CLEVELAND - ADDED 3:35 pm Wednesday: References to tornado frequency by NWS Dallas Office.
I saw and heard some very disturbing things on television on Tuesday. What I SAW was live television video showing a tornado tearing through a Dallas, Texas business park. The most amazing site was seeing the twister pick up empty semi tractor-trailers and toss them hundreds of feet in the air like toys. Only to drop them, crashing to the ground in a unrecognizable mess of metal. Ah, the awesomeness of nature!
What I HEARD was even more disturbing. I watched a cable television meteorologist, a former Weather Channel met, blame yesterday's Texas tornadoes on...(drum role) climate change! Sigh. This is what she said with a straight face: "That’s kind of the climate change we are seeing. You know, extremes are kind of ruling the roost and really what we are seeing, more become the norm.”
So, let me get this straight: a tornado in Texas in April is extreme? Tuesday's small EF-2 tornado was the result of global warming/climate change/climate disruption? Really! Who'd have thunk it!
The ridiculousness continued: "This global warming is really kind of a misnomer,” the CNN Weather Anchor said. “It’s global climate change. So...severe is more severe.”
And this isn't the first time you may have heard these claims. Many media outlets, newspapers, bloggers are jumping on the "weather extremes is climate change" bandwagon.
First of all, as my grandfather used to say, "This is absolute HOGWASH!"
There is no evidence that tornadoes and severe storms are increasing in frequency or becoming stronger. Oh, it may look like tornadoes are bigger and meaner and more frequent. But, experts admit that's because of technology. Better radars now detect even the smallest twisters, which would likely have gone unreported decades ago.
Also, no self-respecting tornado can touch down anymore without being harassed by camera wielding storm chasers. That video is instantly uploaded to a TV set or computer screen near you. We see a lot more pictures of tornadoes today than we ever did in decades past. Furthermore, increases in available disaster assistance aid have encouraged more frequent reporting of smaller storms in efforts to get disaster aid.
Here are the facts: In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, data shows "Nearly 30% of all the tornadoes reported in this area have occurred during the month of April and over 30% of the EF2 and stronger tornadoes have occurred in April." On April 2, 1957, an F-3 tornado touched down in Dallas County, killing 10 people. That means, in April, in Dallas, tornadoes are common.
According to Balling & Cerveny, 2003, If you count only category F4 and F5 tornado events, "which are relatively consistently detectable and recorded, there is no trend in tornado numbers over the past 100 years."
Lets expand that out to include EF-3, EF-4, & EF-5 tornadoes over the last 60 years. Take a look at the graph above (Image 3). Strong, damaging tornadoes have actually DECREASED across the United States over the last 40 years. Note this graph even includes last year's major tornado outbreaks in Alabama, Missouri and North Carolina.
Lets add in even the reported F-2 tornadoes now: From 1970-1979, there were a total of 255 reported twisters of F-2 strength or higher. Compare that to the recent decade - from 2002 to 2011, 147 tornadoes of F-2 strength or higher were cataloged. So, again we see a larger number of moderate to strong tornadoes occurred during the 1970s, compared to the most recent decade ( Storm Prediction Center) . Big, mean tornadoes have declined, not increased!
Dr. Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) is a severe weather expert. In a recent seminar at Penn State University, he detailed his ongoing research about the connection between severe weather and climate change. Here's what this expert had to say:
1. The large variability from one severe weather season to another, combined with ever improving and easier ways of reporting severe weather, make it difficult to link severe weather and climate change.
2. Significant severe weather (tornadoes and hail storms) depends more on wind shear (change in direction of strong winds with height) rather than a combination of higher temperatures and high humidity. Shear also determines the intensity of hail and tornadoes in the U.S. and Europe. Big tornado years have hail storms as the dominant secondary severe weather events (as opposed to just damaging winds).
3. Climate models projecting a future warmer world with C02 doubled show an increase in heat and humidity, but a decrease in shear (a decrease in equator to pole gradient).
4. These high heat/humidity & low shear environments result in little overall change in severe thunderstorms.
And there's more. The self-appointed authority on the global warming theory, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC), admits there is no link between an increase in severe storms