Tornadoes, and especially F3 or stronger tornadoes, are becoming increasingly rare as the Earth continues its modest warming, but the media are claiming a rare outbreak of recent tornadoes in Kansas is “the new normal.” The misleading nature of the media’s reporting may be frustrating, but it affords climate realists an opportunity to show everyday people why they should be skeptical of alarmist global warming claims.
On May 26, after a squall line resulted in tornadoes in Kansas, the Kansas City Star posted an article titled, “‘Here we go again’: Is latest spate of tornadoes a new normal in Missouri and Kansas?” The article claims, “Notorious ‘Tornado Alley’ — the band of states in the central United States, including Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, that each spring are ravaged by hundreds of tornadoes — is not disappearing.” As a result of global warming, the article claims, Tornado Alley “seems to be expanding to include more of the Midwest and the Southeast’s ‘Dixie Alley,’ a term coined in 1971. That means a higher frequency of tornadoes in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and eastern Missouri.”
That sounds quite ominous and alarming. Most readers will take the Star’s assertion at face value and believe global warming is making tornadoes more frequent and severe. The objective data, however, tell the opposite story. According to data reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), tornado activity has been decreasing since the early 1970s . Strong tornadoes, F3 or stronger, have been declining even more dramatically.
Prior to 2018, Oklahoma had never experienced a single year in recorded history without one or more tornadoes touching down by the beginning of May. But 2018 broke that record as not just Oklahoma, but the entire heart of Tornado Alley – Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska – did not experience a single tornado through May 1. Of course, tornadoes had to form somewhere, as they always do. NOAA reported that the tornadoes that did occur formed primarily in the southeastern United States. In keeping with the overall trends since the early 1970s, the overall national trend was relatively quiet even with the Southeastern tornadoes.
Presented with this good news, alarmists were forced to present misleading claims and play semantic games to induce people into believing that global warming is making tornadoes worse. While the Star’s claim may or may not be technically true that lately there is “a higher frequency of tornadoes in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and eastern Missouri,” the more important story is that tornadoes as a whole are becoming less frequent and less severe. Indeed, since NOAA began keeping records in 1954, a majority of the years with 30 or fewer F3 tornadoes have occurred since the turn of the century.
The media’s misleading coverage of tornadoes and global warming may be frustrating, but it also presents an excellent opportunity and illustration to show people that scary climate claims are merely overhyped alarmism.