Watt about the cyclones and the tornadoes?

Watts Up With That, has a couple of new posts, one claiming that 2013 is a record low year for US tornadoes and a second about a paper that suggests a decrease of tropical cyclones.

The post about tornadoes, written by Anthony Watts, starts with

While many climate alarmists still try to tell us that global warming will increase tornadoes, we are in the middle of a tornado drought, and well below normal.

My understanding is that this is not a typical claim made by climate scientists. As far as I’m aware, climate scientists are well aware that global warming increases the energy in the climate system, which might make events stronger, but can also reduce the shear that is necessary to produce tornadoes. I’m no expert at this, so maybe I’ve misunderstood something, but from what I’ve read there is no real claim that global warming will result in more tornadoes. At best it’s very uncertain.

The post about cyclones is based on a recent paper called Projected changes in late 21st century tropical cyclone frequency in thirteen coupled climate models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 by Tory et al. What’s ironic about this post is that the paper uses the CMIP5 climate models that are typically heavily criticised on WUWT. When Leif Svalgaard comments on this irony, Anthony feels that this is unfair and someone else comments

No, gaard, they are good when they correspond to reality, as in this case.

Really, a model prediction of something that hasn’t yet happened corresponds to reality?

Anyway, as far as I can tell, the paper only really considers Tropical Cyclones (high-latitide) and specifically removes any of a sub-tropical origin. It seems to be trying to address whether or not there will be more tropical cyclones (i.e., originating in the tropics) in a warming world, rather than whether or not there will be more cyclones in total. Also, the model they use (CMIP5) clearly predicts future warming and so it may be entirely reasonable that a warmer world will have fewer cyclones than we have today. That still qualifies as climate change as far as I can tell. Not everything has to be detrimental. I also can’t tell if it makes any prediction about the strength of cyclones in a warmer world.

I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t really know all that much about precisely how scientists expect the climate to change in a warmer world. It does seem to me that neither of the posts on WUWT really indicates anything particularly significant, especially as one of them relies on a paper that specifically addresses Tropical Cyclones in a warmer world. You can’t claim global warming isn’t happening and then use results from a paper which relies on models of global warming to claim that climate scientists are wrong.

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10 Responses to Watt about the cyclones and the tornadoes?

  1. Rattus Norvegicus says:

    He keeps harping on tornadoes year, after year, after year. At one point I decided to check and see what 4AR said about tornados. As best I can tell “we don’t know” was their answer. Willard is just plain fibbing about this being a prediction — check with Harold Brooks at the Nation Severe Storms Laboratory. I had a conversation with him at Tamino’s a couple of years ago and he said that the data quality was poor enough (because a way to homogenize had not yet been found) that we really weren’t sure of the existence of a trend.

    Tony has been smoking this strawman for a while now. BTW, the paper he posted about, like so many of his “game changers” merely seems to reinforce part of the consensus view in whatever subspecialty it relates to. It is rather hard to criticise the consensus view if you don’t know what it is.

  2. It really does seem like a strawman. I finally found this article that quotes Jeff Trapp pointing out that although global warming will make the conditions for tornadoes (warm, moist, unstable air) it will also reduce the wind shear which is necessary to cause the rotation. So, as you say, somewhat uncertain as to what will actually happen.

  3. pendantry says:

    “Not everything has to be detrimental.”
    Although clearly not wrong, any non-detrimental occurrence happening unexpectedly can still spoil one’s lunch (or worse).

  4. pendantry says:

    Dammit, I forgot to wish you a Happy Earth Overshoot Day. Sorry.

  5. I’d never heard of that. Thanks, I guess 🙂

  6. pendantry says:

    Sadly, I think all too few of the all too many people have heard of it. Which is, of course, the problem.

  7. chris says:

    spot on pedantry… Tornadoes can seriously spoil the enjoyment of one’s tournedos.


  8. Rattus Norvegicus says:

    “It can’t possibly last much longer, it’s demographically unsustainable”
    “But it can do untold damage in the meantime”

    So true, so true…

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