Severe Weather and Global Warming

Yet again Moore, Oklahoma has been hit with a monstrous tornado. In 1999 Moore suffered a EF-5 tornado, the most intense in the rating system. The 2013 storm followed essentially the same path, and is quite likely to be another record breaker in terms of intensity and damage.

It’s no coincidence that the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center is in Norman, OK as this region is known as tornado alley. The area is where collisions of cold fronts from the plains are most likely to collide with warm moist air from the Gulf, the conditions which generate storms and tornadoes. Generally the warmer and more moist the air, the stronger the tornado.May_20,_2013_Moore,_Oklahoma_tornado

So the big question is why this storm now? Is it just a random occurrence or is there a connection with global warming? There is no question that global warming is occurring and is driven by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and worldwide deforestation. 2012 was the hottest year in recorded history in the United States. Last year’s drought in the midwest was the most severe since the 1950’s. Globally, eleven of the hottest years on record since 1880 have occurred in the last twelve years.

The United Nation’s weather agency has confirmed that 2012 was the 27th consecutive year that global land and ocean temperatures were above average. Last year exceeded the global average temperature of 58 degrees Fahrenheit despite the cooling influence of a La Nina weather pattern, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s annual climate report.

As human activities continue to flood the atmosphere with heat trapping gases, the temperature of the atmosphere rises. A warmer atmosphere over time means climate change. Attendant with climate change are variations in weather patterns. Warmer air is wetter air. Precipitation events can become more intense, meaning flooding is more likely. Severe storms which spawn tornadoes are the result of warm moist air colliding with cooler air- the warmer and more moist the air, the more severe the storms. Paradoxically droughts in mid-continental regions are predicted due to changes in weather patterns. Examples abound.

At the expense of repeating myself, no one weather event can be blamed on global warming, but the pattern of events we are seeing are consistent with what one would expect as a result of global warming and climate change.

Are EF-5 tornadoes to be the new normal? Only time will tell, but if these conditions persist in future years not only will the environment be impacted but also the economy. And that is dangerous.

Denial of the risk of global warming persists but is waning. Something like sixty per cent of Americans now believe global warming is happening, and is due to human activities. The denial is somewhat understandable because to accept the reality of global warming is to accept culpability. We individually and collectively don’t want to recognize that when it comes to global warming we are the major actor. Each and every one of us is to blame to some degree.

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