary. But, there are data and this claim is getting old. It isn’t the difference between sprinkling and raining with two moms being the ultimate authority.

September 27, 2014 8:09 am

Lovely write up but i have never seen a tornado but have heard about it. It is scary.
Visit and comment on the post there and would really appreciate if you share the link with friends.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  eim9
September 27, 2014 1:23 pm

mods, pretty sure the above comment is spam

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
September 27, 2014 1:38 pm


September 27, 2014 8:28 am

I don’t see anything about the PDO in there.
PDO left out for a reason???

September 27, 2014 9:44 am

A bit OT but google as you may gather has decided that AGW Skeptics are akin to criminals. Well guess what I’ve found a serach engine that appears to be BETTER than google its called http://www.duckduckgo and as far as I can see has no position on anything. No intention to push it but its an option…

Reply to  Eliza
September 27, 2014 9:52 am

Duckduckgo also doesn’t track users.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Eliza
September 27, 2014 1:25 pm

A bit OT?? How about completely OT.

September 27, 2014 9:47 am

The direct link is here as far as I can see there is no malware (problably a Google diversion) I would say Google is very worried about it.

Scottish Sceptic
September 27, 2014 10:03 am

“in the quest to make forecasting, especially severe weather forecasting, more accurate, timely, and specific.”
Reminds me of one Xmas. The Met Office said “it will snow – avoid travel”. What they didn’t say was exactly when or where. The result was that we knew there could be problems but THERE WAS NOTHING WE COULD DO.
If instead they had said “it will snow – not until” or “will be over by”, then we could have decided to change when we travelled.
But no! The Met Office didn’t want to be precise because that way they could be wrong. In other words, they were just protecting their own arses so that they could say “we predicted snow”, without giving anyone who had to travel any information by which they could amend their travel plans.
So, eventually, I sat down, I worked out from their bland assertions what their actual forecast was, then I estimated the speed of travel, worked out when it was likely to hit and planned our journey accordingly.
So what on earth was the point of their super-computer when in the end I had to work it out myself?

September 27, 2014 10:20 am

I’ve been through several tornados. The most benign occurred during a typical summer thunderstorm. The worst occurred when a cold front met warm and moist Gulf of Mexico air.
From this small sample I would guess that the effect of warming would be to decrease the intensity of tornados by raising the temperature of cold air near the poles and perhaps increasing the frequency of small tornados by increasing the vertical temperature gradient.
Glancing at the temperature graph, there appears to be a loose correlation between intense tornados and a brief period of colder weather. Does anyone else see this or am I fooling myself?

September 27, 2014 11:12 am

Taking all US tornadoes, there is no evidence that an increasing proportion are occurring up to the end of April.

Ken L.
September 27, 2014 12:46 pm

Tornado occurrences are spasmodic. Living in the very heart of tornado alley, I’ve seen us go years without so much as a radar warning or siren and then the extremes from 2010-2013, with 5 EF4-EF5 tornadoes within 10 miles of where I live, and an EF1 within 200 yards of my location. I have a very ,unscientific and intuitive sense that the solar max has something to do with violent tornadoes in Oklahoma. Going all the way back to 1947 and the Woodward monster F5, you find most of the extreme tornado events in Oklahoma seem to have occurred at least within a couple of years of the peak solar activity, and sometimes near a spike in that period. Not all, of course – just an apparently greater likelihood. Maybe one of the more informed meteorological experts or statisticians here could give this a look/ see. It could be accidental correlation without causation – at least that we can determine.

Reply to  Ken L.
September 27, 2014 9:09 pm

I have been looking into tornado generation patterns for 35 years now, there seems to be three things that are needed to generate tornadoes, large temperature gradient across moving front, Due point above 72 degrees F on warm side, and the larger the ion charge potential across the front, the more rapid the condensation rate, more severe the wind and more tornado production and strength, you get.
With only two of these three you get storms, heavy rain, hail stones big as base balls, even super cells, but you need all three to get much in the way of tornado size.
It is the polarizing effects of the static charges that gives the vorticity to the action generated.
Tornadoes are all about the ion charge difference across the frontal boundary, so when the sun is active and the earth’s magnetic fields are active as a result, then the ion charge flux across the frontal boundaries is more intense, the rapid precipitation bands more narrow, and on the trailing side of the storm system where the two fronts are zippering together, there is still excess charge but low precipitation amounts left, so the charge carriers get whipped around more into tornadoes.
Part of why we are seeing a slowing of tornado generation is due to the slowly decreasing magnetic activity of the sun, and the resultant weakening of the earth’s magnetic fields, lessening the ion components across frontal boundaries. Leaving more moisture in the air after a storm front passes, as it is not wrung out as tightly, increases the ambient dew point, which ends up raising the night time lows by the mechanism of release of condensational heat at dew point slowing down the cooling at the surface and also more net low cloud production at night holding in more heat.
So in answer to your question is the magnetic activity of the sun and resultant magnetic activity of the earth’s fields having an effect on the activity levels of the weather? Positively!!
(Not figured into the IPCC models though.)

Reply to  Richard Holle
September 27, 2014 9:12 pm

Can you say run on sentences, I can.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  Richard Holle
September 27, 2014 9:17 pm

Richard not all of us are wordsmiths. As far as I can tell he did get his thought across, in the end is that all that really matters?

Reply to  Richard Holle
September 29, 2014 1:51 am

Hi Richard , good post , the one thing you left out for a tornado to form is lightning . As lightning strikes the ground it provides the electrical energy for a ac pathway to form. Positive changed ions are drawn down to the negatively charged ground and

September 27, 2014 4:32 pm

Thanks, Dr. Smith. Good analysis.
I never forget “MORE Tornadoes from Global Warming? That’s a Joke, Right?”, by Dr. Roy Spencer, at

September 28, 2014 7:50 am

Dear fraudsters who believe in global warming. Please explain why the Antarctic ice sea coverage is at the most ever since they have been recording it with a satellite was launched in 1979 to record it? Arctic ice is now at a 10 year record? Over 1200 record cold temps in the U S where set in the past 4 weeks? why the earths temp has not risen at all in 19 years now and proof that all this data has been cooked literally?

September 28, 2014 9:52 am

The paper is an attempt to link global warming to a change in tornado season between 1954 and 2009

The paper came out in 2014. Why didn’t they include data up to 2012 at least?

We demonstrate that peak tornado activity has shifted 7 days earlier in the year over the past six decades in the central and southern US Great Plains……

They meant…..

We looked long and hard for peak tornado activity shifting days earlier in the year over the past six decades in the central and southern US Great Plains and we found it! More money please.

Reply to  Jimbo
September 28, 2014 2:50 pm

Our study team found out we could relate tornado frequency to the Missouri climate anomaly and the ENSO Index. Our paper didn’t discuss it, but we did have to try 14 individual states before we found the one which yielded the desired fit.
[Satirical response? .mod]

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
September 29, 2014 12:30 am

You haven´t read our paper? Use a search engine to find
A New Parameter to Predict Tornado Frequency Increase as a Function of Global Warming by Leanme, Abruzzo, et al
The resemblance of Figure 4 to a hockey stick is purely coincidental.

george e. smith
September 30, 2014 6:10 pm

Well this could be correct. Based on what I have read, in the literature about tornados, it is NOT warm(er) air that causes tornados. It requires a body of cold air interacting with a body of warm air.
The south central US States have no trouble producing adequately warm air for tornados, but it takes that arctic blast coming down from Canada, to get the critical mix.
So any increasing in global cooling, or at least in the North American region, is likely to increase the frequency, of the required cold air to set up the tornado conditions.
So if tornados are increasing, it probably indicates global cooling, rather than global warming.
BUT IANAM , so I would have to defer to the AMS for the definitive skinny on this.

Bruce C. Atwood
October 1, 2014 6:53 am

Official tornado counts vary: shows consistent increasing counts in the US. But now we have more observers, and we have Doppler radar, so more are noticed. I lost the reference, but NOAA has adjusted counts downward, under the assumption that Tornado counts are in fact not increasing. So I think that graphs showing no increase have had the trend adjusted downward.

Bruce C. Atwood
October 1, 2014 7:08 am

More info: shows counts of ALL tornados increasing. Other graphs show only counts of more severe storms as having no increase. I still have not found again the reference that describes adjusting data to make the trend level.

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