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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published December 06 2013

Weather Talk: Op-ed piece on tornado data use draws attention

Six well-known tornado meteorologists wrote an op-ed piece this week for livescience.com that has gotten quite a bit of attention across the meteorological and climatological communities.

The piece states that some high-profile scientists are misleading the American public about what is and is not known about global warming and tornadoes. Specifically, the debate is over claims that tornado frequency across the U.S. is increasing or decreasing due to climate change.

The authors are correct to point out that tornado frequency data is unreliable because tornado reporting has not been consistent over time. Fifty years ago, many tornadoes in open country went unreported. Today, most tornadoes are carefully observed by trained storm spotters and tornado chasers.

The op-ed piece says nothing about whether tornadoes will be more likely or less likely in the future. Rather, the authors make the case that tornado data should not be used to make such a claim.

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