The Real Truth About Tornadoes (Op-Ed)

Twisters returned to the national spotlight after a Nov. 17 outbreak viciously tore through 12 states, leaving eight people dead.


December 02, 2013

Paul Markowski, Harold Brooks, Yvette Richardson, Robert Trapp, John Allen and Noah Diffenbaugh 

This open letter was written by six, leading tornado experts from research institutions across the United States. Their brief bios follow below. The authors contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Research data show that climate change caused by human behavior is fueling more frequent and intense weather, such as extreme precipitation and heat waves — so it's only natural to wonder if this applies to tornadoes, too. Scientists need more data and time to fully address that connection.

That said, some high-profile scientists are misleading the American public about what is, and is not, known about global warming and tornadoes.  [Something Is Rotten at the New York Times (Op-Ed)]

For instance, University of California, Berkeley, professor Richard Muller argued in a recent New York Times opinion piece that "the scientific evidence shows that strong to violent tornadoes have actually been decreasing for the past 58 years, and it is possible that the explanation lies with global warming."

The honest "truth" is that no one knows what effect global warming is having on tornado intensity. Tornado records are not accurate enough to tell whether tornado intensity has changed over time.