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Scientist says deadly tornadoes were caused by climate change

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Cartoon by Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee

All of US — by now — have witnessed at least some of the media coverage of the tragic impact of a series of tornadoes that hit eight — from Kentucky to Arkansas — US states. Reports suggest there have been at least 100 deaths across a scene that mirrors a war zone.

This is another example of extreme weather tragedies across the planet in 2021. Just how extreme? The average tornado would be 50 yards wide — the worse of this series was three quarters of a mile. The “touchdown“ of average tornadoes would be a mile or two; these travelled more than 200 miles.

Of course, we have seen the pictures that reflect the fact that there were recordings of more than 300mph winds — more than twice the norm.

While there has been a full consensus that this year’s other tragedies — floods, forest fires, hurricanes and drought — can be easily linked to the effect of the climate crisis, the jury is still out on this extreme tornado tragedy.

However, one scientist who has a solid track record as a climatologist has no reservations in this regard. Distinguished professor and director of the Earth Systems Science Centre at Penn State University, Dr Michael Mann, contends that the unprecedented “Super-Cell Thunderstorm System” that created the fury of those 30 tornadoes was directly due to the extremely warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico — a direct climate change-related phenomenon. This has been pumping unusually warm/moist air up into the central basin of the US which collided with cooler air masses, leading to the extraordinary tornadoes.

Dr Mann is clear in his professional assessment that “this is not a ‘natural disaster’, but this is a disaster exacerbated by human-caused climate change”.

Dr Michael Mann (Photograph from michaelmann.net)

Dr Mann, who received his doctorate in the physics of climate from Yale, has authored 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has also authored four books, the latest being The New Climate Wars: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.

In it he makes a case clarifying the link between the use of fossil fuels and the climate catastrophe. The professor documents how these massive corporations have been using their unprecedented financial clout to “shape” the public discourse on climate and delay meaningful action, attempting to maximise profit windfalls.

This brings to mind the investigation by the British chapter of Greenpeace which recently was able to trick an Exxon lobbyist into revealing how that oil giant is currently undermining meaningful climate responses being worked on in the US Congress.

President Biden told reporters that he would have Environmental Protection Agency officials explore whether there is a definitive link between the tornado tragedy and climate change.

Professor Mann contends that the evidence is clear. He is pinning his hopes on Biden’s Build Back Better Bill which will be soon voted on in the Senate. Mann points out that this legislation in its current form contains key provisions for crucially shifting our US neighbours from a fossil fuel-dependent society to one that can benefit from renewables and thus meaningfully address the climate crisis.

He does point out that the fossil fuel lobby continues its “push against progress for short-term profits”.

During this season we might include in our thoughts and prayers those millions of families, across the planet, who have been adversely impacted by the climate catastrophe. We might also consider those voting in the US Senate who will soon be casting ballots that have critical implications for the whole planet.

Here in Bermuda, on a personal basis, there are a variety of ways we can contribute to the solution. Cautious use of energy; explore alternatives. Plant at least one tree in celebration of the season and contributing to a sustainable future (contact the Bermuda National Trust about their campaign).

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Published December 15, 2021 at 3:14 pm (Updated December 15, 2021 at 3:14 pm)

Scientist says deadly tornadoes were caused by climate change

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