Friday, June 1, 2012

No trend in tornadoes

This is my first post dipping a toe into the churning waters of climate change/global warming.

I saw a pretty visualization over at WUWT of tornado storm tracks, and decided to follow up with looking at the data myself. It is all available from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center site. (I normally go to WUWT for the comedy. The few earnest skeptics are mixed in with a vast number of loons.)

To estimate the energy of a single tornado, I multiplied the track length * the track width * (F+2)^1.5. This gave me a number I felt it was safe to add up across all tornadoes in a year.

Looking at all tornadoes, or at just the severe F4+F5 subset, I did not see any trend in the data when charted in Excel. That is my rough, first pass observation. There certainly are more tornado observations as time passes, but seeing many more small tornadoes isn't changing the big picture much.

Why might that be? Well, one thing that I can think of is that, as spectacular as tornadoes are, they don't actually account for a lot of energy. Or the GW effect might be to shift where and when the occur, not the strength when they do. Actual strength might be limited by some other constraint of atmospheric physics.

As I said above, there are many more tornadoes reported now compared to decades ago. Many commentators put this down to better observational data, the growth of populations in tornado prevalent areas, etc. If there is a GW aspect to number of tornadoes, it will be difficult to untangle from these issues.

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