Why so many killer tornadoes?

After a brutal one-two punch of twisters, the debate over a possible link between climate change and deadly weather begins anew

A Missouri mother and daughter pick through the wreckage left by a deadly tornado: A recent string of killer storms has environmentalists blaming climate change.
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rescuers are still searching for survivors in Joplin, Mo., where at least 116 people were killed by the deadliest tornado to hit the U.S. since 1953. The massive twister — which was up to three-quarters of a mile wide — struck just weeks after several tornadoes struck six southern states, killing at least 314 people, most of them in Alabama. That was the worst death toll from multiple storms since 1925. Weather experts were at a loss to explain the deadly flurry of tornadoes, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it had found no link between the recent storms and climate change. Environmentalists disagree. Is global warming to blame?

Of course climate change is fueling killer weather: "These tornadoes are not originating from Oz," says Gregg Easterbrook at Reuters. The onslaught isn't some "unexpected bolt out of the blue" — it's an entirely predictable result of climate change. And "despite what the talk radio and Tea Party types say, there is strong scientific consensus that human activity has begun to alter Earth’s climate." We deny the evidence at our peril.

"What's causing the tornado tsunami"

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Wait, who's ignoring the scientists now? "Oh, for crying out loud," says John Hayward at Human Events. Green liberals complain that those who question their conclusions about climate change ignore science. Yet here they are insisting that every weather expert now saying climate change isn't causing tornadoes is "a complete idiot or a deluded fanatic." It's natural to want to explain a horrible disaster, but don't use that as an excuse to jump "on the 'global warming causes tornadoes' bandwagon."

"The tornado year"

We simply don't know the truth: There is no question that the number of tornadoes recorded in the U.S. has been rising for decades, says Alok Jha at Britain's Guardian. There is also no question that much of the increase is due to improvements in how we track weather. Plus, there are more people living in "tornado alley" these days, so the potential for storms to be spotted — and to do damage — has multiplied. Is climate change playing a role, too? "The answer is that no one really knows."

"Are tornadoes more common because of climate change?"

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