The Oklahoma tornadoes can teach us about our climate, and ourselves

Summary:  The reactions to major  events reveals much about us and our institutions. Such as the tragic Oklahoma tornadoes, showing the usual propaganda, the evolution of the news media, and an opportunity to learn about climate science.


Those seeking to use global warming to change US public policy have become desperate as the failure of their forecasts erodes public support.  Many respond by abandoning the IPCC and consensus science, making extreme forecasts outside those forecasts (see the IPCC’s report; large PDF). Many respond by blaming global warming for large but normal weather events.

The former is sad, but the latter is ugly — exploiting tragedies for political gain, with little or no scientific basis. As we see now regarding the tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) boldly makes stuff up:

“This is climate change. We were warned about extreme weather: Not just hot weather, but extreme weather. When I had my hearings, when I had the gavel years ago — it’s been a while — the scientists all agreed that what we’d start to see was extreme weather.”

“Carbon could cost us the planet,” Boxer added, plugging her own carbon tax bill, co-sponsored by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “The least we could do is put a little charge on it so people move to clean energy.”  (Daily Caller)

Journalists have usually accepted uncritically any claim relating weather to global warming, without checking what the IPCC says — or if the area has warmed during the past decade or two (a warming world does not mean each spot has warmed).  But they are learning.

Andrew Revkin, New York Times, 21 May 2013:

Any influence of climate change on dangerous tornadoes (so far the data point to a moderating influence) is, at best, marginally relevant and, at worst, a distraction.


Ignore all that science! Fear is all you need.
Ignore all that science! Fear is all you need.

BBC News, 21 May 2013:

There are more tornadoes in total being recorded in recent years, mainly due to better reporting and fewer truly unpopulated areas where they would go unseen.

Yet there is no indication that the frequency of large tornadoes is increasing. While 2011 saw the largest number of storms above EF1 among records dating back to 1954, 2012 was among the lowest.

These articles provide readers with little understanding of the current science, and nothing about the IPCC’s conclusions and forecasts. Still even these small notes in their articles represent progress.

In fact the evidence is overwhelming, both in terms of data and current climate science, that tornado incidence and severity have not increased — and that there is little theory and evidence linking tornadoes to global warming.

At this point point the usual FM website post shows this by marshaling data from the global climate agencies, excerpts from IPCC reports, and statements from scientists.  Anthony Watts has already done so at his website, probably better than I would.  It’s worth a look by anyone interested in truth and science.

For More Information about extreme climate

  1. Climate Armageddon postponed (again): the melting polar ice, 9 October 2010
  2. Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses, 17 October 2010
  3. Run from the rising waves! (The latest climate catastrophe scare), 27 June 2012
  4. Ignorance and propaganda about extreme climate change, 10 July 2012
  5. A look behind the curtain at the news of extreme climate events in the US, 22 August 2012
  6. Hurricane Sandy asks when did weather become exceptional? (plus important info about US hurricanes), 28 October 2012
  7. IPCC says “It is likely that the sea level rise has accelerated”. The evidence is flimsy, showing a larger problem, 21 December 2012
  8. Update about global temperatures. Watch our world warm!, 5 January 2013
  9. Has global warming increased the frequency & virulence of extreme weather events?, 10 February 2013



9 thoughts on “The Oklahoma tornadoes can teach us about our climate, and ourselves”

  1. Pingback: » The Real Climate Lesson – Daily Beast

  2. Pingback: The Real Climate Lesson – Daily Beast

  3. To deny that we are/could be affecting the wold’s climate without a complete discourse is disingenuous. I am aware that Fabius Maximus has thousands of citations but a large majority can be questioned. To name but one site, and to respond individually to this article, please read:

    And whereas I eschew videos and favor the written article, there is this source;

    I acknowledge that I am a contrarian. And I appreciate this site for it’s consistency and unchanging perspective. Lastly, I believe everyone is saddened by this horrific act of nature and my prayers, donations, and thoughts go out to Oklahoma City. No one is saying that this is not a tragedy. It surely is.

    There is an old saying that is true today. What goes around comes around.

    1. “To deny that we are/could be affecting the wold’s climate.”

      Your opening statement is weird. To “deny” “human effect on the climate” is not “disingenuous”, it is ignorant. And it there is nothing saying such a thing on the FM website.

      As for the rest of your comment, your opening statement suggests that you have little knowledge of these issues — and less of the content of the dozens of articles about climate on this website (which tend to stick closely to the peer-reviewed literature and IPCC).

      Watts’ article references data from the major climate Agencies and the IPCC. I will rely on those, supported by a large body of peer-reviewed literature (as cited in the IPCC’s Extreme Weather report).

      1. For those tuning in late to the debate about climate trends… the debate is NOT about whether the Earth has been warming. Nor is that warming has significant effects. The IPCC reports provide a detailed summary of the situation. Here’s is a brief look at what we know, and the areas of intense debate.

        Almost everybody (there is always a fringe) doing research on both sides (including skeptics like McIntyre) agrees that the Earth has warmed during the past two centuries. Stating otherwise (“you deny the Earth is warming”) identifies the speaker as ignorant or a propagandist. Ditto that the warming has significant effects (some good, some bad) on the biosphere and life in it.

        The questions concern the magnitude of the past warming, the effects on life, and especially the causes. Also, what are the relative roles of natural cycles vs. anthropogenic factors (e.g., land use changes, emissions of CO2 and particles)?

        There is a consensus among scientists, seen in the IPCC, that warming since roughly before WW2 was largely natural in origin, and afterwards has been dominated by anthropogenic factors. Restated, most of the warming to date has been natural in origin, and that future warming will be largely anthropogenic.

        There is a consensus that the rise in surface and atmospheric temperatures has paused during roughly the past decade. The causes and duration of this are still uncertain (as always, there are theories).

        The major area of debate concerns forecasts of future warming. There is a consensus, but not as large and firm as in the above questions, that the Earth will continue to warm if we continue emissions are current levels (plus the parallel debate about the availability of fossil fuel deposits to burn, which might force lower emissions in the middle of the 21st century).

        A frontier in climate science concerns the effects of warming on weather, and the specific regional effects. The last IPCC said that warming would result in more precipitation, but that the other results were less certain (they discuss this in detail, assigning odds to each).

        Given the immature state of climate science, its not yet clear how reliable are the various climate models. Estimates of key parameters are changing, in recent years mostly reducing the likely range of future temperatures.

    2. Re the John Abrahams’ interview about Anthony Watts

      I find it astonishing that Ike would consider this a rebuttal to the hard data Watts provides regarding tornado frequency and intensity in the post I cite.

      Abraham’s provides the kind of foolish hit piece that makes up so much of the climate “debate”. He makes a number of unsourced assertions about what Watt says — many of which are obviously wrong to anyone visiting his site.

      Let’s take two examples:

      • He didn’t tell you that the vast majority of glaciers are losing ice, as are Greenland and Antarctica.
      • Finally, he didn’t tell you that in the last 30 years, approximately 75% of the Arctic ice which remains at the end of the melting season has disappeared.

      In fact Watts’ website has scores of articles on these subjects (eg, arctic ice, glaciers), but also a reference page with current and historical data on the state of both ice caps.

      Many of his other statements are equally false. Abraham lies to you.

      Just as you did about this website.

      He and you are part of the climate problem, politicizing the issue and clouding it with lies. Making an effective public policy response imposible.

  4. You can lead a horse to water . . . so the saying goes.

    We drive too much. We eat too much processed foods. We pour too much carbon in the air for our biosphere to handle. Our own water is polluted by fracking, unregulated industrial farming, pharmaceuticals that don’t dissipate, etc. etc. Japanese nuclear waste sites continue to pour tons of radioactive water into the oceans. Huge oil rigs explode in our seas and burn for days on end. Droughts cripple yields. Warming oceans caused by carbon absorption send hurricanes slamming up on our cities with increasing intensity. Billions of dollars are spent on reconstruction. And for what? We will still continue to build cheap public infrastructure knowing full well that Moore lies in Tornado Alley.

    Guess what? It’s all interconnected and too large for complete comprehension. But you know with certainty that climate change is nothing but evil politics and made up by commentators you label as liars?

    Citizens deserve better and need a better society than the one you are trying to extol.

    It is poor stewardship and a myopic vision that frames your attitude and outlook, Fabius Maximus.

    If I am a liar than you are nothing but a misguided propagandist and apparent puppet.
    I’m not the one that is overtly forceful in my arguments but only willing to see if an even handed dialogue is possible. Quite frankly, I doubt your sources as much as you doubt mine; so the answer is no. That is fair enough and I appreciate your graciousness in allowing me to post to your site albeit the reason is to allow you too rant on and on while contributing nothing positive.

    Fabius Maximus is a bully with it’s own pulpit.

    Factually, Moore, Oklahoma has been hit before by devastating tornadoes and the loss of life is truly regrettable. And the last tornado to hit was the worst yet to wreak havoc. I think ‘your arguments’ about climate change serve as a distraction; are nothing other than twisted semantics; and as such are not really the type of discussion about our environment and our role in it. There is so much crap on your side of the argument that your only defense is to devolve into baseless accusations. But maybe that is your intent?

    Your one sided approach is unscientific and your process speculative; just like mine. Who knows, you could be right about some things. But we aren’t going to now because this current potential crisis is evolving at a speed outside of our own life spans. And your own hand has destroyed your credibility.

    There was a time long ago when western civilization thought the world was flat and people were persecuted for their contrary beliefs. Columbus comes to mind and so does Galileo. It’s nice to see that some Western traditions are keeping humanity from progressing as quickly as it might otherwise. Consistency is a good thing, right? But I am sure you will refute that too.

    1. Ike,

      The difference between us is that I cite scientists — such as the IPCC and peer-reviewed journals. I post abstracts and excepts for everything about climate here, with links.

      You make stuff up. You cite no sources, except an interview with a professor who lies (easily shown by the links I provided).

      You deliberately and grossly misrepresent what this website says. Your assertions about the content here are directly opposite to what’s said here. You cite no examples to support those assertions. That makes you a liar.

      That you repeat your lies in the face of contrary evidence, without feeling the need to supply evidence, makes you a troll.

      These are all simple matters of fact. If you can provide evidence for your statements, let’s see it. If you would like specific evidence for any of my statements, ask for it.

      If you are going to keep posting lies, then your remarks will be moderated. Nobody gets banned here (unlike, for example Realclimate and Skeptical Science), or has their comments edited. Evidence and questions are always allowed.

      Why don’t you try again. You can do better.

      1. Ike,

        To help you try again, here are some examples of useful replies (unlike trollish making stuff up).

        (1) Reply with facts. I quoted two specific things that Abraham said:

        • He didn’t tell you that the vast majority of glaciers are losing ice, as are Greenland and Antarctica.
        • Finally, he didn’t tell you that in the last 30 years, approximately 75% of the Arctic ice which remains at the end of the melting season has disappeared.

        I replied with evidence showing that this is a gross lie.

        In fact Watts’ website has scores of articles on these subjects (eg, arctic ice, glaciers), but also a reference page with current and historical data on the state of both ice caps.

        (2) I reply by quoting your assertion, explaining why it is false. This gives you the opportunity to reply with supporting evidence:

        “To deny that we are/could be affecting the wold’s climate.”

        Your opening statement is weird. To “deny” “human effect on the climate” is not “disingenuous”, it is ignorant. And it there is nothing saying such a thing on the FM website.

        Trolls respond by ignoring the rebuttals, and giving more assertions (often incorrect, sometimes lies). This means that rebuttals are a waste of time, which is why many websites ban trolls.

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