In times of tragedy, there always seems to be hucksters about trying to use that tragedy to sell a position, a product, or a belief. In ancient times, tragedy was the impetus used to appease the gods and to embrace religion to save yourselves. In light of this article on the Daily Caller Center for American Progress blames Republicans for devastating tornadoes it seems some opportunists just can’t break the pattern of huckster behavior in the face of disaster.
I can’t think of a more disgusting example of political opportunism that has occurred such as we witnessed today from The Center for American Progress via their Think Progress blog, as well as the New York Times op-ed piece that suggests predicting severe weather is little more than a guessing game. Certified Consulting Meteorologist Mike Smith of Wichita, KS based WeatherData Inc. said of the NYT piece:
To add to the mix, Peter Gleick says at the Huffington Post “More extreme and violent climate is a direct consequence of human-caused climate change (whether or not we can determine if these particular tornado outbreaks were caused or worsened by climate change).”
In the Think Progress piece, again, Dr. Trenberth is quoted:
It should also be noted that during that AMS conference in January, Dr. Trenberth called people who disagreed with that view “deniers” in front of hundreds of scientists, even after being called out on the issue he left the hateful term intact in his speech. Clearly, he is a man with a bias. From my perspective, these articles citing Trenberth are opportunistic political hucksterism at its finest. Unfortunately, many from these bastions of left leaning opininators don’t bother to cite some inconvenient facts, leaving their claims to be on par with superstitions that were the part of our dark past.
First, let’s look at the claim of tornadoes being on the increase, in parallel with the climate change that is claimed. In my previous essay Severe weather more common? Data shows otherwise I cited this graph from the National Climatic Data Center:
Obviously, when NCDC tallies the number of F3-F5 tornadoes from this recent outbreak, and gets around to updating that graph, there will be an uptick at the end in 2011 that is on par or even higher than the famous 1974 tornado outbreak. The point though is that despite the 1974 uptick, the trend was down.
The NYT article says:
Let’s look at trends of tornado related deaths with population. From Harold Brooks. a research meteorologist with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma. we have this graph:
Let’s look at other figures. Today, Dr. Roger Pielke Junior got an updated graph from Harold Brooks at NOAA to bring it to 2010:
That graph is a testament to the improved lead times, accuracy, and and dissemination of severe weather warnings by the National Weather Service, whose members did an outstanding job during this severe weather event. CCM Mike Smith, in his book Warnings The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather talks about the vast improvements we’ve witnessed since the early days of severe weather forecasting. He writes today of the recent outbreak:
With 30 minutes of advance warning in this case, and many other advance warnings during this outbreak, plus the supersaturation of live television coverage, plus the fact that weeks in advance, my colleague Joe D’Aleo, co-founder of the Weather Channel and now at Weatherbell LLC, discussed the likelihood of a super-outbreak of severe weather occurring due to the juxtaposition of cold air from snowpack in the northern plains with warm moist air in the south, it would seem Dr. Trenberth’s claim of “a large crapshoot aspect” doesn’t hold up. The death toll issue seems to be shelter, not lack of forecasts, warnings, or awareness. People knew the storms were coming, they just had few options for shelters that would survive at F3-F5 category tornado intensity.
The attempts at linking the tornado outbreak this week to “global warming” have been roundly criticized in the meteorological community. Just yesterday there was a denouncement of the tornadoes to global warming link in this story from Physorg.com
Anticipating this sort of nonsense in the current political climate that seeks to blame humans for the weather, last month, the National Weather Association, representing thousands of operational meteorologists, forecasters, and television-radio meteorologists in the United States adopted their first ever position statement on climate change and severe weather events. They state:
No clearer statement could be rendered. It mirrors what a NOAA scientist at the Storm Prediction Center said yesterday to Fox News:
Historically, there have been many tornado outbreaks that occurred well before climate change was on anyone’s radar.