Climate Connection Unclear, But Alabama Reps Voted to Cut Funding for Tornado Forecasting Climate Connection Unclear, But Alabama Reps Voted to Cut Funding for Tornado Forecasting

Climate Connection Unclear, But Alabama Reps Voted to Cut Funding for Tornado Forecasting

by Ben Jervey

May 4, 2011
Before and after photos in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from NOAA.

After the devastation from last week's historic tornado outbreak had been reported, everyone in the environmental field was compelled to try to answer the question: So, what did this have to do with climate change? Anyone who was being honest had to answer: Well, we don't really know. It's really complicated.

Think Progress ran responses from a number of climate scientists. Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, provided the meatiest quote:

It is irresponsible not to mention climate change. … The environment in which all of these storms and the tornadoes are occurring has changed from human influences (global warming).

All very true. Climate change must be mentioned. Every weather event is now affected by the warmer temperatures that humans have created. But as the rest of the climatologists interviewed by Think Progress (and countless other outlets) make clear, we just don't have any real sense of exactly what role climate change has in extreme weather events, especially tornadoes.

Climate Central, the unique media organization that puts journalists and scientists in the same office, is in my opinion the most reliable source out there for credible science behind weather and climate. Here's what Climate Central's Andrew Freedman wrote:

In this case, with the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in US history, and with the most tornadoes for any April since records began in the early 1950s, it's important to understand that the scientific evidence indicates that climate change probably played a very small role, if any, in stirring up this violent weather. This might disappoint some advocates who are already using this to highlight the risks of climate change-related extreme weather.

His whole post is a must-read if you'd really like to know the nitty-gritty. Andy Revkin also posted a whole bunch of long comments from climate scientists.

While we don't know exactly what role climate change had in the tornado outbreak, we do know that the short-term tornado forecasting saved lives. This forecasting was made possible by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites. And these satellites are the very same that the GOP—including Alabama's entire Republican delegation to the House—voted to defund.

Also, if you haven't already, check out our "How to Help" post and give what you can.

Ben Jervey More Info

Ben is a writer and editor covering climate change, energy, and environment, and is currently the Climate and Energy Media Fellow at Vermont Law School. He was the original Environment Editor at GOOD Magazine and his work has appeared regularly in National Geographic News, Grist, DeSmogBlog, and OnEarth. He recently worked with the non-profit Focus the Nation to publish an Energy 101 primer. When living in New York City, he wrote a book, The Big Green Apple, on how to live a lower impact life in the city. A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.
Some recent articles by Ben Jervey:
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Climate Connection Unclear, But Alabama Reps Voted to Cut Funding for Tornado Forecasting