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Are extra tornadoes caused by CO2?

The planet is going to die. The only thing that the global warming cultists are uncertain about is what kind of death it will choose.

The Capitol of a state filled with climate change deniers is being tested by a man-made tornado resembling a nuclear mushroom. (At least that's what the jihadists want the caption to be.)

In 2005, they would tell us that every season would bring its ever increasing number of hurricanes. The number of Katrinas would skyrocket and they would eventually kill everyone. However, a sequence of average and below-the-average hurricane seasons has led the climate cultists to change their preferred doomsday scenario dozens of times in recent years. One could say that every time the weather changed, their holy scripture was rewritten, too.

So during the years, we have "learned" that global climate change will destroy us via hurricanes, snowstorms in New York, floods in Pakistan, heat waves in Russia, maybe even earthquakes in Japan and I could go on and on and on. Right now, the face of the climate god - also known as a rare weather event - are tornadoes in Alabama. ;-)

While most scientists silently acknowledge that there's no link between these twisters and "global climate change" (silently so that their funding is not affected), it is not just infamous unhinged activists who are promoting this link. Kevin Trenberth at Think Progress thinks it is "irresponsible not to mention climate change in the context of the tornadoes". Wow. See 100+ other fresh articles discussing the AGW-tornado link.

Yesterday, Marc Morano has nicely presented this changing perspective about the kind of skyrocketing deadly events on Fox News:

Very true. The climate bigots' belief is meant to be strengthened every time the weather changes. Because the weather has been changing all the time for 4.7 billion years and it is meticulously continuing to do so, it's not surprising that the fanaticism of the climate cultists has already surpassed that of many Muslims.

One year ago, Roy Spencer released his new book, The Great Global Warming Blunder, in which he argued that the influence of the natural cloud cover variations on the temperature has been misinterpreted as the opposite influence and, therefore, a positive feedback. That has greatly and spuriously inflated the predicted sensitivity of the climate to carbon dioxide and similar drivers.

One year later, i.e. two days ago, Real climate has reviewed the book. It's strange to post reviews of a book on an "urgent problem" one year after the book is published, isn't it?

The review is plagued by internal inconsistencies. For example, its author boasts that climate models were "able" to predict a high climate sensitivity even without positive feedbacks. That's too bad because we now know that the no-feedback sensitivity is 1.2 °C per CO2 doubling and the discrepancy only shows that the climate modelers have been cheating and inflating their predictions well before the complexities of the H2O cycle were incorporated into the models.

We may argue that because of the timing, the review of the book is off-topic. But Gavin Schmidt added two remarkably off-topic observations to the thread - tornadoes and Roy Spencer's location.

Coincidentally, Roy Spencer is in the middle of the tornado outbreak that has hit Alabama. Obviously, we hope that he and everyone else affected stay safe.
Well, it would be terrible if the tornadoes badly affected Roy Spencer but the probability is still small. There are 5 million people in Alabama and 250 causalties. So the risk that a given random person is among them is still just 1 in 20,000.

Now, try to explain the relevance of this comment by Schmidt. Why is it a "coincidence" if Schmidt combines several things that have nothing to do with each other? Most n-tuples of things have nothing to do with each other so it is no "coincidence". The only reason why Schmidt may consider it a "coincidence" is that he suggests that there is a relationship between global climate change and the tornadoes. And the only reason why Roy Spencer's location is relevant - another part of the "coincidence" - is that Schmidt suggests that there is a relationship between Roy Spencer and the punishment by Mother Nature if not Gaia. Schmidt doesn't write those things explicitly but much like in the Bible, he surely wants the believers to turn on their imagination and figure out that this is what he wanted to say. And many of them will do so.

Some skeptics don't even want to believe that this is Schmidt's point. Think twice. In the Think Progress article mentioned above, they don't forget to mention that "The Congressional delegations of these states (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia) overwhelmingly voted (HR 910 and McConnell Amendment 183) to reject the science that polluting the climate is dangerous." It's just like when we talk about the Gore effect - the only difference is that we're making fun about innocent cases of cold weather while these people are dead serious and they effectively attribute hundreds of dead people to the skeptics. Those people don't have any morality.

Meanwhile, Roy Spencer is inside the tornado outbreak area, indeed. Before the end of the world which also led to blackouts, he had some charge in the batteries - for 40 minutes - so we could hear quite a lot from him:
Tornado update from Alabama 1
Tornado update from Alabama 2

More tornadoes from global warming. That's a joke, right?
In the first entries, he is happy e.g. about the disappearing light pollution. The hospitable Southerners may finally see lots of stars on the skies! ;-)

Of course, the last entry is most relevant for the discussion of the new face of the global warming Armageddon that is being furiously promoted among the cultists. Spencer explains the real drivers that make tornadoes in the U.S. possible: wind shear, a few others, and an anomalously cold spring.

Much more generally, it's clear that similar events are extremely localized and depend on local non-uniformities while global climate change is, by definition, well, global. It really means that it's largely uniform - much like the concentration of CO2 after a few weeks of diffusion. A uniform change of the broader environment may still affect the frequency and intensity of local non-uniformities. However, Spencer explains that the (weak) influence is really going in the opposite direction than the new Armageddon meme tries to claim - something that is taking place in the case of other "threats", too. Quite generally, global warming may be predicted to reduce the non-uniformities and, therefore, the amount of variability and the frequency of extreme events.

What do the empirical data tell us about these matters?

This is a graph of tornado reports between 1950 and 2006 taken from Andrew Revkin's 2008 blog entry. Revkin copies a caption by NOAA/NSSL:
Frequency of reports of strong (red) and weak (blue) tornadoes since 1950. Experts say the rise in weak tornadoes is from more reporting, not more storms.
You can see that the large tornadoes - which were probably (almost) universally reported even around 1950 - are actually dropping a little bit (red color). On the other hand, the smallest tornadoes (blue color) have gone up which is almost certainly due to the people's increasing ability to report them. It makes sense; there surely had to exist limitations in the citizens' ability and will to report small tornadoes around 1950. Still, we don't know what was the actual number of small tornadoes in 1950 so we can't make any definitive statements about the trends.

Whether or not a theory predicts an increase or a decrease of tornadoes or any other weather phenomenon, it's always useful to do the simplest thing you may think of: to try to check the experimental graphs showing the frequency that was measured in the reality. I think that a vast percentage of the people - including those who consider themselves "well-informed" in the climate change issues - are not doing this simple exercise.

So I would bet that a vast majority of the U.S. citizens is ready to believe that the number of strong tornadoes has been rapidly increasing in the last 60 years even though it has actually been decreasing. Even though many people often mention that the weather is not the climate, the reality is that the weather - and I only mean the weather "right now" (otherwise the climate can be fully extracted from the weather at a long enough time scale) - determines a vast majority of the actual sentiments about the climate.

That's too bad.

There are so many interesting weather events that some of them are guaranteed to be occurring pretty much at every moment of time somewhere. Because global communication has become trivial, we're instantly learning about any of them almost immediately. However, that doesn't mean that their number has been increasing. If one carefully tries to check whether something has been increasing, he will invariably find out that the increase was statistically indistinguishable from zero and the number of exceptions doesn't statistically differ from the number of exceptions that you would expect by chance, too.

The only major graph that shows an increase is the graph of the global mean temperature but this increase is totally unspectacular. Similarly, the number of "record high temperatures" is guaranteed to be increased relatively to "record low temperatures" because of the overall change. But the overall change is small for all practical purposes while all other wind-, humidity-, and pressure-related weather events depend on the local gradients and they have nothing to do with the overall global temperature changes. That's why the corresponding graphs don't show any statistically significant trends.

There is surely no threat - or "crisis" as some of the most outrageous crooks like to call it. There's just a lot of dirty propaganda. CO2 can at most contribute a uniform increase of the temperature by half a degree or a degree or two degrees a century. And such a uniform increase has almost no effect on any weather events that we care about because such events depend on local non-uniformities - sometimes on extremely large gradients of temperature, pressure, and humidity - that have really nothing to do with any global climate change, whether it is man-made or not.

Marc Morano rightfully says that the climate orthodoxy linking tornadoes and human sins against Nature is literally returning us (or some of us) to the era of medieval, pre-scientific superstitions in which witches were being burned because they were causing thunderstorms. It's really incredible if some people who actively help this irrationality to spread are talking about "science".

The actual lesson of all these weather events is that Nature harbors much greater energy than we do - and all these events show how irrelevant the energy flows induced or modified by us are irrelevant from the viewpoint of (or relatively to) the whole Earth. People should conclude that in the context of the natural phenomena, our influence on the climate is tiny. Too bad that some of them are led to make the exactly opposite and spectacularly wrong conclusion.

And that's the memo.

Wow, on Saturday, 1:30 pm, Gaia came to punish me, too. During a nice and sunny Spring day with the temperature near 17 °C, the skies suddenly went dark and lots of ice pellets began to drum on my windows. It has been intense for 15 minutes or so. I wasn't aware it was possible. Therefore it had to be caused by the evil industrial civilization, especially in capitalist countries.

By the way, more seriously, I think that such weather events are a significant negative feedback because they cool the surface - and heat the higher layers of the atmosphere. This combination means that they reduce the lapse rate and act against the "enhanced global warming" which is about the increase of the lapse rate.

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