Published April 28, 2011
A top official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rejected claims by environmental activists that the outbreak of tornadoes ravaging the American South is related to climate change brought on by global warming.
Greg Carbin, the warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said warming trends do create more of the fuel that tornadoes require, such as moisture, but that they also deprive tornadoes of another essential ingredient: wind shear.
“We know we have a warming going on,” Carbin told Fox News in an interview Thursday, but added: “There really is no scientific consensus or connection [between global warming and tornadic activity]….Jumping from a large-scale event like global warming to relatively small-scale events like tornadoes is a huge leap across a variety of scales.”
Asked if climate change should be “acquitted” in a jury trial where it stood charged with responsibility for tornadoes, Carbin replied: “I would say that is the right verdict, yes.” Because there is no direct connection as yet established between the two? “That’s correct,” Carbin replied.
Formerly the lead forecaster for NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, Carbin is a member of numerous relevant professional societies, including the National Weather Association, the American Meteorological Society, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the International Association of Emergency Managers. He has also served on the peer review committee for the evaluation of scientific papers submitted to publications like National Weather Digest and Weather and Forecasting.
This evaluation by a top NOAA official contradicted pronouncements by some leading global warming activists, who were swift to link this season’s carnage to man-made climate change.
“The earth is warming. Carbon emissions are increasing,” said Sarene Marshall, Managing Director for The Nature Conservancy's Global Climate Change Team. “And they both are connected to the increased intensity and severity of storms that we both are witnessing today, and are going to see more of in the coming decades.”
Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, an activist and author who believes industrialized societies expend too much money and energy combating global warming, instead of focusing on more immediate, and easily rectifiable, problems, doubted the tornadoes have any link to warming trends.
“We've seen a declining level of the severe tornadoes over the last half century in the U.S.,” Lomborg told Fox News.“So we need to be very careful not just to jump to the conclusion and say, ‘Oh, then it's because of global warming.’”
In fact, NOAA statistics show that the last 60 years have seen a dramatic increase in the reporting of weak tornadoes, but no change in the number of severe to violent ones.
For many, the high casualties of 2011 recalled the so-called “Super Outbreak" of April 1974, which killed more than 300 people. “You have to go back to 1974 to even see a tornado outbreak that approaches what we saw yesterday,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told Fox News.
Asked earlier, during a conference call with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley about the possibility that climate change is playing a role in the tornado outbreak, Fugate shot back: "Actually, what we're seeing is springtime. Unfortunately, many people think of the Oklahoma tornado alley and forget that the Southeast U.S. actually has a history of longer and more powerful tornadoes that stay on the ground longer -- and we are seeing that, obviously, in the last week and yesterday.”