Global warming did not cause April’s record tornadic outbreak

Print Article

It’s the record flooding along the Mississippi River that’s getting national attention in early May.

But, from 8 a.m. on April 25 through 8 a.m. on April 28, the big story weatherwise across the country was the 362 confirmed tornadoes, the largest outbreak ever for any 72-hour period in recorded history. Nearly 330 people were killed in seven states, 236 persons in Alabama alone. Thousands were injured. Property damage may exceed $2 billion.

There were 226 ‘twisters’ observed in a single day on April 27, likewise a new all-time record. This broke the previous mark of 148 tornadoes on April 3, 1974.

As of Thursday, May 5, the latest Weather Service estimate for the total number of tornadoes counted this past April in the U.S. was a staggering 613 ‘twisters.’ The previous record was 267 tornadoes in April of 1974. The average number of tornadoes sighted in April since 1880 has been 161.

Prior to April of 2011's record tornadic outbreak, the old record for any month since 1880 was 542 tornadoes observed in May of 2003.

It’s quite possible that 2011 will eventually go into the record books as the year with the most tornadoes ever sighted. As of this writing, we had counted 881 ‘twisters’ already this 2011 season across the country. The all-time record was 1817 tornadoes in 2004.

Scientists once again are blaming GLOBAL WARMING for this spring’s record outbreak of tornadoes. As my friend, correspondent Cecil Hathaway says: "Apparently, global warming is responsible for everything bad that happens. And, it’s all being caused by us human beings."

But, we’re not seeing more tornadoes due to global warming. As Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D., Climatologist, and the Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville explains: "Contrasting air masses of widely-varying temperatures is the key. Active tornado seasons in the U.S. are always the result of UNUSUALLY COLD air pushing much farther south than normal through the Midwest into Dixie."

He goes on to add: "For example, the ‘poster child’ for active tornado seasons was the so-called ‘Super Outbreak’ in April of 1974, which took place during a period of widespread global cooling. (Some thought that we were entering a new ‘Little Ice Age.’)"

During this ‘La Nina’ spring, we’ve seen a much cooler and wetter than normal period that has significantly delayed the planting of corn east of the Mississippi River in the Midwest. There is no doubt that these La Nina years favor far more tornadoes than usual.

Despite the recent warming in the Arctic regions, the average global temperature, as I reported last week in ‘Gems,’ has plummeted by nearly a full degree Fahrenheit in just the past year.

Here is what Dr. Spencer says about this spring’s weather;

"The extra moisture from the Gulf of Mexico this spring is not that important. It’s the cold ‘wind-shear factor’ that has caused the record outbreak of tornadoes. If global warming were the cause, there would be more tornadoes in Canada than Alabama. And, that’s not happening."

Dr. Spencer goes on to add: "Anyone who claims that more tornadoes are linked to global warming is either misinformed, pandering, or delusional."

Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D. is a climatologist and a Principal Research Scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville, as well as the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSE-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has served as a senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

He is known for his satellite-based temperature monitoring work, for which he was awarded the American Meteorological Society’s Special Award. Spencer’s research suggests that global warming is mostly natural, and that the climate system is quite insensitive to humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions and aerosol pollution and suggests that natural, chaotic variations in low cloud cover may account for most observed warming.

NOTE: I’ve read Dr. Spencer’s book, "Climate Confusion." One can order a copy at:

I enjoyed it!


Following the third-coldest, the third-snowiest and the third-wettest April since at least 1895 in Coeur d’Alene, the first several days of May, as of this Thursday, Cinco de Mayo writing, have been quite nice with only scattered sprinkles and highs in the low to mid 60s.

The valley’s snowpack is finally gone, and no new snows are expected in the next several months in the lowlands despite a few snow showers above 4,500 feet in the nearby mountains early this next week.

We are hoping and praying that May will be a drier-than-normal month as ‘La Nina’ continues to shrink in size and weaken in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. We certainly don’t need heavy downpours, which would undoubtedly lead to rather extensive flooding in North Idaho later this month into early June, as the heavier-than-usual mountain snowpack melts quickly with the warmer days and the nights above the freezing mark.

Longer-term, Randy Mann and I are still hopeful that we’ll see a warm and dry summer season in 2011 as ‘La Nina’ finally dies off in the tepid waters of the Pacific.

A very strong stationary ridge of high pressure could begin in June lasting through July, August and at least early September. This should mean lots of ‘Sholeh Days’ this summer with afternoon highs near or above 90 degrees. At least three or four days may see afternoon maximum readings near or above the century mark in the Inland Empire.

But, if we do see unusually hot, dry and windy weather this summer, it could spell BIG TROUBLE for this region’s parched grasslands and forests. Fires could rage over wide areas of the Far West later in the season. Stay tuned.

Cliff Harris is a climatologist who writes a weekly column for The Press. His opinions are his own. E-mail

Print Article

Read More Randy Mann

From fire to snow across parts of the North Country

October 16, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Coeur d'Alene Press Our mid-October pattern change has arrived across the Inland Northwest. Temperatures last week dropped to below normal levels along with rain and even a mix of snow in the lower elevations. Not very ...


Read More

Trick or treat: Chilly and windy weather is here

October 09, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press With the month of October upon us, I’m getting many comments about the “change in the air.” My friend Julie said that, “it’s here,” referring to the recent chilly mornings. Ron, another good friend, ...


Read More

Looks like a new, cooler ‘La Nina’

October 02, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press For much of this year, we have been in-between an El Nino and La Nina sea-surface temperature event called “La Nada.” El Nino is the abnormal warming while La Nina is the abnormal cooling of ocean wa...


Read More

Freezing temperatures expected in Coeur d’Alene in October

September 25, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press I know it’s sounding like a broken record, but the extremes just keep on coming. An unprecedented third Category 4 hurricane hit the U.S. Mainland and territory, Puerto Rico, for the 2017 season. As ...


Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2017 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy