WASHINGTON — Is there a link between global warming and the devastating tornadoes that killed dozens of people and razed at least an entire city in Kentucky, as well as an Amazon warehouse in northern Illinois , December 10 and 11?
The scientists’ response, going back to 2019, if not before: yes, but it is indirect.
The reason for the uncertainty, climatologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Stanford University and the University of Northern Illinois, told the Washington Post, the Pacific Standard and other media is that while global warming certainly causes more severe weather conditions and more frequent high-speed storms, it cannot be linked to specific tornadoes, such as those that cut hundreds of kilometers. across five states.
“It looks like a war zone over there,” Gov. Andy Beshear of the hardest hit state, Kentucky, told President Joe Biden by phone.
“More unpredictable weather conditions can be expected across the country as rising temperatures result in unusual and unprecedented weather conditions,” AP and CNN reported. The links are specific to heat waves and droughts, not tornadoes yet.
This is because atmospheric conditions, including higher temperatures, higher humidity, and changes in wind, produce the possibility of more tornadoes, but not the certainty. But research has not advanced enough to link specific storms to global warming, scientists have warned.
Biden agrees. He made that connection when answering a reporter’s question after he announced a declaration of disaster for Kentucky. “All I know is that the intensity of the weather in all areas is having some impact due to global warming and climate change,” the president said.
“The specific impact on these specific storms, I can’t say at this point. I’m going to ask the EPA and others to look at this. But the point is, we all know everything gets more intense when the climate gets warmer, everything. And, obviously, it has some impact here, but I can’t give you a quantitative reading about it, ”he said on December 11.
“We’ve been observing temperature objectively for a long time with arrays of thermometers and weather balloons, then satellites,” said Stanford Earth System Science professor Noah Diffenbaugh. The Pacific Standard 2019 news and science website. “Tornadoes are more difficult to observe from a distance. “
What may be linked, scientists add, is the rise in Earth’s temperature due to global warming to a long list of disasters, from melting icebergs in the Arctic to rising sea levels. Flooding Miami Beach as the tundra thaws in Alaska as raging wildfires swept through drought-stricken California, Arizona and other parts of the western United States in recent years.
This includes more tornadoes outside of the traditional Midwestern “Tornado Alley”. In 2018, for example, Connecticut led the country in terms of reported tornadoes, with nine.
Last weekend’s tornadoes swept through northeastern Arkansas, southeastern Missouri, northwestern Tennessee, southern Illinois and western Kentucky, throwing debris into the sky for more than three consecutive hours, newspapers and news services reported.
And in these local areas, the media added, temperatures, before the tornadoes, reached the 1970s.
News services reported that at times the wreckage reached an altitude of 30,000 feet. The death toll could reach 64, and it would have been worse if authorities in the most devastated town, Mayfield, Ky. Eight others are missing.
The Mayfield tornado tore the roofs of houses and some houses from their foundations. The Kentucky lieutenant governor said search and rescue teams would go house to house looking for survivors, except sometimes all they found were foundations.
Another death toll, six, occurred in Edwardsville, Illinois. The tornado destroyed an Amazon warehouse there. the Edwardsville Intelligence reported that local officials and residents were angered by the late reaction of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, one of the country’s two richest people, to the tragedy.
Bezos, according to the newspaper, spent his time on social media on December 11 discussing the latest space mission sponsored by his company. It was not until late in the day that he offered “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of the tornado and their families. He said Amazon will support victims and survivors, but did not specify how.
In this 2019 article, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Northern Illinois University told Kate Wheeling the Pacific Standard about an earlier study, using data from 1979 to 2018, which showed that the number of tornadoes has remained relatively constant over time, but that “Tornado Alley” has moved east.
There were fewer tornadoes in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas, and more in Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
But the real impact of tornadoes was not in the number or frequency of storms, but in the damage they cause, simply because “we have more targets” for tornadoes to hit than in previous years, said Victor Gensini, climatologist at Northern Illinois University. study author then said.