Unless you live in a cave — which, come to think of it, might not be a bad idea for hard-core global warming preppers — then you have heard about the pre-documentary that ran on the SyFy channel last night, “Sharknado.”
As the national media reported, the local media blamed this on climate change:
“Global warming IS the reason…”
So exclaims a local TV news reporter as a sharknado—a climate-change-abetted windstorm that sucks in an armada of malevolent sharks—approaches the heart of Los Angeles.
Based on my conversations with leading climate scientists, it seems premature at best for a pre-documentary to pre-attribute an individual sharknado to climate change. I examined the climate/tornado link in great detail here and concluded:
- 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.
- 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.
Significantly, Harold Brooks, a senior scientist at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, told the media this week, “There are records of small fish being picked up by waterspouts, but sharks are pretty big and that makes it a lot harder.”
This suggests that if there ever is a sharknado, global warming probably played a role in creating convection and winds capable of entraining a significant number of sharks.
This footage underscores that point:
I should note that I myself didn’t actually see “Sharknado.” I am still too busy binge-watching that disturbing multi-part documentary, “Breaking Bad,” which if nothing else has convinced me I made a good choice in becoming a physicist, since chemists just don’t seem like very nice people.
Finally, while individual sharknados may or may not ultimately be attributable to global warming, you can’t deny the impact of a film that drew “over 5,000 tweets per minute” at one point, according to Fox News, which, unsurprisingly, omitted any discussion of global warming in its story. That’s why I’m inclined to agree with the recommendation of the LA Times:
So forget “An Uncomfortable Truth.” Environmental activists need to set up screenings of “Sharknado.” My fellow Americans, is this the legacy we want to leave our children? A shark on every rooftop?
Something for Bill McKibben and League of Conservation Voters and Organizing For Action to think about.
UPDATE: EPA has put out the following tweet:
— U.S. EPA (@EPAgov) July 12, 2013