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Climate Change as the Cause of Severe Tornadoes and Extreme Weather: Too Early to Tell

Scientific studies also indicate that extreme weather events such as storms, floods, and hurricanes are likely to become more intense as a result of climate change and global warming. However, because these extremes already vary naturally, it may be difficult over short time periods to distinguish whether changes in their intensity and frequency can be attributed to larger climate trends caused by human influences (EPA, 2013b).

Michael Mann, a climatologist who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, appears to agree that it is still too early to fully understand the relationship between climate change and storm intensity and frequency. Despite this fact, Mann has made some interesting comments that demonstrate why the debate remains murky and unresolved. He says, for instance, that "If one factor is likely to be favorable and the other is a wild card, it's still more likely that the product of the two factors will be favorable" (Peeples, 2013). Mann's safe advice on the subject is expressed in terms of a wager. As a result of climate change, he says that "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 storms" (Peeples, 2013).

As almost everyone in contemporary society already knows, it is commonplace for policy makers, media pundits, and others to make claims that storms like the Oklahoma tornado on May 20, 2013, should be attributed to climate change. Theoretically, climate change may, in fact, result in increases in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other types of storms. But the verdict is yet out on the subject. And further, when it comes to tornadoes, not only is it too early to tell, but much of the data and models suggest that climate change and global warming are likely to reduce the frequency and intensity of tornadoes, not worsen them. Thus, in light of the recent Oklahoma tornado and all the visceral hype about climate change, it is best to maintain a more objective integrity in the discussion. In fact, the real lesson in it all "is that we ought to ignore the noise from zealots and listen to the scientists" (Guzman, 2013).


EPA. (2013a, April 22). Climate change basic information. Retrieved from

EPA. (2013b, April 22). Climate change indicators in the United States. Retrieved from

Guzman, A.T. (2013, May 22). The real climate-change lesson from the Oklahoma tornado. The Daily Beast. Retrieved from

National Climatic Data Center. (2013, May 17). U.S. tornado climatology: Recent tornado reports and information. Retrieved from

Peeples, L. (2013, May 22). Oklahoma tornado's climate change connection is "a damn difficult thing to predict." Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Perry, M.J. (2013, May 22). Inconvenient weather fact: Frequency of violent tornadoes like the one in Oklahoma has been declining, not increasing. AEIdeas. Retrieved from

Romm, J. (2012, October 31). How does climate change make superstorms like Sandy more destructive? ClimateProgress. Retrieved from



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