The Evidence Is Thin. The Consequences Are Real.
By Chris Mooney
I want to approach the subject of this post with considerable caution. But at the same time, in the wake of this week's devastating tornado disasters in the South, I know a lot of people are wondering about the matter. So let's see what we can say.
Without a doubt, the tornado outbreak this week was odd. Jeff Masters notes: "What is really unusual about yesterday's Super Tuesday Outbreak is that it occurred in early February. Only one other tornado outbreak in the past century killed so many people so early in the year – the great Warren, Arkansas tornado outbreak of January 3, 1949, which killed 60 people." And Masters goes further:
[The] outbreak was fueled by record warmth over the South. Record high temperatures were recorded in Little Rock, Arkansas (75), Shreveport, LA (78), El Dorado, AR (77), Memphis, TN (75), Jackson, MS (81), and Charleston, SC (79), to name a few locations. A strong cold front associated with a powerful winter storm over the north central U.S. pushed into this warm, unstable air mass, triggering Tuesday's bout of violent weather.
All of this is, of course, suggestive – but we have to be very cautious whenever we're talking about the relationship between climate and weather. First, no individual event can ever be attributed to global climate change.
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