Does Global Warming Cause Tornadoes and Floods?

Flooding in Smithfield, KY, 5.13.11. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Is the rash of deadly tornadoes in Joplin, Tuscaloosa and other parts of the country related to global warming, as author and environmentalist Bill McKibben recently suggested in a satiric piece for the The Washington Post? How about the disastrous floods we’ve been experiencing?

Many climate scientists do believe the rise in devastating tornadoes is related to global warming, but the evidence is not (yet) conclusive. Scientists are a careful lot. As the Union of Concerned Scientists explains:

[S]cientists don’t have robust enough data to determine whether and how climate change may be affecting tornado frequency, intensity, or the geographic range where tornadoes are most likely to form.

As far as the extreme flooding is concerned, there is a clear relationship. Substantial scientific evidence shows that global warming leads to more severe rain and snow storms, which contribute, in turn, to heavier flooding. Watch the video at right from the National Wildlife Federation to learn more.


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