Severe US Weather Claims: Ethics Based on Inaccurate Science

by Dr. Tim Ball on June 8, 2011

in Atmosphere,History,Temperate,Theory

An article published through Penn State University would receive a failing grade in any reputable first year climate course. It is scientifically incorrect and demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic weather mechanisms and climate patterns. Despite this, the article is used to demand dramatic action in an application of the standard fall back of environmentalists – the Precautionary Principle. The author’s approach underlines so much of the problem with the global warming/climate change debate. Strong, emotional positions are held without understanding the science. So it fails as a philosophy paper as well.

The title is very telling: Why Ethics Requires Acknowledging Links Between Tornadoes and Climate Change Despite Scientific Uncertainty. This needs analysis because there are errors, misstatements, and bizarre claims. What has ethics to do with linking climate change and tornadoes? Nothing. The author doesn’t mean climate change. He means a warming world, as a quote shows:

This post argues that ethics requires acknowledging the links between tornadoes and climate change despite scientific uncertainties about increased frequency and intensity of tornadoes in a warming world.

Nobody is arguing about the link between climate change and tornadoes. He obviously doesn’t know that severe weather, including tornadoes, decrease in a warming world and in a cooling world. He obviously is not aware the world is cooling. He acknowledges “scientific uncertainty”, but that contradicts the certainty presented in the official science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He talks about climate change as if it is something new. It has always changed more rapidly and to a greater degree than most realize. Current changes are well within natural variability.

Tornadoes occur in many parts of the world but in the middle latitudes.

World tornado regions World tornado regions

The largest region is in North America with a concentration are mostly concentrated in an arc known as Tornado Alley.

Tornado Alley Tornado Alley

The reason they occur in the middle latitudes is because they occur at the boundary between cold polar air and warmer tropical air. This boundary is known as the Polar Front and marks the greatest change in temperature between zones of latitude – a measure known as the Zonal Index (ZI). The basic argument of the IPCC is that as CO2 increases global temperatures will increase. However, the Polar sector will warm more than the Tropical sector, thus reducing the ZI and the potential for severe weather.

General diagram of the polar front General diagram of the polar front US tornadoes by month 2003-2005 US tornadoes by month 2003-2005
Source: NOAA

The dome of polar air expands in winter and shrinks in summer. As it begins to shrink in, the spring warm air pushes toward the Pole.

At this time the ZI is highest, and most tornadoes occur in May. A second peak occurs in September as the dome expands again.

Record cold weather across the northwest continued well into late spring and early summer this year. The vertical rays of the sun continued their normal migration north raising temperatures across the southeast creating a strong ZI.

The hot sun heats the ground and creates small puffy cumulus clouds. These build during the day and some develop into massive vertical development clouds called cumulonimbus by late afternoon. These massive thunderstorms have extremely strong internal vertical winds that carry frozen water drops up coating them with layers of water that freeze until they fall out as hail. The clouds are defined as unstable because of the rising hot air. If the advancing cold air of the Front advances and, like a bulldozer, pushes the cloud up, then extreme instability develops with potential for tornado formation. This is why most tornadoes occur late in the evening or in the small hours of the morning.

Tornado hourly frequency Tornado hourly frequency

Global temperatures have declined steadily since 2000. This caused colder winters, more snow cover, expansion of the cold Polar dome, and delayed onset of spring. A feature of the warming period in the late 1980s and 1990s was farmers planting crops earlier. The cold winter and record snowfalls of 2011, followed by the delayed Spring, resulted in a late melt and heavy flooding. It also created a high ZI with more tornadoes and more severe tornadoes. They also occurred on the edges of the traditional average Tornado Alley region. This is now the case as tornadoes sweep through the US northeast.

Similar events have occurred before as some tried to point out, but the propaganda of the IPCC and the alarmists want people to believe they are beyond extreme and thus unnatural. The real and unacceptable extremism occurs when an ethical position is based on incorrect facts and drastic, potentially more damaging, action is demanded. At what point does a lack or misuse of ethics become immoral?