Sorry, WQAD, Data Shows Climate Change Is Not Making Storms Worse – Watts Up With That?

Of the weatherREALISM

By H. Sterling Burnett

WQAD published a story reporting that climate models predict climate change will worsen various types of weather events, titled “Climate Change Is Increasing Frequency, Intensity of Severe Weather.” The story is misleading in a couple of ways. First, although the title suggests that climate change is already acting to make extreme weather worse, the story itself focuses on predictions for the future based on climate models, not current trends. In fact, the data does not support the claim that climate change has increased the frequency or intensity of tornadoes, thunderstorms, rights, or snowstorms. Second, climate models that predict that the weather will become more extreme are seriously flawed. They do not accurately reflect past or present temperatures, so their predictions of future climate should not be relied upon.

“Severe weather in the Midwest can spawn dangerous systems that develop rapidly,” says the WQAD report. “A changing climate means better potential for tornadoes, thunderstorms, Rights and blizzards to be even more powerful than before.”

While the first statement is absolutely accurate. The second statement is pure speculation. History and data indicate that climate change could equally mean fewer, less intense storms across the region.

WQAD’s statements regarding tornadoes are cautious, and rightly so. In its most recent scientific report, Assessment Report 6 (AR6) published in July, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that it has found no worsening of tornadoes during the period of moderate warming and cannot attribute any change in the frequency or strength of tornadoes. to human-caused climate change. In fact, although the number of reported tornadoes has increased due to better reporting over the past 50 years, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates that the number of strong tornadoes has decreased during the warming period. (See the figure below)

Graph by Anthony Watts using official data from the Storm Prediction Center/NOAA.

Regarding thunderstorms, the facts are just as alarming. As with tornadoes, IPCC AR6 reports that there is no evidence that thunderstorms are becoming more extreme, nor evidence that changes in storm frequency are attributable to human causes. One concern that arises from extreme thunderstorms is the threat of flooding. In that regard, the IPCC reports that climate change is likely to have reduced flooding and made flood events more common. Furthermore, on page 99 of the 2018 National Climate Assessment published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations, its states, “Human-induced warming has not been formally identified as a factor in the increase in river flooding and the moment of any appearance of a detectable future human-caused change is unclear.

Regarding Rights, as explained in Watts Up With That, these infrequent events are caused by a relatively rare confluence of weather conditions, and there is no evidence that climate change causes those conditions to arise and coincide with more frequency in the future.

The IPCC also reports that there is no evidence that winter storms are becoming more intense, generating more powerful winds, or greater amounts of snow. The IPCC report is confirmed by satellite data recorded by NASA. As discussed in Climate at a Glance: Snow Cover, North America’s average snow cover extent has remained virtually unchanged in recent years compared to the late 1960s, when satellite measurements began. . Following a short-term decline in snow cover in the mid-1980s, North America’s average snow cover has increased. As shown in the figure below, what is true for snowfall in the United States is also true for most of the Northern Hemisphere.

Twelve-month consecutive monthly snow extent anomalies, November 1966 through October
Note that North America, represented by the blue dots, remains largely unchanged in recent
years compared to the late 1960s, when satellite measurements began. Source: GlobalSnow
Laboratory, “12-Month Operating Anomalies of Monthly Snow Extent from November 1966 to October 2021”
Rutgers University Climate Laboratory, accessed February 2022,

One last thing WQAD should have considered before publishing its story exaggerating climate-induced increases in extreme weather is the fact that the projections it references for worsening weather were produced using climate model simulations. However, as explored in Climate Realism, here, here and here, for example, and in Climate Change Weekly, here and here, the general circulation models referenced by the IPCC are flawed and produce woefully inaccurate results. Models exaggerate warming and for more than 30 years have consistently predicted increases in extreme weather that have failed to materialize.

In the end, climate models are not scientific evidence, just as theories are not facts, and the evidence that exists indicates that extreme weather events are not increasing. WQAD would do its audience a great service if it informed them of that. It could lessen the inflamed anxieties of climate alarm that those who watch their reports have developed over the years after years of watching unverified climate change scare stories on the channel.

H. Sterling Burnett

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is managing editor of Environment & Climate News and research associate for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute. Burnett worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis for 18 years, most recently as a senior fellow in charge of NCPA’s environmental policy program. He has held various positions in professional and public policy organizations, including serving as a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Task Force on the Texas Comptroller’s e-Texas commission.

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