the spring of 2011 after an unusual number of killer tornadoes and
floods ravaged the US, it reviews the increasing costs of extreme
weather in a warming world. Tornadoes along with Hurricane
Irene and most recently Hurricane
Sandy, make a powerful case for aggressive efforts to address climate change.
floods in the spring of 2011 are a small preview of what life will look like in a world ravaged by
global warming. The US Global Change Research Program has warned
of more extreme weather events in the future as the planet gets warmer.
When it comes to tornadoes, Spring 2011 was one of the deadliest and most
destructive seasons in American history. The tornado that hit Joplin on May 22 was one of the deadliest tornadoes ever. The EF-5 wedge tornado, that swept thru Joplin was over a mile wide, it completely destroying about 20% of the town, killing 160 people and causing $2.8 billion in damage. The southern state tornadoes that touched down
between April 22 and 28 are likely to surpass 2004’s Hurricane Ivan as the
costliest natural disaster in Alabama’s history.
tornado risk in America history. This is the fourth such high risk day this
year, meaning the fourth day where there are ideal conditions for the widespread
formation of tornadoes Each of the 3 previous high risk days spawned at least 52
Although the total number is still unknown, many deadly tornadoes touched down
on May 24th. In Oklahoma large, violent tornadoes touched down around Oklahoma
City south of Hinton. Significant tornado related damage was reported near
Canton and in Goldsby.
Other tornadoes were reported in Dewey and Blaine counties
as well as Logan County including the city of Guthrie. A tornado was spotted on
the ground just Northwest of Joplin. The suburbs of Dallas just east of Euless
and Lindell, Virginia also reported tornadoes.
Tornadoes are not the only natural disasters that
are stealing headlines in 2011. The Midwest and the South are once again in the
middle of record floods. The Mississippi River grew six times its normal size
and police were forced to evacuate parts of Memphis. The floods have produced
the highest water levels on record for the 70-mile stretch between Missouri and
damage to more than 21,000 homes, according to analysis by research firm CoreLogic. The flood has also
interrupted commerce along the Mississippi
River. Flooding along the Mississippi was caused by large snowfalls in the upper
Midwest this winter and a lot of precipitation in April, where up to four times
the normal amount of rain fell in some parts of the region.
It is well known that isolated extreme weather events do not prove the
existence of climate change. However, the floods and tornadoes we are seeing in
the US are statistically anomalous and can be understood as evidence supporting
global warming. Increases in snow and rain caused the flooding and increased
precipitation is tied to climate change. Meteorologists are saying that
increasing ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are spawning the tornadoes.
(When warmer water in the Gulf evaporates and meets with colder air from the
north you have a combination that spawns strong winds, violent precipitation and tornadoes).
tornadoes. However, the extreme weather is not limited to tornado alley; a
lesser risk is also present in the Midwest all the way through the Ohio Valley
to the East Coast. Storms are expected over much of the US from the Northeast
all the way down to Mexico.
of 2011’s tornadoes have been some of the costliest, and deadliest, in US
history,” said Dr. Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the I.I.I.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service, the US averages 1,200
tornadoes a year, but as of May 17, 2011 we had already seen 1,076, with 875 of
them occurring in April. The 70 tornadoes that were reported in seven Midwest
states over the weekend of May 21-22, and the tornadoes on May 24 should push us
over 1,200 with over 7 months remaining in 2011.
tornado-related deaths in the US with about 482 fatalities so far. It is obvious
that floods and tornadoes have dire consequences for human life and the
economy. In addition to the human toll, thousands of commercial buildings, homes
and apartment complexes have been destroyed by floods and tornadoes.
Mo. killed at least 117 people (1500 people are still missing). According to an
estimate from catastrophe risk modeling firm Eqecat Inc., the Joplin tornado caused up to
$3 billion in insured losses. Joplin is a city with an estimated 25,000
buildings out of which 2,500 buildings were destroyed and approximately 10,000
ripped through the Southern states, the most serious storm featured 178
tornadoes and killed at least 300 people, many of them in Alabama. According to
risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide, the southern state tornadoes
that touched down between April 22 and 28, caused up to $5.5 billion in insured
losses. Risk Management Solutions, another risk
modeling company, estimated the total insured loss figure could climb as high as
have caused $97.8 billion in insured losses in the US between 1990 and 2009,
making these weather events second only to hurricanes ($152.4 billion) over this
same time period as the costliest natural disasters. In the past three years
(2008-2010), severe thunderstorms, and the tornadoes they spawned, have caused
about one third ($30 billion) of that $97.8 billion total.
help federal emergency crews respond to the devastation from natural disasters
across the South and Midwest. However, Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., chairman of
the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee told Fox News that he wants to
pay for the FEMA infusion by pulling $4 billion from the Department of Energy
loan program to facilitate green technology.
there is a great deal we can do to preempt some of the worst weather related
catastrophes. Rather than just pay for disaster relief we can invest in green
technology and minimize the extreme weather caused by climate change.
Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change and the Upcoming Election
Hurricane Sandy is a “Wake-up Call” for those who Doubt Climate Change (Video)
Meteorologist Discusses Relationship Between Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change (Video)
The Staggering Costs of Ignoring Climate Change
Insurance Company Acknowledges that Extreme Weather is Caused by Climate Change
Hurricane Sandy is a Powerful Reminder for those who Ignore Climate Change
Extreme Weather and the Costs of Climate
The Costs of Global Warming
Extreme Weather Makes a Convincing Case for Climate Change
The World “Connects the Dots” Between Extreme Weather & Climate Change
Bill McKibben on Connect the Dots
Deadly Tornadoes in Massachusetts
Floods in the Philipines Underscore the Deadly Toll from Climate Change
24 Hours of Reality
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Accepts the Science of Climate Change (Video)