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Climate and tornados

Ashley Slinkard, left, embraces Becky Brady as they look over the destroyed home of Brady's daughter on Saturday, June 1, 2013 after a overnight storm in St. Charles, Mo.
Ashley Slinkard, left, embraces Becky Brady as they look over the destroyed home of Brady's daughter on Saturday, June 1, 2013 after a overnight storm in St. Charles, Mo.
Huy Mach, Associated Press

Professor Harold Kohl points out The Deseret News is right to condemn Senators Barbara Boxer (CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) for taking advantage of the tornado tragedy in Moore, Okla., to boost their pointless climate change plans ("In our opinion: Natural disasters should be off-limits for political debate," June 4).

But it is not just that the climatic impact of their plans would be negligible as long as nations like China and India do not adopt similar measures. It is also that the science on which Boxer and Whitehouse base their activism is almost certainly wrong.

Studies show that strong to intense tornados in the U.S. have actually decreased markedly over the past 50 years, despite a warming climate. When the period from 1954 to 2003 was analyzed in a 2008 paper published by the American Geophysical Union, it was found that the most damaging tornados were about twice as frequent in the first half of the record as in the second half.

This is not surprising. Contrary to the assertions of activists, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events decrease as the planet warms. It is during cooler periods that such phenomena increase. Strong to violent tornadoes in the U.S. actually peaked during the 1970s when concerns about global cooling dominated.

Tom Harris

Ontario, Canada