Outliers Versus Trends: Tornadoes And Global Warming


We are seeing tornadoes across America.

And by the looks of things, it would seem the year is bad.  Really REALLY bad.

But is it?

Well, the guys over at Poison Your Mind seem to think so:

We can’t link any individual event to global warming, but it’s a large-scale pattern that may be increasing the frequency or severity of types of events.

Nickgb creates some very compelling points in his post, I highly recommend reading all of it.  And when you’re done, stop on back and see my critique.

Ok, back?  Good.  Let’s dig in:

First, nickgb quotes a passage from Boing Boing:

Make no mistake, the past two months don’t just seem to be particularly twister-laden. This isn’t one of those situations where an increased awareness of what’s happening outside our own home states has made an average number of tornadoes appear more spectacular. In just five months, the United States has experienced more tornadoes than we often get in an entire year.

So, which is it?  Is it the last 5 months or the last 2?  I suspect that the author means the last 2 and is using the last 5 because that brings us all of 2011’s tornadoes.  So let’s check.  Using the same data that Boing Boing links to, we see that, in fact, the last 2 months DON’T seem to be particularly twister-laden.  Only ONE does:

The other 4 months of 2011?  Just about dead on the average.  In fact, without April, 2011 is an average year.  So, what we have is an above average MONTH.  We do not have an above average YEAR.

We have an outlier encompassing a period of 30 days, not one of a year….or more.

Next, and what I think is the real point of nick’s post, is that the consensus among scientists is that climate change is really occurring.  In fact, nick even goes so far as to say the debate is over:

But the thing is that there simply is no real debate here.

The thing is, however, that the real debate isn’t  about whether climate change is upon us [I think it is] but the magnitude of that change is.  And in so far as that magnitude, the debate is NOT over.  And not even close to every reputable scientist agrees:

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But there’s more:

In turns out that there are a significant number of scientists who feel the “science” is not yet settled.

The last point that nick tries to make is “why would these guys lie?”    What would cause reasonable and reputable men and women of science take such a misguided stance?

The only way you can truly ignore climate change is to believe that all of these scientists are either very stupid or in on some grand conspiracy. Both ideas are absurd, and yet people still continue to pretend that there are two sides here.

I think nick is wrong here too.  See evidence:

The Cooling World

Newsweek, April 28, 1975

There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas – parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia – where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.

The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree – a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.

In the 1970’s, folks felt that we were in the midst of a period of global cooling.    Were these scientists stupid?  Involved in some conspiracy?

Nope.

Just wrong.

 

 

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9 comments
  1. nickgb said:

    There’s a couple points here, and I don’t think we’re really disagreeing on all that much. So I’ll put down points where we definitely agree:
    1) Climate change is happening
    2) Climate change has components that are manmade (I think we agree)
    3) We do not know exactly the extent to which climate change is pushing

    Now there’s some evidence that things are catastrophic and beyond the point of no return. There’s some evidence that things are not as bad as many think. There’s, at least in the scientific consensus, a lot of evidence that we MAY be headed into really bad times. So I guess we’d probably agree on a fourth:
    4) We should do more research to figure out exactly what is happening.

    I would add a fifth, which I suspect you’d agree with in principle but think is too expensive to do in practice:
    5) We should take steps to reduce the causes as soon as possible.

    As for the scientists you include, it’s a pretty interesting group. People like Dyson are just contrarian, they like to think up crazy possibilities to push the envelope. That’s awesome, but it shouldn’t be the basis of global policy until it’s proven. Lomborg said “Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem. But it is not the end of the world.” (That was after he opposed Kyoto, when he came out as agreeing that it’s “one of the chief concerns facing the world today”).

    Scientists love to be argue and be contrarian. The fact that wiki only had two dozen scientists willing to challenge it (and many of them were just challenging accuracy, not existence) goes to show how one-sided the data is. It may be wrong, but the vast majority of the evidence points to a real and imminent possible-crisis, and it’s irresponsible not to deal with it until we have data that show we don’t need to.

    What worries me is that as late as 2007, a survey of GOP senators and reps found that 77 percent disagreed with the statement the Earth is warming in part due to manmade causes. And it wasn’t too far back that they all thought global warming was a complete crock.

    As for the conspiracy thing, that’s a debate I’ve had before with deniers, who insisted that there’s a vast consensus with scientists only because there’s money to be had in making up a research problem. Silly, yet it sticks with me.

    • pino said:

      Climate change is happening

      AGW is occurring.

      Climate change has components that are manmade (I think we agree)

      AGW is manmade, by definition. And yes, I agree with that concept.

      We do not know exactly the extent to which climate change is pushing

      Correct. Though we DO know that every prediction made by the alarmists using their models is off. By a lot.

      We should do more research to figure out exactly what is happening.

      I agree. We should not ignore the fact that there may, or may not, be a problem.

      We should take steps to reduce the causes as soon as possible.

      In so far as those cause are leading to catastrophic conditions, I agree.

      As for the conspiracy thing, that’s a debate I’ve had before with deniers, who insisted that there’s a vast consensus with scientists only because there’s money to be had in making up a research problem. Silly, yet it sticks with me.

      I think your right to be skeptical. However, as you back away with doubts in your mind, consider the stance that the alarmists take regarding scientists who are being paid by “oil companies”. In other words, if the only group of scientists that can be involved in a conspiracy is your opponent’s scientists, there may be something wrong with your assumptions.

  2. Henry said:

    Should we do anything to reverse climate change? I can change my lifestyle, but I can not change the lifestyle of my neighbors. I can reduce my carbon footprint, but I can not change my neighbor’s footprint. For this reason, I envision a solution that focuses on learning to adapt to global changes, rather than trying to prevent them.

    We can find work-arounds for higher sea levels. If storms are more intense, we can build stronger homes. What part of climate change and global warming can we NOT deal with? I am unable to think of any.

    • pino said:

      I can change my lifestyle, but I can not change the lifestyle of my neighbors. I can reduce my carbon footprint, but I can not change my neighbor’s footprint.

      IN the event that we REALLY are driving toward catastrophic changes, we should rely on government to regulate. There is a role the state plays when people pollute a river for example.

      But I think the globe is warming naturally. So yes, we should prepare for the eventuality.

      • Do you think the strong correlation between temperature rise and CO2 levels is just coincidence?

      • pino said:

        Do you think the strong correlation between temperature rise and CO2 levels is just coincidence?

        I do. IN the same way that increased CO2 levels in ages past didn’t indicate global cooling.

  3. The data certainly points to continual warming that correlates with increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Correlation does not equal proof that humans are causing it, but it’s strong evidence. Add tornados with other global events (strong storms, hot summers last year in places like Russia, etc.) and it does appear that there is a real impact from this warming. Ultimately there will never be absolute proof because the systems are so complex. We have to interpret the evidence as honestly as we can (separate political ideology for it, left or right) and then make choices reflecting our interpretation.

    As I type this the well drillers are out deepening my well to about 800 feet. On Monday the geothermal retrofit will start, and by Mid-June we won’t be completely off heating oil (it’ll be a backup, and the geothermal won’t heat all the water we use in winter), but I lilke to think that I’m doing my part.

  4. I’m not sure what kind of data we have on past CO2 levels and its impact on warming. The models say it should have an impact on planet temperature, and it seems to be having one. Do you know of any link about past CO2 levels and temperature?

    I did find this: http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html

    It shows that we now have the lowest global temperatures and the lowest CO2 levels in world history. 300 million years ago both CO2 levels and global temperatures were almost as low. It’s not an exact correlation but that seems to actually support the idea the current warming is human made. CO2 is one of many things impacting the system. If other things now are remaining relatively even and CO2 is the main variable in play, then one would expect the kind of nearly exact correlation we’ve seen over the last century. I’ll keep an open mind on this, but I need to see data — I try to avoid opinion pieces and propaganda (on both sides — I’ve never watched Gore’s movie) and interpret the data myself.

    • pino said:

      I did find this

      Yes. That’s the graph I’ve seen as well.

      To me it shows that CO2 has little to do with predicting average temperature. We see where we have massively more CO2 in the atmosphere and the temperature doesn’t move. Then, we see a huge shift in temperature, down then up, with CO2 levels never getting less than 3000 ppm.

      Anyway. The point is the science is certainly not settled, scientists are not in consensus and recent storm activity, frequency or power, doesn’t indicate an upward trend.

      I go back to an earlier question. What weather pattern would suggest to an alarmist that we are NOT warming?

      There isn’t one.

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