Twisting the Meaning of Twisters

The left shamelessly tries to use last week’s devastating extreme weather in the south to “prove” their case for global warming.

The left’s reaction to last week’s deadly tornadoes that wreaked havoc throughout the south was as predictable as it was reprehensible: blame the tragedy on the fantasy of “climate change.” The New York Times declared: “The cruelty of this particular April, in the number of tornadoes recorded, is without equal in the United States,” before launching into a polemic that tried to link “climate change” to the supposed fact.

The Center for American Progress’s Brad Johnson put up a blog post entitled: “Storms Kill Over 250 Americans In States Represented By Climate Pollution Deniers.” “The congressional delegations of these states – Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, and Kentucky – overwhelmingly voted to reject the science that polluting the climate is dangerous,” he wrote. “They are deliberately ignoring the warning from scientists.”

This is, of course, the modus operandi that the alarmist crowd employs again and again: attaching their cause to a headline-grabbing event and using the occasion to wag their fingers at anyone who disagrees with them. Examples of this behavior run the spectrum from the ridiculous to the sublime. Actor Danny Glover’s assertion that global warming caused the earthquake in Haiti last year is a textbook example of the former. But tornadoes are a climatic event, so linking them to “climate change” appears a more credible claim on the surface. Yet, if we dig just a little deeper, we find that the alarmist crowd is once again ignoring the scientific process that they claim to hold so dear. The data simply does not back up their wild pronouncements.

Will April 2011 prove to be a record month in terms of tornadoes recorded in the United States? Maybe. Does that data bit prove anything? No. First of all, the climatic record in the United States spans a ridiculously small period of time in geologic terms – about 150 years in all – and a good deal of that data set doesn’t include large portions of the nation. Secondly, modern instruments like Doppler radar mean that we can detect tornadoes better than ever before. The better we are able to detect tornadoes, the more we record.

Thus, picking out a narrowly-defined data point like tornado activity in the United States during the month of April is a particularly meaningless metric. It’s like trying to define the state of the United States educational system by examining how your child scored on social studies quizzes that he or she took on Thursdays during months that have one-syllable names.

A sober examination of data that is actually relevant shows that tornado activity in the United States has been relatively low in recent years, as compared to average activity over the last 60 years. Moreover, overall tropical storm and hurricane activity has been trending steadily lower on a global basis for the past forty years. There is simply no good scientific data that suggests that so-called “climate change” has in any way led to an increase in severe weather events on planet earth. Meteorologist and leading climate skeptic Anthony Watts posted a great summary of the issue over at The Daily Caller.

Dr. Roy Spencer, a climatologist and leading skeptic who teaches at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and who also does work for NASA summed up his reaction to attempts to link global warming to tornado activity in his typically droll style. In a blog post entitled “MORE Tornadoes from Global Warming? That’s a Joke, Right?” Spencer took the alarmists apart over their latest spurious claim:

“It is well known that strong to violent tornado activity in the U.S. has decreased markedly since statistics began in the 1950s, which has also been a period of average warming,” he wrote. “So, if anything, global warming causes FEWER tornado outbreaks…not more. In other words, more violent tornadoes would, if anything, be a sign of ‘global cooling,’ not ‘global warming.’ He concluded:

Anyone who claims more tornadoes are caused by global warming is either misinformed, pandering, or delusional.

The National Weather Association, a group that represents thousands of operational meteorologists, forecasters, and television-radio meteorologists in the United States, issued a press release that was very critical of the alarmists. The NWA said, in part, that: “no single weather event or series of events should be construed as evidence of a climate trend. Daily weather is subject to extreme events due to its natural variability. It is only the occurrence of these events over decades that determines a climate trend.”

No self-respecting scientist would look at a single climatic event like last week’s tornado outbreak and draw ridiculous conclusions about global climate change. We’ve seen events like this in the past, like the Tri-State Tornado in 1925 (almost 700 fatalities) and the massive Super Outbreak in 1974 (over 300 fatalities). We’ll surely see them again. The only difference between then and now is that while everyone used to ascribe violent weather events to the whims of nature, today we are cursed with a group of dedicated leftists who are determined to use the caprices of the natural environment to score political points.