Joplin disaster spurs media whirlwind on link between climate change, extreme weather, and tornadoes

Plus McKibben, Trenberth & why ‘Mother Nature is only warming up’

The devastation of Joplin, MO has led to a super-storm of media stories on the link between climate change and extreme weather, including tornadoes.  After April saw records set for most tornadoes in a month and in 24 hours, I examined the link in great detail here, looking at the data, the literature, and expert analysis.  That piece concluded

  1. When discussing extreme weather and climate, tornadoes should not be conflated with the other extreme weather events for which the connection is considerably more straightforward and better documented, including deluges, droughts, and heat waves.
  2. Just because the tornado-warming link is more tenuous doesn’t mean that the subject of global warming should be avoided entirely when talking about tornadoes.

The flattening of a city, and the death of 117 people — “the single deadliest tornado since officials began keeping records in 1950,” as the WashPost reported — is naturally going to spin up media interest.  Since it is a complicated subject, one would expect the coverage to be mixed.

ABC News had a very good story, with the help of climatologist Heidi Cullen:

Multiple scientific studies find that indeed the weather has become more extreme, as expected, and that it is extremely likely that humans are a contributing cause (see “Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment” and links therein).

The Washington Post piece was pretty good, examining the multiple factors that contribute to tornadoes.  It noted that research on the tornado-warming link is “is at an early stage, making it difficult to draw conclusions,” and ran this quote:

“Climate change could be boosting one of those ingredients [for tornadoes], but it depends on how these ingredients come together,” said Robert Henson, a meteorologist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

The AFP ran a piece titled, “No link between tornadoes and climate change: US.”  That flawed piece led Dr. Kevin Trenberth, Senior Scientists with the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to send an email explaining that yes, warming can boost the conditions for tornadoes, especially warming of sea surface temperatures (SSTs):

The SSTs in the Gulf have been running perhaps 2 deg F above pre 1970 values. Warm waters also extend across the tropical Atlantic north of the equator in the region favored for hurricanes, and hence the recent NOAA forecast for an above average  hurricane season (although the La Nina is fading and will likely be over by August, so there may be more competition from the Pacific).

Of those 2 def F, 1 can be assigned to human influence. With 1F increase in SST there is 4% increase in water holding capacity over the oceans and hence in this case the plentiful supply of moisture means there is likely to have been 8% increase in moisture flowing in the southerlies into the warm sector, thereby acting as fuel for the thunderstorms, and thus increasing the likelihood they would become super cells, with the attendant risk of tornadoes. And of course heavy rains. In spring the
westerly jet stream aloft and southerlies at the surface create a wind shear environment that is favorable for tornadoes as the wind shear can be turned into rotation. This part of the situation is largely in the realm of weather. The climate part is the warmth and moistness of the air flowing out of the Gulf and the resulting very unstable atmosphere. So while a big part of that is natural variability, a substantial part was anthropogenic global warming.

You can listen to a local CBS radio interview with Trenberth here.

Trenberth’s perspective is similar to that of Stu Ostro, Weather Channel Senior Meteorologist, in his post from earlier this month “The Katrina of tornado outbreaks“:

The atmosphere was explosively unstable with summerlike heat and humidity, interacting with a classic wind shear setup as a strong jet stream and upper-level trough crashed overhead”¦.

The atmosphere is extraordinarily complex, and ultimately what’s happened the past month is probably a combination of influences, including La Nina, other natural variability, and anthropogenic global warming.

“Today” weatherman Al Roker appears to have gone beyond the data with his suggestion that “climate change” is bringing tornadoes to urban areas, although, admittedly, it is a brief clip and it’s not exactly clear what he is saying.

Here is how meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters put it today:

In summary, this year’s incredibly violent tornado season is not part of a trend. It is either a fluke, the start of a new trend, or an early warning symptom that the climate is growing unstable and is transitioning to a new, higher energy state with the potential to create unprecedented weather and climate events. All are reasonable explanations, but we don’t have a long enough history of good tornado data to judge which is most likely to be correct.

Masters made a broader point to me in a December email (see Munich Re says “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change“):

In my thirty years as a meteorologist, I’ve never seen global weather patterns as strange as those we had in 2010. The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability. Natural variability probably did play a significant role in the wild weather of 2010, and 2011 will likely not be nearly as extreme. However, I suspect that crazy weather years like 2010 will become the norm a decade from now, as the climate continues to adjust to the steady build-up of heat-trapping gases we are pumping into the air. Forty years from now, the crazy weather of 2010 will seem pretty tame. We’ve bequeathed to our children a future with a radically changed climate that will regularly bring unprecedented weather events-many of them extremely destructive-to every corner of the globe. This year’s wild ride was just the beginning.

And on this broader issue, Reuters had a very good story last week, “Floods, Droughts Are ‘New Normal’ Of Extreme U.S. Weather Fueled By Climate Change, Scientists Say“:

Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a “new normal” of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.”It’s a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we’re seeing,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters.

While none would blame climate change for any specific weather event, Hayhoe said a background of climate change had an impact on every rainstorm, heat wave or cold snap.

“What we’re seeing is the new normal is constantly evolving,” said Nikhil da Victoria Lobo of Swiss Re’s Global Partnerships team. “Globally what we’re seeing is more volatility … there’s certainly a lot more integrated risk exposure.”

There’s no question that if one wants to minimize deaths from extreme weather, a top priority is to maintain and expand our satellite-based weather forecasting capability, which Republicans are working overtime to gut.  And we obviously need to improve housing for those in tornado alley.

But if we don’t want the weather of 2010 and 2011 to be an every other year event — then just as obviously we need an aggressive strategy for reducing GHGs that also supports real adaptation.  The Boston Globe editorializes today on the need to pursue multiple strategies, “In a season of violent weather, prepare, protect “” and prevent“:

Early preparation and planning has helped save lives. Technology and engineering have made weather predictions more reliable. A mature alert system notified residents of Joplin of an impending danger.

It is also inspiring to hear residents express a determination to rebuild. But that can-do spirit rarely translates into political action. In policy debates about environmental issues, evidence of extreme weather is often dismissed as fleeting anecdotes. But it is hard to ignore the cumulative impact of science, technology, and experience. Last week, an expert panel assigned by Congress in 2008 to recommend ways to deal with climate change provided a sobering analysis of what is at stake: Every ton of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere not only drives up the earth’s temperature, causing potentially disruptive weather events, but raises the cost of taking action later on.

Call it global warming, global weirding, or just a really freaky weather year. If we don’t begin to address the underlying causes of all this killer weather, 2011 may just be the beginning of a very dangerous new normal.

And finally, we have a must-read op-ed by Bill McKibben in the WashPost today:

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections….

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas “” fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been “” the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest “” resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi “” could somehow be related. 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.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods “” that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity “” that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years….

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade “” well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta?

… Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.”

Hear!  Hear!  Or, rather, climate change is here, here!

In fact, the population hasn’t even acclimatized to the climate change we’ve had already — in part because the GOP and the fossil-fuel-funded disinformation campaign have obfuscated efforts to inform the public.  Hypocritically, the Chamber itself led the effort to stop this country from creating a serious adaptation fund.

We’ve only warmed about a degree Fahrenheit in the past half-century.  We are on track to warm nearly 10 times that this century (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).  Indeed, if we listen to the Chamber and the politicians it backs, emissions and temperatures will just keep rising, and by the second half of the century, sea levels will be rising 6 to 12 inches a decade for centuries.  How precisely to you acclimatize yourself to a climate that is always changing?

A commenter offers this bumper sticker:

“Mother nature is only warming up.”

61 Responses to Joplin disaster spurs media whirlwind on link between climate change, extreme weather, and tornadoes

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Jeff Master’s today also notes “SSTs in the Gulf averaged over the month of April were the 3rd highest in the past 100 years, which undoubtedly contributed to the heightened instability of the two record April outbreaks. SSTs in May will not be as anomalous.” – comment #194

  2. Colorado Bob says:

    The Weather Channel’s new ” Torcon” rating system this spring has a rating of 9 today for Oklahoma, the highest since the outbreak that got Alabama.

    Down here in the dry slot , I have noticed this spring, that our drought really does it’s part to this whole pattern. When we see 50 mph gusts from the Southwest and 6% HR with temps in the 90s , someone else gets creamed with violent storms.

    Currently it’s 91F, 38 mph winds from the SW gusts to 49 mph, with 9% HR. As strong a sandstorm as we have this year, and we’ve seen plenty.

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Great read of Bill McKibben’s Washington Post article.

    Though i wonder what people would think if they are presented with an extra in-depth list of all weather extremes around the globe, all record breaking events and anomalies, let’s say which appeared within the last 24 month with analysis. This too, would really underline the messaging. There are so many events we post here to the site, on a daily base, things i stopped even reporting would be another strong message.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Aerial photos of Missouri tornado damage
    The tornado in Joplin was the single deadliest twister in the past 60 years.

  5. MarkB says:

    a few things to consider:

    1. By the SOI, the recent la Nina is the strongest record (about 60 years)

    2. April 2011 was the 4th warmest on record globally (GISS)

    3. The near record recent gulf SSTs contributed to the storm activity, at least with extreme precipitation, which is very likely due in part to the long-term increase in global mean temperature.

    There’s some indication that there’s more tornado activity in the U.S. during la Nina years. But this isn’t your grandfather’s la Nina. Global mean temperature during la Nina years have been trending upward.

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I think sarcasm is exactly the right note to hit now seeing as how we have known for how many years that this was going to happen, ME

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Rightnow, user at discuss another violent tornado outbreak based on the weather/climate instruments of the US weather services, as it were predicted earlier. The people who call for budget cuts, should really reconsider …

    308. TropicalAnalystwx13 9:04 PM GMT on May 24, 2011 “There is almost no doubt in my mind that this is….an EF-5. According to radar, this tornado surpasses wind speeds of 200 mph.”

  8. prokaryotes says:

    Live streaming, of the tornado outbreaks now. “Things are off the charts ..”

  9. Christiane says:

    “How precisely to you acclimatize yourself to a climate that is always changing?”

    Some say we should just find a new planet to live on. But as my husband says,

    “Earth: Its cheaper to keep her.”

  10. Leif says:

    Today the “Cliff Mass weather blog” has an informative tutorial on tornados.

    The increase latent heat associated with the added moisture of the warmer Gulf waters could easily be intensifying the storm cells thus intensifying the tornados themselves. There are, as noted, many causes to tornados and thou the adage “climate trains the fighter, weather throws the punches” is true, it is also true that a well fed and trained fighter throws a harder punch. Now-a-days all weather has an element of climate change embedded.

  11. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    #8 prokaryotes – thanks for the live streaming link. Things are pretty scary out there in OK.

    “An absolute hurricane of a tornado.”

    Glad I’m not in tornado country.

  12. Michael Tucker says:

    I wonder if the folks of Joplin or Alabama or Texas know about the “…link between climate change and extreme weather, including tornadoes.” It would be wonderful if we really did finally have a ‘grown-up discussion’ about GHG emissions, climate change, annual climate catastrophes (not just the ones in the US) and what we need to do about it now.

    Or, will it end up like the exchange between MSNBC’s Tamron Hall and Dr Howard Bluestein, meteorology professor at the University of Oklahoma, on News Nation from 5/23/11:
    TAMRON HALL: What about climate change? You have many people who see these severe storms, and not just the tornados, but the strength of hurricanes and even severe storms, we’re getting hail and high winds right now from Texas, I believe, all the way through the Midwest. Is this a result of climate change or an effect of climate change?

    Dr. HOWARD BLUESTEIN, University of Oklahoma: Well I can’t speak for hurricanes, but for tornadoes and supercells, I don’t think we can prove whether or not the occurrence of all these bad events this year are due to global warming whatsoever. They could be simply due to natural variability. After all, when you think back to some of the other historic events, like April 30 1974, the tornadoes in Missouri in 1953, the tri-state tornadoes back in 1925. If you through the records, you’ll see that every 20, 30, 40 years there are these tremendous widespread outbreaks and some of them occurred long before we were talking about global warming.

    HALL: Alright, Dr. Howard Bluestein, of the University of Oklahoma, where they certainly see their share of tornadoes in that state. Thank you so much, sir.

    Will the folks of Joplin see any mention of climate change as “…putting a political spin on the tragedy?” That is the opinion of Alex Fitzsimmons of the Media Research Center.

    Or will it come down to: we don’t know. That was the opinion expressed in the Detroit Free Press from yesterday:

    “…National Weather Service’s Greg Carbin [said]. Climate change may help explain flooding, and put more moisture in the air to trigger storms, but it’s hard to find correlation between that and what has happened this spring.

    “We just don’t know,” he said.”

    Will the victims begin to demand action to reduce GHG or will they just demand a better early warning system? My feeling is they will demand better sirens and cheaper gas. The typical reaction.

  13. MapleLeaf says:

    The NYC has also been covering this.

    Not looking good for today, large area designated as ‘High Risk’ by the Storm Prediction Center over southern KS and most of OK, with moderate coverage of severe storms east of that. They are cautioning that the storms could produce violent tornadoes and giant hail.

    Another large area with Moderate coverage of severe storms tomorrow in the Mississippi valley and surroundings. The rain from those storms is not going to help the flooding situation.

  14. MarkF says:

    good editorial in USA today as well:

    “Late last week, the nation’s pre-eminent scientific advisory group, the National Research Council arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report called “America’s Climate Choices.” As scientific reports go, its key findings were straightforward and unequivocal: “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment.” Among those risks in the USA: more intense and frequent heat waves, threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels, and greater drying of the arid Southwest.

    Coincidentally, USA TODAY’s Dan Vergano reported Monday, a statistics journal retracted a federally funded study that had become a touchstone among climate-change deniers. The retraction followed complaints of plagiarism and use of unreliable sources, such as Wikipedia.

    Taken together, these developments ought to leave the deniers in the same position as the “birthers,” who continue to challenge President Obama’s American citizenship — a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming evidence.”

  15. prokaryotes says:

    Twisters damage homes, toss cars in Oklahoma
    Powerful storms near Oklahoma City; outbreak includes Kansas

    The Weather Channel reported that the twister along I-40 was huge and possibly an EF5 — the strongest tornado category.

    Near the town of Cashion, a storm spotter saw “extreme tornado damage” and “houses swept” away, the Weather Channel stated.

    The National Weather Service reported one tornado touched down about two miles north of Canton, Okla.

    Canton city employee Linda Hisell said police reported a twister moved through the area around Canton Lake, about 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. Hisell said police reported that some people were inside damaged homes.

    Still a developing situation.

  16. Solar Jim says:

    RE: Mother Nature is only warming up.

    Everyone being a little overwhelmed, all I can say is that since this year’s response is from emissions of several decades ago (thermal lag), we could avoid the vertical area of apparent exponential response from today’s much larger (fossil carbon) emissions by actually removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere/ecosphere. This may be necessary to do over centuries since what we have put in the biosphere over the past century, including oceans, may tend to come back out. Yet there is (barely enough) time.

    Instead of the UN IPCC’s Adaptation and Mitigation, call it Elimination and Counter Action, accelerated over one or two generations. It would require global economic restructuring of the most fantastic kind, a democratic revolution by and for humanity. Yet amazingly, it has begun and significant economic analyzes indicate excellent prospects for sustainability and human development. And everyone can work.

    Our present economic paradigm is clearly failing on multiple counts. We should determine what it is we are counting (besides fiscal debt and global political corruption).

  17. Barry says:

    Will people worry more about climate change because of tornadoes? I think so.

    The one thing people definitely pay attention to — at a deep biological level — is weather. We are hard wired to care deeply. Freaky weather causes the human animal to pay attention.

    I also don’t think it will matter if scientists determine whether tornadoes are made worse by climate change. So far few Americans seem to care what scientists have found out about climate and the weather. They are reacting to climate according to worldviews and personal experience. Why would it be different now?

    I actually think the scientists saying “we don’t understand tornadoes well enough” helps create worry about climate change. At some level I think the average American thinks that the more scientists know the more control we are in as a society.

    I don’t think most people have taken in the “we are losing control” aspect of climate change. I think more are everyday.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    None of this will make the slightest difference to the denialists. Their paid spokesmouths will simply utter ‘It all happened before (even if it didn’t)’ and the Dunning-Krugerites will dismiss it all. The Right’s innate deficiency in empathy and outright indifference to the fate of others aids the process. Until they themselves are victims, or even beyond that hour, they must deny everything, because their narcissistic but perfectly formed egos have so very, very, much psychic energy and self-regard invested in denialism. What makes mind changing impossible, too, is that they see that process as a ‘victory’ for the Left and ‘Greenies’ who they hate with synapse-sizzling intensity.

  19. prokaryotes says:

    Despite advances in science, tornadoes take deadly toll

    Experts say a number of factors are contributing to the extraordinary death toll, including that some people are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    “When a killer wind directly hits a population, people are likely going to die,” said Brian Ancell, a researcher with the atmospheric science group at Texas Tech University.

    Ofc no mentioning of the planed budget cuts and CC.

  20. Mike Roddy says:

    These tornadoes are striking in the American Bible Belt, where most people drive big trucks. This could have been overcome if the residents had been educated about the correlations between weather and climate change by either the media or their schools and universities.

    No Midwestern communications sources have stepped up. Fox is the default TV network in that part of the country, the newspapers are right wing, and, as the University of Oklahoma professor showed, many academics have been cowed.

    Once again, it will have to be up to national media outlets to awaken Middle America. This in turn will require intense pressure on existing outlets and establishment of new ones. There is no time to waste.

  21. Adam R. says:

    There is certainly an element of bad luck in the locations of this spring’s violent storms, but an increase of 4% in the latent heat content of the atmosphere–the fuel of convective weather–must inevitably have an effect on the nature of such events.

    The “We can’t say any single weather event can be attributed to global warming” mantra is inadequate to speak to the situation. More apt would be to say, “All weather events are affected by global warming in some way.”

  22. Berbalang says:

    Yesterday we had roofs torn off buildings, trees broken or uprooted and all kinds of wind damage caused by straight line winds. A few weeks ago we had record breaking flooding. I am about emergencied out.

    And don’t get me started on the subject of Tornado Sirens, I am sick of the stupid politics involved. There are politicians that think entirely in terms of spin and rewrite technical decisions for political purposes that fly in the face of thousands of years of human progress. The end result is a mixture of Whelan and Federal Sirens using different signaling systems trying to share a common frequency. It goes down hill from there…

  23. catman306 says:

    Watching tornado videos has led me to believe that an individual, or several neighbors or trailer park tenants could share a quick tornado shelter. Intermodal cargo shipping containers can be purchased for a little more than $1000 and anchored into the ground with trailer tie-down cables. ‘ll bet there’s a company near you that can deliver in a day or two. Quick shelter for this year, next year, for you, your family and neighbors. It could be cul-de-sac owned. It could be partially or totally buried in a berm or underground. The videos show destruction that might require a sturdy steel safe room for survival.

  24. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Extreme weather conditions occurring in the recent past are an indication for Climate Change?

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  25. Mike says:

    What is good about many of these reports is that the really of climate change is taken as a given, the starting point for the story. The question is only what do we know about a link between cc and tornadoes. Even though the answer is not much, this is not taken as evidence against the importance of cc.

  26. Barry says:

    I just heard a CBC meteorologist totally blow the ubiquitous question of: “is there a connection between recent tornadoes and climate change?”

    She said “no”. Amazing that this person claims to know enough about tornadoes to say there is no connection! Why would she even do this when clearly she doesn’t know enough to make this statement. In fact nobody does.

    From what Joe and others have said, the best answer should be something like:

    “Maybe. We don’t understand tornadoes well enough to say for sure either way if climate change is making them more common or more dangerous. But we do know that climate change has increased one of the key ingredients required for the most powerful tornadoes — lots of moist warm air.”

  27. Eve says:

    The idea of a continually updated list of extreme weather events around the globe with pictures or even a Website for this purpose would be
    helpful for making the connection.

    I am here in the unstable Middle East
    which you may have noticed has become even more unstable lately –
    I read in one place some time ago that there is drought in Syria and
    some farmers have had to leave their land. Egypt is a large, poor country with a growing population – what happens if food prices keep rising there?

  28. Michael T says:

    Jim Hansen made an appearance on the most recent episode of “The Climate Show”:

    Episode 13 description:
    “Special guest on this week’s show is Dr James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and perhaps the best-known climate scientist in the world — the man who put the 350 in and a forceful advocate for leaving coal in the ground. We caught up with him during his recent NZ tour, and grabbed an interview during his whirlwind visit to Canterbury University (thanks Bronnie!). John Cook’s back from the tour launching his new book Climate Denial: Heads In The Sand, and talks about his experiences on the road as well as debunking the “CO2 lags warming” myth. Plus the Australian Climate Commission’s new report, The Critical Decade, Britain’s ambitious new carbon targets, and a couple of new solar power initiatives.”

  29. Dickensian American says:

    Noticing a strong flurry of angry denier comments on news sites with stories about the tornadoes. Folks are writing off this years pattern stating that tornadoes happen every year and lobbing facts like “the US averages 1000 tornadoes a year.” Problem with this claim: we’re now currently over 1000 tornadoes this year and the season is only about half over. I’d love to see a clear fact checked running break-down of where we are in the season, how many storms tornadoes we are at of various EF classes, and how those compare to recorded averages.

    Regardless, these numbers promise to continue climbing this year. Looks like another super cell may explode tomorrow near the MO and AK border.

  30. nyc-tornado-ten says:

    I would like to interrupt this coverage of climate change disasters in america to bring you an important update on climate change disaster in china. The yangtze river is running well below normal, forcing the chinese government to lower the water levels, in order to supply water to farmers for deperately needed food. The reduction in hydro electric production will require an estimated 300,000 barrels a day of diesel oil to run emergeny generators, not good news for energy prices.

    What makes this story interesting is that the report recognizes the link between the increased severity of climate disasters and global warming, this report is from bloomberg business, a well established institution of american capitalism! I just hope the editor and writer still have a job tomorrow.

    “Rainfall along the Yangtze River in April and May was 40-50 percent below the historical average,” said Ma Wenfeng, a senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Ltd. “The cause is being debated, but I think global warming is partly to blame for more frequent extreme weather, and partly the Three Gorges might have stored water in the upper-stream.”

  31. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The local state propaganda service for all known or imagined Rightwing causes, the ABC, ran a story on the midday news concerning the waning of the La Nina. No mention whatsoever was made of anthropogenic climate destabilisation, and all the great climate calamities of recent months were blamed on La Nina. It was mentioned that it was one of the strongest on record, but falsely asserted that there had been equally strong ones in the past, the standard denialist canard. As far as the well-trained minions of the Rightist thought control apparatus are concerned, anthropogenic climate destabilisation no longer exists, save to be mocked or derided as an ‘alarmist’ invention. The ideological indoctrination of even the lowliest propaganda apparatchik is a wonder to behold.

  32. Leland Palmer says:

    Godforsaken Idiots.

    Complete and utter lunatics.

    These guys are making hypocrisy into a high art:

    1 Billion in FEMA funding Approved by House

    (05-24) 04:00 PDT Washington —

    Republicans controlling the House began advancing a $1 billion aid package on Tuesday to make sure that disaster relief accounts don’t run dry after massive flooding along the Mississippi River and devastating tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama.

    The House Appropriations Committee approved the disaster aid cash along with two spending bills, one funding the Homeland Security Department and the other for veterans programs.

    The debate over disaster relief highlighted the challenge facing Republicans, who have made clear they intend to cut billions in federal spending yet are under pressure to respond to the extraordinary wave of disasters that has hit the South and Midwest this spring.

    We already know that they don’t have any brains, eyes, or remorse.

    So, these guys are going to cut funding for solar energy, but be sure to score political points by voting for relief for disasters they are helping to create?

    These guys are actively working to make sure we continue using fossil fuels long after it has become completely obvious to even the brain dead that we’re going to have to stop- and now they rush to vote for disaster relief?

    Christ- it’s a bad dream.

    These guys are stupider and more venal than it’s POSSIBLE to be. :(

  33. John Mason says:

    Joplin tornado confirmed as EF-5:

    Cheers – John

  34. English Mark says:

    “Mother nature is only warming up.” Yes, and she’s a real bitch when she’s angry.

    To a simple mind like mine, AGW leads to more warmth, more humidity, more violent storms. If these are required to generate a tornado along with other factors, then you might logically expect an increase.

  35. a face in the clouds says:

    Texas Tech University may begin to shed a lot of light in its damage comparisons over the past four decades.

  36. prokaryotes says:

    re #27, Barry CBC also has the story online

    Deadly U.S. tornadoes not linked to climate change, meteorologists say

    “Linkages at this point to something like climate change — to say that’s an underlying reason why this spring has been so active — are very premature,” …

  37. prokaryotes says:

    What’s causing the tornado tsunami

    Surely there have been times in the past when the jet stream shifted east and south: this may or may not be related to greenhouse gases. But greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are rising, and weather variations are rising — not just tornadoes, but droughts and deluge rains. Chances are two plus two equals four.

    It is important to bear in mind that climate change, not global warming, is the threat. They seem like the same thing but are not.

    The mild warming of the past 100 years — about 1 degree Fahrenheit globally averaged — was good for crop yields, and moderated demand for energy. (Power use for warming on cold days exceeds power use for cooling on hot days). If all that happens is continued mildly rising temperatures, that might be beneficial.

    Changing climate is another matter altogether. Climate change can bring more tornadoes, increase droughts in some places while increasing floods in other places — all three impacts are being observed. Long-term shifts in rainfall patterns might turn breadbasket regions into crop-failure regions. Our increasingly globalized economy is dependent on air travel and air cargo. What if storms and turbulence begin to make flying conditions unfavorable not once in a long while, but often?

    Despite what the talk radio and Tea Party types say, there is strong scientific consensus that human activity has begun to alter Earth’s climate. Here is the latest statement on this matter, from the National Academy of Sciences last week.

    The United States Congress — dedicated to its twin goals of doing nothing, while collecting campaign contributions — needs to act on greenhouse gases. These tornadoes are not originating from Oz.

  38. MarkF says:

    I heard the meteorologist interview on the CBC radio.

    although it was good at one time, the CBC is not doing a very good job covering climate change. They continue to interview people that deny climate change is happening, as if there is some question about this.’

    a few days ago, a cbc radio interviewer posed the question to a guest, that Canada couldn’t do as much about reducing carbon emissions, because it is such a large country. dismal.

    Since I don’t know what goes on inside theCBC, I do not know why this is happening.

    But it is a shame. I don’t listen to the CBC much anymore.

  39. Joan Savage says:

    BBC, however, looked up historic tornado events that occurred before the US Weather Service records on tornadoes officially began about sixty years ago.
    BBC highlighted 1840, 1896, 1925 and 1932, as well as selecting a 1974 event from among numerous tornadoes recorded after 1950.

    Let us bear in mind that as is usual in disaster reporting, earlier tornadoes were selectively chronicled due to human loss of life.
    There could have been other severe tornadoes in that time interval 1840 – 1950 that escaped news attention. Indigenous peoples had certainly experienced tornadoes over the centuries, as they shared some suggestions for dealing with tornadoes with settlers.

    However, if a tornado tore across an unpopulated part of the Great Plains, there was no weather satellite to catch the brief event, and there were few who understood the evidence of shredded trees or churned-up sod that might persist for a few years.

    Because tornadoes are so localized for the swathe of impact (e.g. six miles long, a mile wide) we’d need some very fancy technology to look for more historic tornado evidence, if it even persists.

  40. prokaryotes says:

    US Extreme Weather Consistent with Climate Change

    Scientists say storms likely to become more frequent and intense–122577569.html

  41. Colorado Bob says:

    The Missouri River is headed into “uncharted territory” as an unprecedented amount of water is shoved out of upstream reservoirs in the face of deteriorating conditions from heavy rains and runoff from above-normal mountain snowpack.

    In the Dakotas, Bismarck and Pierre will see river levels not encountered since dams upstream of those communities were built, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Sandbagging has already begun in Bismarck.

    “There’s no good news,” said the corps’ Jody Farhat.

  42. Colorado Bob says:

    Yesterday –
    A large area south of I-70 near Limon, Colorado got between 5 and 6.5 inches of rain –

  43. Bill W says:

    Watching tornado coverage on CNN last night, I was struck that their weather guy even managed to mention climate change. Why? It seemed like every second or third ad was from an oil company or the API.

  44. English Mark says:

    Over in the UK The Guardian is reporting the cotinuing droughts in part of China

  45. Colorado Bob says:

    Bill W @ 45 –
    Chad Myers is denier of the first order.

  46. Colorado Bob says:

    “The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.” (Edward Abbey)