I wasn't going to write about weather disasters today, out of respect for the people who died and those who have lost everything in Oklahoma. However I changed my mind when I saw the way Anthony Watts was using the disaster to push his barrow of science denial and rant against doing anything to ameliorate climate change. Like many readers, I know people who've lost their lives and homes in recent weather-related disasters. Those close to me lost their father, grandfather and friends. There is a point to standing up against those who deny what is happening to the world.
So please forgive me if you find this disrespectul, but in my view, something needs to be said.
Anthony Asks the Wrong Question
Anthony Watts is busy stirring up the mob over at WUWT. He really hates it when extreme events happen. He know that every time a weather-related disaster occurs, people think again of climate change.
What Anthony does knows is that if we don't rein in carbon emissions, there will be more droughts, floods, wildfires, heat waves and other weather extremes and disasters. That's why he insists on asking the wrong questions, like:
Tell us, what could any tax, law, edict, or protest have done to stop yesterday’s tornado outbreak?If they had a shred of human decency, what Anthony and his mob of Dismissives would be asking is:
Tell us, what can we do to limit future weather disasters and prevent the worst excesses of climate change?
Rajendra Pauchari: Pinning the Oklahoma tornado on climate change is wrong-headed, un-scientific
Dr Pauchari points out what is often emphasised by other scientists, that from a scientific standpoint it's just not possible to relate a single event like the Oklahoma tornado, Superstorm Sandy, Katrina or Cyclone Yasi to human-induced climate change. From The Times of India:
Pinning the deadly tornado in the US state of Oklahoma on climate change is wrongheaded, even though the world is set to see a rise in high-profile weather disasters due to global warming, the leader of a UN body said on Tuesday.Almost every scientists will tell you the same. What they can and continue to investigate is the extent to which the world will see more and worse events of various types, such as tropical cyclones, hurricanes, extreme droughts, paralyzing blizzards and massive floods.
Michael E Mann: The wild-card is the shear
On tornadoes in particular, this is how Professor Mann responded when asked, from Take Part:
“As far as climate change is concerned, there will likely be a greater clashing of cold air masses from the north with even warmer, even more humid air masses coming off the Gulf of Mexico—conditions that are favorable for breeding destructive storms,” says Michael Mann, climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.
“The wildcard is the sheer—we don’t know with certainty whether that will increase or not in the key regions for tornado formation as a result of climate change,” Mann continues. “But if one factor is likely to be favorable, and the other is a wildcard, it’s still more likely that the product of the two factors will be favorable. Thus, if you’re a betting person—or the insurance or reinsurance industry for that matter—you’d probably go with a prediction of greater frequency and intensity of tornadoes as a result of human-caused climate change.
Kevin Trenberth: Chance Effect of Weather - The climate change effect is up to 32% in terms of damage
Professor Trenberth is reported by The Brad Blog as responding to a question from Peter Sinclair, saying:
Of course tornadoes are very much a weather phenomenon. They come from certain thunderstorms, usually super-cell thunderstorms that are in a wind shear environment that promotes rotation. The main climate change connection is via the basic instability of the low level air that creates the convection and thunderstorms in the first place.
Warmer and moister conditions are the key for unstable air.
The climate change effect is probably only a 5 to 10% effect in terms of the instability and subsequent rainfall, but it translates into up to a 32% effect in terms of damage. (It is highly nonlinear).
So there is a chain of events and climate change mainly affects the first link: the basic buoyancy of the air is increased. Whether that translates into a super-cell storm and one with a tornado is largely chance weather.
What can we do?
We don't have to go and live in a cave. That would do no good at all. What we can do is change our own behaviour and lead by example. Where possible we can use energy from renewable sources not fossil fuels. We can favour energy efficient appliances. We can vote for representation by people who will put policies in place to hasten the shift to clean energy. And we can urge others to do the same.