Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Compare and Contrast

UPDATE: The good natured bickering in teh comments set Eli on a hunt for more information, where upon via several places he found an interesting figure from Harold Brooks

to which the Rabett added a thick red line at the end.  First, allow Eli to be clear at the beginning that semi-log plots have a rather lot of issues, including that we do not live in a semi-log world.  Still the welcome decline in deaths per bunny from tornadoes is welcome, especially, if like Eli, you have dear friends in Kansas. 

Eli has drawn the red line in by eye, but what is clear is that the decline stopped about 1990, and somebunnies might even extend the pause back to 1975, where it would certainly be climatically significant.  There is also the issue that much of the population of the US does not lie in tornado alley and a better normalization would involve state populations where tornadoes are frequent (ok, there is always the Worcester MA tornado and recently some in the DC area, etc).  BTW the same issue affects normalization by total GDP because population change in the US has not been uniformly distributed). 

It is interesting to speculate about what happened in the 1920s to cause the decline.  Amongst the possibilities, are improved forecasting (a post WWII development), improved warning signals (even a few minutes can save lives.  Sirens were also introduced post WWII, before that bells may have provided some warning once a funnel was spotted), improvements in transportation and roads so that the rescuers could reach the scenes of disasters faster and bring the injured to hospitals where improved emergency medical care was available.  However, look at the right.  The last point is 2012, corresponding to 70 deaths in the US from tornadoes.  2013 was a bit lower, 50 (we are semi-logging bunnies) but would still be a bit above the red line and well above the green.  Perhaps, here again we are ignoring the incline.  

From Roger Pielke Jr. in the Wall Street Journal

From James Elsner, via Kate Greene at Wired

So, what is going on.  A swag, heavy damage comes when a tornado blows through a populated area, but populated areas have buildings and structures, and even though a tornado can pick the buildings up and the cars and throw them, that consumes a lot of energy.  What Elsner is graphing is the total energy of the tornado which, according to his method scales with the width and length of the tornadoe track.  What Pielke is graphing is how much damage is done which a tornado picks something up which slows it up.

And things got a lot worse yesterday


counters said...

Unintentional switch to "hurricane" in the second sentence and on?

I think the "extreme weather is decreasing" gambit plays on imprecise jargon. "Extreme weather" doesn't necessarily mean tornadoes and hurricanes. In the context of climate change, it more often refers to heat waves and cold outbreaks. The whole skeptical fascination with tornadoes/hurricanes with respect to extreme weather is that it's easier to find something there - anything - that has been decreasing over time, and obviously if something is decreasing, global warming is false, right?

What you don't see are skeptics plotting meaningful things about tornado outbreaks, like the number of days per year with a synoptic setup where you'd actually expect tornadoes in the first place, or trends in CAPE. over Dixie/Tornado alley. I wonder why?

William M. Connolley said...

Its hard to tell, but I think the line labelled "non-linear upwards trend" on the lower graph isn't actually monotonically increasing - it looks like there are periods where its slightly downwards (from start to ~1985; from ~1995 to ~1998).

So the lower graph is badly labelled. Whereas the top graph is accurately labelled.

Is that the contrast you were looking for?

Another possible comparison would be between the thing people care most about - damage in dollars - versus things people on the whole don't care much about - TIKE.

EliRabett said...

Thanks counters, it has been a long day.

Adam said...

The top chart shows that all the investment into mitigating tornado damage over the years, has had a positive effect.

The second chart shows that increasing amounts of investment may well be needed in the future.

Paul S said...

I was searching for Simmons et al. 2013 to get the context and the first thing that came up was this attempt at replicating the results, which states '...it appears that there are several errors with the analysis of Simmons et al.'

Essentially, in table 1 the paper introduces several categories of loss events delineated by a cost range in dollars. However, table 2 shows the maximum identified loss in category 7 being $69.3m when the cost interval was meant to be $5-50m, which suggests something went wrong somewhere.

It's not immediately clear to me what effect this might have on overall trends since 1955.

Michael said...

Note the second graph starts in 1980. Much of the apparent decrease in the 1st graph is pre 1980 data vs more recent data. Perhaps if we could extend the 2nd graph back to 1950 we may see even larger peaks in the 50s and 60s?

Anonymous said...

How many F0s included that never were before?

How did NexRAD ( 97 ) change observations?


Innocent storytelling can on occasion save more lives than propaganda.

Two cheers for The Wizard Of Oz for technicolor consciousness-raising, and a generation of increased storm cellar sales.

Anonymous said...

Interesting you are noting a "pause in the decline", irony abounds.

OTOH it seems you are semi-cheering peoples misfortunes only to score points against your obsession, Roger.


Unknown said...

There are innumerable statistics available, especially if you start to include derivatives, so it's not surprising that one can be found that can "prove" whatever the deniers want to prove.

Bernard J. said...

Ironically, I think that you missed Eli's irony lonely troll.

C'est la vie.

afeman (recovering badger) said...

Regarding the post update and normalizing for population shifts: hasn't Tornado Alley been emptying out the past couple decades?

afeman (recovering badger) said...

And wmc: People care about bears in the woods.

Anonymous said...

Living in the SW, the strong but not deadly wind events presage the tornado events of the Plains and South. Fortunately, these storms don't include thunderstorms here which would convert these winds to tornadoes. But I feel for unknown people to the east when we get winds, because I know there will be destruction.

Susan Anderson said...

My pet peeve on extreme weather is the concerted attempt to eliminate extremes from the continuum.

If you put it that way, doesn't it seem idiotic to attempt to remove the strongest examples from the record?

Anonymous said...

"US tornado deaths/million people"


US population as per 1920 census: 106 million.

US population as per 1990 census: 248.7 million.

If the number of deaths/year remained constant, the number of deaths/million would fall by more than half due to population growth alone, no?

EliRabett said...

Yes, but it fell by a factor of more than ten, which is good.

Hank Roberts said...

Irony is wasted on the Internet.

Also, can you compare the weight of "stuff picked up" by a tornado to the weight of the air and water vapor being lofted into the supercell?

I'd guess that weight lifted off the ground is trivial in comparison -- but that's a guess.

Or was that, also, irony?

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Pensacola, lol.

The situation becomes more ... humorous.

Susan Anderson said...

Nothing humorous about people losing their homes etc.

Now, I'm going to go seriously off the reservation here about a distressing item. A cat can look at a king, and

Andy Revkin getting a stage seat to promote his distorted take on climate "solutions" and his distressing preference for Breakthroughism and [dis]honest brokery on communication with the pope. If anyone was inclined to cut him some slack (I'm looking at myself), this is the reason that should not happen. I'm not going over to the below-linked hornet's nest on this one. This Pope is a good man, and deserves the truth, not how wonderful fracking is and how most extreme weather has little or nothing to do with greenhouse gases. I haven't seen much there about clean energy for quite a while.


Susan Anderson said...

Even the name of the forum is misleading.

"Values and Data Meet at a Vatican Workshop on Sustaining Humanity on a Flourishing Planet"

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

What is humorous about the situation of extreme weather, Susan, is that people are still building homes that can be lost. Power lines come down, and they just put them back up again, using trees. Very funny.

Stick homes, in tornado alley, lol. I have to disagree with you, Susan, stupidity is tremendously funny. What I find particularly funny in northern latitudes, are stick homes with exposed uninsulated concrete basements. A profound lack of respect for and understand of fundamental thermodynamics always makes me laugh hysterically. I especially like to hear their excuses.

Susan Anderson said...

TLE, poverty is no joke. Not now, not ever. People who can afford to move or take precautions, do; though I can't speak to the ones who can afford to thumb their noses and rebuild, and particularly I would agree with you about being allowed to rebuild in floodzones at public expense, which damages the common weal.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Susan, poverty is built into the system. This problem of poorly designed and constructed idiotic human machinations is endemic, indeed looking at new construction the problem is obviously epidemic, and until that goes away there is simply no hope for the poor.

I have no sympathy, sorry. These are simple, obvious problems with simple obvious solutions. I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring this to your attention.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

The problem is not that Susan is missing the joke. It is that you are missing the empathy.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Well, Dilbert, there are contractors out there perfectly willing to take these people's money and build everything back just the way it was! Empathy is not the problem here, stupidity is the problem. On both sides! Country and Western! Let me reiterate, these are easily preventable deaths and this is easily preventable property damage. Just write some laws. Liberty and freedom comes with a price. All you have to do is be stupid and do the same things over and over again. Reality cares not how stupid you are.

Lionel A said...


What chance do people stand when they have been forced out of destroyed homes into caravan parks and then blown out again by high winds?

Maybe they were living in a camper because the had no resources left for anything better, and now how do they manage. Sure to find a cardboard box somewhere in a city and an old shopping trolley to carry what's left of their chattels.

Sheesh! Some people are just so smug!

The bottom line is things ain't going to get better RSN (Real Soon Now - Jerry Pournelle)

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Maybe they were living in a camper because the had no resources left for anything better, and now how do they manage. Sure to find a cardboard box somewhere in a city and an old shopping trolley to carry what's left of their chattels.

That doesn't seem to prevent them from having more babies. You people made your own beds, now sleep in them. Grow a skin.

I'm living big in the debris. It's not my fault you have made a mess of the world. I have made a conscious decision 1) not to participate, 2) to bring the problems to your attention, and 3) to come up with some solutions.

Call me stupid. But I will continue to laugh when I see millions of dollars of luxury stick home remodeling efforts strewn across the countryside or sitting under water. Not my fault.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Your loss, Thomas. Those of us who are not afraid to embrace being human find the experience fulfilling.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Nice McMansion, Dilbert, you've really got the 'being human' thing goin on there. How are the kids?

How is that lawn doing? Are you feeding the animals? Oh, that's right, they're not HUMAN.

Mal Adapted said...

Susan Anderson: "People who can afford to move or take precautions, do"

Susan, I'm sorry, but while TLE does appear to lack empathy, he's not wrong about stupidity. I don't have enough information on the recent tornado victims, but the case of the people who built houses in a landslide zone in Oso, WA is clear. They did so not because of poverty, but because they thought it was a nice place to live.

Yet a view across the river from Steelhead Dr., even before the 2006 slide, would have encompassed the obvious landslide topography, the unconsolidated material of the bluff, and the oversteepened slope. If a glance at the site didn't raise any flags, the well-publicized history history of the location should have. Extensive geological documentation was available to Snohomish County authorities; the statement by the head of its Department of Emergency Management that "This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere." is absurd. Minimal due diligence by prospective home buyers or builders could not have failed to reveal the clear and present danger.

It sure looks like the Oso slide victims were killed by their own reckless disregard. I don't find any humor in that, but (except for the seven children whose parents ignored the risks on their behalf) I find it hard to have sympathy for them either. The world will simply never be safe for such people.

EliRabett said...

No Hank, it was an honest question. A tornado picks up a load of stuff and twirls it. That soaks up energy. How much compared to what is in the tornado, don't know, but the bottom of the funnel is darkened because of the dirt pick up.

Anonymous said...


Is the entire population of Seattle stoopid ( tsunami, volcano, lahore, earthquake )?

or San Francisco / LA ( the Big One )?
or Phoenix/Las Vegas? ( drought or using up ground water )
or Honolulu?
or Anchorage?
or Houston?
New Orleans? Miami? NYC?

Disaster is not too far for many.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Is the entire population of stupidsville stoopid?

Well, yeah, since in addition to all those other inevitable disasters they've now put their primary food supply at risk. I feel sorry for their children.

What about the concept that 'you must change your behavior' do you not understand? The paleorecord?

It's the observation of doing the same thing over and over again when you know it's bad for you, that I find humorous. But, contractor and peer pressure must be enormous, I grant you that.

Harold Brooks said...

Elsner's result depends very strongly on reported path width-the intensity is a strong function of width and then he multiplies the implied v^2/2 by the area of the tornado (width*length). Path width is the worst part of the dataset. Reported value changed from mean to max width in '94. More detailed surveying will lead to increased max width. With adoption of EF scale in '07, there's an abrupt doubling of the reported widths for reasons that aren't clear. No trend in width from '94-'06, nor in '07-'12. Just a step function at '07.

One of the big things about the first graph is that it's an updated version from one that was first made in 2000. At that time, it was still a question as to whether the decline had stopped (were '98 and '99 just a couple of big years and the next few would drop well below the regression line?). My co-author and I predicted that it would be clear that the decline had stopped with a few years after 2000. Our very simple model of that was based on the much greater risk of death (15-20X) for mobile home residents compared to permanent home residents and the increase in the fraction of housing units that are mobile homes. Just using that led to a flat line in the overall deaths/million that we predicted would be apparent shortly after our publication in 2002. Brooks and Doswell 2002

EliRabett said...

Hi Harold, hoped that would bring you in. If what we are seeing is the mobile home effect, then the great recession in 2008 which threw a lot of people out of their homes should have produced a notable uptic in deaths of those in trailers. Has it?

Hope you continue updating that graph. In many ways very similar to what Eli tried (not as well) with deaths from hurricanes in Hispanola

Anonymous said...

"Well, yeah, since in addition to all those other inevitable disasters they've now put their primary food supply at risk."

That would be scary - if it was true.

Unfortunately, the greatest current and foreseeable problem with food supply appears to be global obesity from increased caloric intake.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

That would be scary - if it was true.

So fundamentally it's just the paleorecord that you contest.

Are you a creationist? Or are you a mere conspiracist with an ideology?

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Wrongo, Thomas! No kids, and on the back half of our property, we've specifically cultivated habitat for indigenous species. We've planted over 200 trees since moving here. Human is the highest we can aspire to, Thomas. You haven't made it there yet.

Susan Anderson said...

How about those who live in most of our cities (Boston is a case in point, of course, and I'm planning to move because I will have to, so the practical part of how to make that happen has not escaped me)?

Fact is, cities are formed around natural features that worked and will no longer work. Meanwhile, population has grown, forcing people to push the boundaries of what is practical and safe further.

As to poverty, yes, compassion and empathy do help. Working two or three jobs to just barely scrape buy doesn't leave a lot of leeway in choice of where to reside.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Human is the highest we can aspire to, Thomas.

Oh really. Evolution doesn't appeal to you then. I've moved beyond human, and that doesn't involve being nice to humans on internet forums and blog comments. Glad to hear you are non-human friendly, though, since you share their DNA. And it doesn't involve empathy for human artifacts and humans that are hundreds and thousands of miles away from me and don't learn their lessons. I'm empathetic enough to pull their asses out of the fire if I can. And I have a long and noble history of doing just that, something I don't plan to stop doing in the near future.

As to poverty, yes, compassion and empathy do help.

Rational legislation enacted and enforced by adults would be considerably more effective, Susan.

Mal Adapted said...


"Rational legislation enacted and enforced by adults would be considerably more effective, Susan."

Planning to form a vanguard party, Thomas? Choose your cadre carefully, or things might not turn out the way you expect.

I don't have an especially high regard for people who don't learn their lessons either. Do you think you've learned all of yours yet? I know I'm smart enough not to buy property on Steelhead Dr., but I'm pretty sure I've got a few serious mistakes of my own left to make. One thing I'm 100% sure of is that it's a good thing I'm not King of the World. What about you?

Kevin O'Neill said...

TLE - I've moved beyond human...


Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

What about you?

I'm a mammal with a limited amount of time, glued to the surface of a terrestrial planet with a molten core by the tremendous force of gravity. I couldn't care less about property - yours, mine or anybody else's. Everyone's fate is the same, human or otherwise. Does that give you a better idea of 'beyond human'? Get over yourself.

You are not even king of yourself.

Anonymous said...

"Eli has drawn the red line in by eye, but what is clear is that the decline stopped about 1990,"

What's the "standard eyeball error" on that?

The only thing clear to me is that WUWT has no monopoly on eyeball stats.

EliRabett said...

Since 1990 (and eliminating the huge 2011 outlier), the average is right on the line Eli drew.

Eli has been drawing lines thru data since before Columbus.

Anonymous said...

Columbus also thought he had reached the Indies.

Here's an idea: modify Eli's claim slightly and post it over at WUWT or Judy's

"Christopher Monckton [Willis Eschenbach, Anthony Watts, Judith Curry, etc] has drawn the red line in by eye, but what is clear is that the increase stopped about 1998,"

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

TLE: " I've moved beyond human,..."

Sheldon, that you?

Mal Adapted said...

TLE: "I'm empathetic enough to pull their asses out of the fire if I can. And I have a long and noble history of doing just that, something I don't plan to stop doing in the near future."

TLE: "Get over yourself."

Thomas, with respect: when you're in command of yourself, your comments are often worth reading. When you're riled to the point of just venting your spleen, they're not.

EliRabett said...

So Eli took the average and it ended up in the same place. Happy now?

If you want to look at some global temperature series, well, the rate of increase has slowed over the past 10-15 years. Has it stopped. No.

Why? Same question. It's not the statistics that is interesting in both cases but the reasons. Harold suggested one for tornado deaths per million, but clearly that is not the case.

Have we hit the minimum for tornado deaths? Maybe, worse, maybe because of other factors than the climate or weather.

Remember there were over 500 deaths in 2011 when some big ones hit populated areas. Can this be helped by beefing up building codes, requiring safe rooms etc? Interesting question with important implications.

Anonymous said...

If "happy" means satisfied that Eli's claim that "the decline stopped about 1990" is based on sound statistical analysis (of trend and associated error), the answer is "no."

That statistics are uninteresting to some does not mean they are unimportant.