Bill “Chicken Little” McKibben

by Don Boudreaux on May 24, 2011

in Cleaned by Capitalism, Current Affairs, Data, Environment, Myths and Fallacies, Seen and Unseen, Standard of Living

Writing in today’s Washington Post, Bill McKibben blames deadly recent weather events on climate change.  And he snarkily dismisses as naive the argument that humankind can adapt well to such change.

Let’s look at data from the National Weather Service on annual fatalities in the U.S. caused by tornados, floods, and hurricanes from 1940 through 2009.  Naturally, these data show that the number of such fatalities varies from year to year.  For example, in 1972 the number of persons killed by these weather events was 703 while in 1988 the number was 72.  On average, however, the trend is clear and encouraging: the number of such fatalities, especially since 1980, is declining.

The average annual number of such fatalities over this entire 70-year span is 248.  In each of the four decades prior to 1980, the average annual number of fatalities was higher than 248; in particular:

1940-49: 272

1950-59: 308

1960-69: 282

1970-79: 296

The average annual number of such fatalities over the full 40 years 1940-1979 was 290.

But in each of the three decades starting in 1980, the average annual number of fatalities caused by tornados, floods, and hurricanes was lower than 248; in particular:

1980-89: 173

1990-99: 171

2000-09: 238

The average annual number of such fatalities over the full 30 years 1980-2009 was 194.  (This number falls to 160 – just over half of the 1940-79 number of 290 – if we exclude the deaths attributed to hurricane Katrina, the great majority of which were caused by a levee that breached a day after the storm passed.)

This decline in the absolute number of deaths caused by tornados, floods, and hurricanes is even more impressive considering that U.S. population more than doubled over these 70 years, from 132 million in 1940 to 308 million today.

Seems that McKibben’s apocalyptic prognostications about humanity’s future are as fact-based as are those of the Rev. Harold Camping.

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{ 81 comments }

Ike May 24, 2011 at 9:47 am

First rule of advocacy journalism: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm

What is the truth? The best science I know of states greenhouse gases will increase the energy in the atmosphere inevitably leading to more extremes in weather.

The best science says that smoking causes cancer yet it is IMPOSSIBLE to prove that any single persons lung cancer was due to smoking.

So do you know of different facts on the climate that would make us think weather extremes would NOT change in frequency?

Marcus May 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm

“The best science I know of states greenhouse gases will increase the energy in the atmosphere inevitably leading to more extremes in weather.”

No, that’s not what it says unless by energy you mean, specifically, heat. The distinction is important. Heat, by itself, is useless. It’s temperature *differences* that matter.

Saturn’s moon Titan has storms.

Ken May 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm

muirgeo,

“The best science I know of states greenhouse gases will increase the energy in the atmosphere”

Wrong. The science says in a controlled, closed environment like a self contained jar will trap more heat in the jar as more methane or CO2 is added. It says NOTHING about the atmosphere, where there are literally thousands, if not millions of feedback loops reacting to all sorts of variations from greenhouse gases (water vapor being the number one of these) to light reflection due to cloud formation (remember that water vapor).

Turns out what people like you have done muirgeo is committed the logical fallacy of composition: since it’s true in a closed environment like a jar, it must be true in one of the most complex environments we know – the atmosphere. That isn’t science; it’s faith.

Regards,
Ken

Gil May 25, 2011 at 12:52 am

Earth’s atmosphere is a closed system – doesn’t go anywhere. The only external input is the Sun. If there are more heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere then the world gets warmer. Depending on where you live this is good news or bad news.

vikingvista May 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Having an external input means it isn’t a closed system. In addition, atmospheric heat radiates into space.

Methinks1776 May 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm

The truth, Muirdiot, is that human beings have invented ways to decrease the probability of dying as a result of inclement weather.

While there is no way to prevent every death, the chances you will die in a storm are low and continue to decrease – precipitously. That’s all Don is saying. I can’t find a single sentence in his post that argues one way or the other on the issue of “climate change”.

Just as not every smoker will die of smoking (despite smoking significantly raising the probability of early death), not every person caught in a storm will survive – despite the lower and decreasing probability of death.

PaddikJ May 29, 2011 at 3:36 am

Disregarding for the moment the weasely qualifier “I know of,” “best science” is devoid of sense, that is, nonsense. Science is about discovering facts. Facts just are, they don’t take qualifiers like “best,” “worst,” “positive,” negative,” ad inf. (but they are stubborn little bastards, to paraphrase our 2nd president, John Adams).

It is no longer surprising (or interesting – in fact it’s boring) that so many people invoke “science” as an un-subtle rhetorical tactic when facts are sparse (or more commonly, inconvenient; or when people don’t really know what they’re talking about). It is sad and disappointing that a great many “scientists” have descended to it, but there is a silver lining to the global warming debacle: science has been largely stripped of its mystique of infallibility, replaced by a healthy skepticism.

Whether Climatology will be finally exposed as a pseudo-science remains to be seen, however, since there are many pseudo-sciences that have long operated under cover of academic respectability.

NikFromNYC May 27, 2011 at 2:03 pm
Methinks1776 May 24, 2011 at 9:49 am

So, the probability of dying from a natural disaster has decreased tremendously? I can see why McKibbon is panicking. It’s his last chance to convince everyone to submit to the state before the probability fall so low even the likes of Muirdiot cottons on.

mark May 24, 2011 at 9:52 am

it is very ironic that the so many on the left are quick to criticize the religious zealot Harold Camping while they also have their own apocalyptic fantasies.

Ryan Vann May 24, 2011 at 10:10 am

Don’t be a denier Don, the science is in. How dare you speak heresies with your math and statistics.

Daniel Kuehn May 24, 2011 at 10:21 am

All but that last two sentences was about the reality of climate change. I agree with you on the human response in many circumstances – of course we’ll adapt, that’s what we do.

But we have science-deniers of all sorts on this question: people who deny climate science and people who deny economic science. McKibben is right to speak bluntly to these science deniers. And yes, his last two sentences could have been improved by a little more economic science. But even in that case – there is no guarantee that adaptation and innovation will solve all the problems associated with climate change. Hopefully it will, but there’s no reason to think one way or the other on that.

Methinks1776 May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am

McKibben devotes his entire op-ed to insisting that correlation is causation. Very scientific.

But even in that case – there is no guarantee that adaptation and innovation will solve all the problems associated with climate change.

Duh. To solve all the problems, we need the wise men of government.

(Yes, I see you sitting on the fence not knowing whether to drop a foot on the market or statist side. Best to wait to see from which angle you’ll be challenged so that you can quickly scramble to one side or the other).

Daniel Kuehn May 24, 2011 at 10:43 am

If we had a complete lack of work on climate change you might have a leg to stand on, Methinks. But we have that work and it’s quite reasonable for McKibben to say we need to consider the prospect that we may be facing something more serious. He’s not offering a proof, after all.

re: “Yes, I see you sitting on the fence not knowing whether to drop a foot on the market or statist side.”

I am most assuredly on the market side and most assuredly not on the statist side. I am also on the non-statist/democratic republics should be able to solve problems collectively side, although you don’t mention that option.

Methinks1776 May 24, 2011 at 10:50 am

LOL! So, markets with a kicker of central planning. Got it.

Markets have their place, but when perfection is out of reach, it’s time to herd everyone into a collective!

Daniel Kuehn May 24, 2011 at 10:52 am

No – you might have missed that – no central planning.

Methinks1776 May 24, 2011 at 11:00 am

In the world of Daniel Kuehn, a rose by any other name is a lion.

Russ Nelson May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am

I agree with you, Daniel. Democratic republics should be able to solve problems collectively. Only, they solve the wrong problems, e.g. the problem that Archer-Daniels-Midland has with people wanting to import cane sugar. Or the problem that the wind turbine manufacturers have with their products not actually being profitable. Or the war on drugs/libya/iraq/afghanistan/terrorism/poverty/inflation. Have you ever noticed how any problem ends up being fought as a war? That’s because war is the health of the state.

Sam Grove May 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

So what is the proof that climate change is significantly driven by anthropogenic factors?

jeffrey neal May 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm

DK,

Problem with solving problems collectively is it involves betting all the loot on one horse. Furthermore, collective problem solving sounds sweet until one factors in the cost of the unknown things/solutions that are foregone so that the collective solution can be attempted.

This isn’t complicated, and I’ve seen it explained on this blog dozens of times. In a fashion that doesn’t simply contradict the point, can you explain why you do not concur?

Stone Glasgow May 25, 2011 at 12:37 am

“democratic republics should be able to solve problems collectively side”

That’s what prices are for; solving problems collectively.

yet another Dave May 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm

If we had a complete lack of work on climate change you might have a leg to stand on, Methinks. But we have that work and it’s quite reasonable for McKibben to say we need to consider the prospect that we may be facing something more serious. He’s not offering a proof, after all.

What are you trying to say here? Only absolute morons deny the existence of climate change since it has been a constant throughout the history of the planet. Taking this along with your “science-deniers” quip, it seems you’re implying that the “work on climate change” proves human activity has caused recent changes in climate. Is that correct? If yes, please explain what this proof is. If no, please clarify.

Steve_0 May 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

God. This guy is why I only check the comments about once a month. I really wish he would shut up. Worse than MuirGeo. Never has there been a more evident case of the student eager to put his hand in the air for the delight to hear himself talk.

Daniel, let the grown-ups talk please.

Col Sanders May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

Actually, the entire article was nothing more than a “correlation equals causation” fallacy dressed up in a sarcastic wet suit.

He offers no proof at all that there is any link between any of the weather events we are experiencing and any sort of “climate change” – anthropomorphic or otherwise. Instead, he looks down his nose and makes fun of those who fail to agree that they *must* be related.

Daniel Kuehn May 24, 2011 at 10:44 am

Yes – as I alluded to above with Methinks I would deeply disapprove of this being published in a science journal.

As an op-ed bluntly addressing science-deniers, though, it’s fine.

Russ Nelson May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am

Nobody is denying the science. We’re denying the scientism.

Col Sanders May 24, 2011 at 11:35 am

So it’s okay to use a correlation-causation fallacy, appeals to authority, and ad hominem attacks as long as you’re “bluntly addressing science-deniers?”

In which case, the facts don’t matter.

Is that what you mean?

Daniel Kuehn May 24, 2011 at 12:07 pm

No, that’s not what I mean at all.

Hasdrubal May 26, 2011 at 9:37 am

I dunno, I mean, if you’re deriding people for ignoring or misunderstanding science, isn’t it kind of shooting yourself in the foot to get the science completely wrong?

After all, tornadoes are not caused or exacerbated by higher temperatures, they’re due to warm and cold air masses colliding. Which is why they’re common in the temperate north but almost unheard of in the warm tropics. Don’t take it from me, take from the climatologist:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/2011/04/more-tornadoes-from-global-warming-thats-a-joke-right/

“…But contrasting air mass temperatures is the key. Active tornado seasons in the U.S. are almost always due to unusually COOL air persisting over the Midwest and Ohio Valley longer than it normally does as we transition into spring. “

Seth May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am

“McKibben is right to speak bluntly to these science deniers.”

Looks like he’s demonstrating confirmation bias to me.

Marcus May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am

No Daniel, his op-ed is nothing but innuendo. As Seth stated, it’s confirmation bias.

To point out as much is not a denial of the science on global warming.

In fact, the science on global warming and this op-ed have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

kyle8 May 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm

What is a science denier Daniel, would that be someone who falsifies climate evidence when they do not fit the theory? Would it be the people who shout down and try to shut up sceptics by claiming some false consensus instead of hard evidence?

Maybe a denier is someone who calls skeptical people names with a genocidal connotation?

SaulOhio May 25, 2011 at 6:00 am

What genocidal connotation? I’ve seen “no pressure” to conform to the global warming dogma. :)

kyle8 May 25, 2011 at 6:15 am

A “Denier” Has the same connotation as Holocaust denier. Don’t be disingenuous.

kyle8 May 25, 2011 at 6:15 am

And if you have seen no preassure to conform, then you are frikking blind. period.

colson May 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm

I think that was sarcasm Kyle8.

W.E. Heasley May 24, 2011 at 10:26 am

Bill “Chicken Little” McKibben

“Seems that McKibben’s apocalyptic prognostications about humanity’s future are as fact-based as are those of the Rev. Harold Camping.”

Wait a darn minute! Chicken Little, aka Henny Penny, aka Chicken Licken was clearly an early global warming, global cooling….oh heck “climate change” (or what ever its called this week) researcher. The notional data set forth by Chicken Licken is the very foundation of notional data.

McKibben is merely following the pecking order as set forth by Henny Penny. Hence: the theory of McLicken the Chicken.

vidyohs May 24, 2011 at 10:54 am

Disingenuous Kuehn

How much of any debate regarding real science is about science, and how much is about how real science is interpreted?

Regarding climate science, do we ignore all the historic data regarding climate change sans man made input? Do we ignore the hard data regarding solar flares and sunspots? Do we ignore all the data on the wandering poles and how that likely influenced climate (no complete correlation yet, but I am confident that it is being looked at)? Do we ignore all the hard data on how the Earth’s uncontrollable and unpredictable activities such as tectonic plate movements, and the resultant volcanic and earthquake activities effect the climate? Do we ignore all the historic data on the impressive changes in world climate just in recorded history?

Do we junk all of that and go with SUVs and evil mankind as the only possible cause of any current climate change? Seems like if we choose this course we can confidently state that man is causing climate change; which it appears is exactly what your gurus are doing.

Daniel Kuehn May 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

Please don’t call me disingenuous. I’m not.

Russ Nelson May 24, 2011 at 11:08 am

Are tool.

Russ Nelson May 24, 2011 at 11:08 am

Haha, that was a typo, but you’re a tool, too!

brotio May 24, 2011 at 8:19 pm

LMAO!

vidyohs May 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

Disingenuous Kuehn,

I’d bet any amount of money that historical data collected in the hospital during your birth would show that when the doctor spanked your butt, you hedged on the cry.

brotio May 24, 2011 at 8:19 pm

And, another LMAO here!

vidyohs May 24, 2011 at 8:18 pm

It is also interesting Disingenuous Kuehn that you ignore all my pertinent questions regarding hard science and focus on my recognition of your constant disingenuousness.

Ben May 24, 2011 at 10:57 am

To focus simply on fatalities is misleading as well. Early warning technology has changed, building codes have changed, medical advancements provide better treatment after an event, etc etc. Both sides like to focus on statistics that support their position.

I’d rather see a report that answers all of McKibben’s individual points. Is it unprecedented to experience the record fire season in Texas, combined with the droughts, combined with all the tornadoes, combined with the record flooding around the world, all at the same time? These are statistics and could be presented in an accurate, intelligent way… if there wasn’t any agenda but to answer the question accurately.

Methinks1776 May 24, 2011 at 11:12 am

Early warning technology has changed, building codes have changed, medical advancements provide better treatment after an event, etc etc.

That’s kind of the point. Don isn’t even addressing global warming claims in his post. He’s pointing out that humans will deal with the challenges any change is sure to bring – something McKibben dismisses. From what I excerpted from your comment, I take it you agree with Don?

Don Boudreaux May 24, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Right you are, Methinks!

John Dewey May 24, 2011 at 11:24 am

Ben, did you understand why Don included this statement:

“And he snarkily dismisses as naive the argument that humankind can adapt well to such change.”

at the beginning of his post?

Regardless of what causes climate change – and regardless of whether such recent observations are indicative on any permanent change – a major error of McKibben is that he ignores the ability of humankind to adapt to either human-caused or “natural” changes in our environment.

Ben May 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Ooops, you’re right, I actually missed that line in Don’s opening paragraph!

Don May 24, 2011 at 11:07 am

Tornadoes are caused by the meeting of warm moist air with cold air masses, and are a boundary effect. Global warming has nothing to do with it, as if the AVERAGE temperature of the climate changes, then the relative distribution of those temperatures will change accordingly and the relative temperature difference between Arctic and Gulf air masses will remain the same. AGW does not change the fact that there are mountains and body’s of water, not does it change Coriolis effects which govern these things. At worst, it might change the relative center of Tornado alley, but that’s about it.

Here’s what a real climatologist who has spent most of her career studying this matter have to say:

http://judithcurry.com/2011/04/30/tornado-madness/

Hmmmm, the sky is falling … not so much! At least, it’s not getting knocked down by super tornadoes.

Sridhar Loke May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am

Don,
While I am not supporting McKibben’s hypothesis, I think there is a key point missing in your counter. Technological advances and wealth have greatly improved our ability to take care of people’s lives during natural disasters. I believe (no data to support, I concede) that these advances even negated the impact of increasing population.
If you look at the wealth lost due to natural disasters, I am sure the trend will be upwards, but that in itself is not an evidence supporting McKibben’s theory.
Regards,
Sridhar

Marcus May 24, 2011 at 11:26 am

“Technological advances and wealth have greatly improved our ability to take care of people’s lives during natural disasters.”

No, that IS his point. His post wasn’t about global warming. His post was about mankind’s ability to adapt to change.

Ken May 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Sridhar,

“I believe (no data to support, I concede) that these advances even negated the impact of increasing population.”

Except that this is wholly contradicted, even in Don’s post, in which he, you know, actually has data. The ABSOLUTE number of fatalities has declined, while the population has doubled, meaning that the RATES of decline has been reduced by more than half. Thus the population is controlled for and isn’t ‘negated’ in any way.

Regards,
Ken

Damien May 24, 2011 at 11:34 am

Some worldwide data on extreme weather events (the graphs are in English) http://freakonometrics.blog.free.fr/index.php?post/2011/01/04/Les-950-catastrophes-naturelles-de-2010 .

I think that climate change is a reality but i’m not impressed by what the doomsday prophets have to offer.

nailheadtom May 24, 2011 at 12:09 pm

There’s always been climate change and, as far as we know, there always will be, even if there were no humans on earth. The idea that there is some sort of climate set-point from which there can be no deviation is preposterous, as can be seen by the geologic record, which includes an earth pretty much covered with water, with ice and with tropical vegetation at different times.

W.E. Heasley May 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Nailheadtom:

Deduct two points for pointing out empirical evidence!

You can however recover the two point deduction:

(1) replace your above statement with notional propositions,

(2) deliver your notional propositions through verbal virtuosity,

(3) declare your notional propositions clearly support the way things ought to be.

Signed,

McLicken the Chicken
Scoring Center Help Desk
123 Broken Sky Drive
Rising Seas, MA U812

Ryan Vann May 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Highly amusing, and sadly true.

MarketJohnson May 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I’m not agreeing with McKibbin, but denying him by using deaths as a measure of climate volatility fails to take into account innumerable other factors, including the improvement of prediction technology and (public) services like the emergency broadcast system.

MarketJohnson May 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm

….is silly.

Hit submit just a little too quickly there.

Marcus May 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Don didn’t write a post about climate volatility. He wrote a post about people’s ability to adapt to change.

Which, apparently, given your comment, you agree with?

GP Hanner May 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Mustn’t upset the narrative with facts.

jeffrey neal May 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Chicken littles are prone to take positions that can’t be disproven, yet spend most of their time convincing us that their position is irrefutable, i.e. proven. “Weather does not equal climate, unless we say it does at certain times.” More snow, less snow, floods or droughts – they all are signs of imbalance in the ecosystem, ergo climate change is proven. Can’t argue with that, can we?

A 5th grade science student knows that such pontification is not science. How then is it that “the vast majority of the respected scientific community” has bought tickets on this bandwagon? Because, like our friend Paul Krugman, these erstwhile scientists find it more profitable to be political agitators than to work in their chosen field.

More importantly, I think we should stop trying to prove them wrong. We can’t, right? So, instead let’s make the inarguable point that, even if they are right, that’s no reason to impose starvation on the here and now for the sake of extending the life of the planet another few days or generations.

If the end is nigh, live and let live, I say. Let men be free to chose how to use their share of the supposedly finite resources the earth has for us. I’m not going to starve so that my great-great-great-grand son might live another 20 years, are you? Sounds selfish? – OK, in that sentence, substitute a billion Chinese in place of “I’m” and tell me if the answer is different.

S Rubicon May 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Not sure the number of annual deaths is any way to measure anything about climate change. Seems to me, our communications systems have created the opportunity to avoid death due to earlier & widely available warnings.
Even the number of tornadoes may not be a real climate change factor. Lets face it, at one point we were told one hurricane season was so devastating, and spoke to climate change issues. Yet the next season, there were no hurricanes that made USA landfall.
The baseline temperature data is no longer available as it was thrown out by the East Anglia guys. Now we have data that was created by them to use as baseline. No bias there, right? ClimateGate changes the whole equation. It shows we cannot depend on much of the information spewed to us by so-called authorities in the science.
Maybe, just maybe…. they should start all over again & build their case.

Ryan Vann May 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Right, I think Don’s overarching point was that humans can probably adapt to adverse weather conditions, as evidenced by the decrease in population to death from natural disaster ratio over time. This claim is of course absurd as the science is in that we are all doomed unless Al Gore can make a boatload of money off carbon schemes.

Marcus May 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

“Not sure the number of annual deaths is any way to measure anything about climate change. Seems to me, our communications systems have created the opportunity to avoid death due to earlier & widely available warnings.”

Please re-read Don’s post. It’s not about climate change or how to measure it. It is about mankind’s ability to adapt to change.

Which, apparently, you agree with.

muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Fortunately all of our family in Joplin survived. Unfortunately they have found of several friends, church members and co-workers and children whom they know who did not survive.

The number of dead this year from tornadoes in the US is 365 + 116 (and counting in Joplin). That is, I believe an all time record in spite of massively improved early warning systems and building codes.

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/online/monthly/newm.html

Methinks1776 May 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Glad to hear your family survived. Hope they didn’t lose too many of their material possessions. My condolences on the lost friends.

muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Thanks. My father-in-law happened to be with us this month for my daughters coming graduation. He being 82 was watching the weather channel and saw the reports come in almost as they happened. He lives 3/4 miles due west of St Johns Hospital (MyLeah Linda Lane). Took about 24 hours to find out his house suffered relatively minor damage. Two separate 2 by 4′s pierced his roof like arrows. The houses a block east and those a block south are gone. He is pretty sure his framed and hung newspapers of the popes visit to Chicago saved his house… Now my sister-in-law is tasked with finding all the hidden lladro collectibles and coins he left around the house… probably some literally stuffed in the mattress. He’s definantly a survivor of The Great Depression. A Professor of Prudence.

Methinks1776 May 24, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Ah, we live in a storm prone area ourselves, so I know the feeling. I once had a branch snap and crash right through the roof above my head as I was sleeping. Not exactly the most pleasant way to wake up.

If all that’s missing is a few collectibles and a couple of pieces of roof, that’s great (all things considered).

Marcus May 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I’m glad to hear your family is OK. I’m sorry to hear about their friends.

As to the record, 794 people died in 1925. There several years with ~500+.

muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

http://www.weather.gov/om/hazstats/images/70-years.pdf

Yeah I saw the 515 in 1953 after I posted. My data doesn’t go past 1940.

Well I hope we don’t break any records. But the scientific basis of a heated atmosphere carrying more energy is pretty straight forward. How significant the effects…. I guess time will tell. If tornado death numbers ever become the convincing factor …that yes we have a problem… it will certainly be too late to do much. Anyway I am confident we are going to see a massive change in our energy infrastructure over the next 10 to 20 years.

Ryan Vann May 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm

It hard to imagine anyone surviving based on some of the pictures of the carnage that have come out. It literally looks like the whole place was flattened. I’ve experienced crazy floods before (thankfully only property was destroyed and no people I know of perished), but can only imagine that shock pales in comparison. I feel for all the folks that had to endure this,

Sam Grove May 24, 2011 at 5:46 pm

As much of Tornado Alley is rural, the odds are high that tornadoes won’t affect human habitat, but now and then, a residential area must get hit.
That’s about all there is to it.

Dan May 24, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Kind of striking how small the numbers are compared with a lot of other things like auto accidents, cancer, etc.

brotio May 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Here is an interesting website:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/

It should be informative to anyone who doesn’t think that, “recently-revealed vegetation due to glacial receding is proof that it’s never been warmer”.

Paul May 25, 2011 at 8:18 am

I would also like to point out that this is nonsense physics. The temperature difference between the north pole and the equator is what drives extratropical storminess in the northern hemisphere. More variance = more storminess, less variance = less storminess. According to the climate models, global warming will reduce that temperature difference. This is basic thermodynamics.

txslr May 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

It is my understanding (which may well be incorrect) that a worse than normal tornado season was forecast due to cooling in the Pacific Ocean. This, in contrast to typical warmth in the Gulf, was expected to lead to stronger storms. I’m sure that there is some way of assigning cooling in the Pacific to global warming, but can we admit that he connection is non-intuitive?

WhiskeyJim May 26, 2011 at 12:00 am

Don, one tragedy of this story is that the number who have died would be significantly less if governments did not force insurance companies to insure people who build in flood plains and other dangerous places, and yes, pretend to build levees for the ‘common welfare.’

Is the government helping or hurting? In New Orleans, the government has intervened to control even the repair. The city I love (and I’ve sure you do as well) still struggles. I believe the answer is clear.

And that is the real story here. Reasonable people and journalists would be debating government score cards, not some strange climate theories caught up in statistical backwaters.

Ceeby May 29, 2011 at 4:31 pm

According to NOAA, there are not more deadly storms just more people in the path of them and better documentation of them. We have more population in the regions where tornados occur so there are more people and property to be affected. There are dozens of storm chasers as well as every Tom, Jane, and Harry with cell phone cameras to film storms that at one time no one ever saw. Just because a satellite image may show a system which is “likely” to spawn a tornado, it will not necessarily do so. Only confirmed sightings are recorded, therefore more watchers means more sightings which equals “more” tornados. A similar thing happens with hurricanes, except that it is satellite imagery that has increased the “sightings” of storms. There is no evidence the number or severity has changed on average. Don’t judge a storm by its dollar damage as the media seem to do. The “great hurricane of 1780″ killed an estimated 25,000 people. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 killed over 12,000. Recent storms pale in comparison. Dollars do not outrank lives lost.
@ WhiskyJim: I completely agree. That is a problem here in Florida. People build where they shouldn’t and my tax dollars go to rebuild their wrecked homes. Government insurance was once a last resort and now it is a first resort here. We could solve many wetland and coastal environmental issues and much of the hurricane damage issue if responsibility were allocated properly.

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