Sunday, April 27, 2014

Which Came First

UPDATE:  It was a very bad night in Arkansas.  17-18 dead and today promises more.  Awful.

Bunnies may recall that the last time Roger PJr. posted over at five thirty eight, a bit of controversy ensued.  It reminded Eli of how Roger posting over at the late lamented Nature climate blog, contributed to the late lamented.  This brings the Rabett to the just sayin' of the day.

April 15 a rather muddled article on tornado frequency by Matt Lanza appeared at 538.  Maybe yes, maybe no, a slow start doesn't mean much sort of thing.

 Tornado season has started quietly this year, continuing a trend that began in 2012. Through March 31, the United States had only 70 reported tornadoes even though the first quarter has averaged more than 170 a year over the last 10 years. April has remained quiet, with 36 preliminary tornado reports as of Sunday. Oklahoma hasn’t seen an intense tornado1 since May 31, the longest such stretch on record. The small tornado seen there on Sunday was the first of any kind since Aug. 7.
Many people have written about the possible causes, from drought to persistent cooler weather in places that typically see increasing tornadoes in spring. But what does this quiet start mean for the rest of the tornado season? Will our mostly good fortune continue?
Much will be revealed in the way the large-scale weather pattern unfolds in the coming weeks. But history provides a useful lesson: A quiet start to severe weather season does not necessarily mean a quiet finish.
April 24 a post appears in the Wall Street Journal by Roger PJ,

The Decline of Tornado Devastation

Despite what you might have heard about 'extreme weather events,' damage and loss of life from twisters is in retreat.

So far in 2014, the United States has experienced fewer tornadoes than in any year since record-keeping began in 1953, or even before.

Greg Carbin, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has called this "likely the slowest start to tornado activity in any year in modern record, and possibly nearly a century." But just because tornado activity has declined doesn't mean that we can let down our guard, as potentially large impacts are always a threat.

Overall, however, the good news for residents of the Midwest's "Tornado Alley" and elsewhere is that over the past six decades America has witnessed a long-term decrease in both property damage and loss of life. That's the finding that I and Kevin Simmons and Daniel Sutter, two of the nation's leading tornado experts, have gleaned from studying the data on almost 58,000 tornadoes observed since 1950.
Of course, and you knew of course, this weekend the tornadoes reappeared in North Carolina and in their
usual haunts, like Oklahoma.  

Bunnies would think that Eli is not the only powerful beast who thinks Roger ridiculous.


Anonymous said...

This is by far your best post yet!

coby said...

I would think that as much or more than any other form of extreme weather damage, tornado damage trends have been greatly ameliorated by improved predictions, warning systems and building practices.

Lies, damn lies and Pielkes....

Mark Ryan said...

I'm reminded of Tom Skerritt's character in 'Contact'...

Dano said...

I think short trends that go against basic physics should be called out for the chance of being what they are: ants finding a crumb and declaring they found a picnic.

Motivated cognition.



Anonymous said...

"I think short trends that go against basic physics "


1. The trend in strong tornado decline is sixty years - is that short?

2. What basic physics are you wishing to invoke? US tornadoes peak in Spring, not Summer, because the energy of tornado rotation derives from the vertical wind speed gradient, which peaks with Spring winds.


PS Kinda interesting to compare where thunderstorms appear versus where tornadoes occur.

Anonymous said...

just a detail, but it didn't say " a decline in strong tornados ", Eunice.

Anonymous said...

The decline in strong tornadoes probably doesn't have anything to do with global wurming. But all should recall, they are nothing new and it is wrong to ascribe increase, even a reversion to the mean, to global wurming either.


robert said...

Once again, the trouble with Roger is a deliberate omission of context. He doesn't say tornados themselves have been getting weaker or less frequent, but implies it by not addressing the topic at all.

He wants to have it both ways. He wants to poke his finger in the eye of climate science that suggests thunderstorms are becoming more intense, but not say so outright (because it's wrong). My inclination is to buy Rober a double-wide trailer in Oklahoma...

Steve Bloom said...

AIUI more of the jet pattern we saw this winter and spring persistent would, all else equal, squelch tornado activity, and based on the research results I've seen that does seem likely. The big caveat is that there could be some pretty nasty activity when that pattern is not present. Plus of course the shifted pattern will have all sorts of other effects, many of them highly unpleasant. Interesting times.

Brandon Gates said...


My path to the WSJ piece started at a skeptic blog. In it, I found your comment:

Hmm Excellent timing
Tornadoes hit several states

Tornadoes touched down in several states Sunday evening as severe weather slammed into parts of the central United States.

It's not clear to me if you meant it as a satire of the ubiquitous "darn, it's cold this winter, where's global warming when you need it?" common among denierbunnies. Or if your intent was to counter anecdote with anecdote. Or something else.

Whatever the case, I am concerned. I know better than allow my perceptions of reality waffle with the weather, much less 17 odd years of relatively flat surface temperature averages. I worry that somebunnies may be unwittingly feeding themselves to the bears and that the last thing they need is encouragement.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

I haven't looked at what AR5 says, but AR4 said that we don't know enough about tornadoes to make a prediction about how they might change in a warming world.

I always cringe when I see people try and blame tornado outbreaks on global warming. It just can't be done.

Anonymous said...

Based on his reasoning and his WSJ chart -- showing really large damages only in 1953, 1965, and 2011 -- if we have just one more large loss in this decade, then all of a sudden the gradual decline is transformed into a rapid increase. Seems like a questionable metric (see Coby and Bloom comments above) which Jr will abandon if this comes to pass.

Bill W