What Causes Severe Weather?

I have discussed numerous times that severe weather is caused by differences in energy, normally across frontal boundaries. April has been characterized by very cold temperatures in half the US, and very warm temperatures in the other half. As cold air from the north pushes under warm moist air in the south, we get violent weather in the south.


According to the Weather Channel, April has surpassed 1974 in terms of numbers of tornadoes. Part of this is due to better detection, but mainly it is due to strong contrasts in temperature.

Is this due to global warming? Of course not. If every place was warm there would be very little weather – like Hawaii. The reason for the stormy weather is La Nina. This obvious fact won’t stop the global warming community from piling on the BS even deeper ….

About stevengoddard

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24 Responses to What Causes Severe Weather?

  1. Dan says:

    Climate change doesn’t mean a uniform increase in temperature and temperature isn’t the first order effect. If we increase CO2, then we expect a local increase in temperature. This in turn means more evaporation, and more cloud cover. This negative feedback counters the temperature increase. To first order, increases in CO2 don’t increase temperature as much as increase the speed of water through the atmosphere. This means more powerful storms.

    But again, any armchair analysis like this doesn’t prove a thing.

    • Global temperatures measured by satellites have been below the 30 year mean this year.

    • Mike Davis says:

      What are you taking?
      A quiet sun would lead to less energy entering the system resulting in colder polar regions. The air masses from the polar regions move to the lower latitudes and conflict with the warm air masses. As Steven said the difference between the warm air mass and the cold air mass determines the energy available for the event.
      A warming world due to an imagined increase in Green House Gasses would lead to less frequent storms and milder weather as temperatures would become more equal with higher moisture content in the atmosphere. The COLD DRY air is what causes the condensation of the moisture in the atmosphere and extreme weather events like tornadoes.
      What flavor of Kool-Aide are you drinking?

    • Justa Joe says:

      Is AGW a global phenomenon or a local phenomenon? In the case that it is local as you suggest shouldn’t a place of high population density, for example, the NYC metro area beas hot as hell even excluding UHI?

    • Paul H says:


      Please provide evidence that the number of storms and other extreme events has increased in recent years. All indications suggest that this has not happened.


    • Latitude says:

      We need to send out a search party for R. Gates….
      ….he’s been missing πŸ˜‰

    • suyts says:

      Fortunately, we haven’t seen more powerful storms….. only more storms due to the dynamics described by Steve.

  2. Al Gored says:

    “If we increase CO2, then we expect a local increase in temperature.”

    LOL. Thanks for a great laugh.

  3. Andy Weiss says:

    We’ve been thru this song and dance many times, but it’s worth repeating for those who think weather is more extreme or storms are worse.

    Deadliest US Hurricane: 1900
    Strongest US Hurricane: 1935
    Deadliest US Tornado: 1925
    Deadliest US Flood: 1889
    Deadliest US Fire: 1871
    Deadliest US Blizzard: 1888
    Deadliest (and most extreme) Heatwave: 1936
    Worst US Drought: 1934
    Worst US Coldwave: 1899

    • Dan says:

      These stats underscore how difficult it is to measure increased intensity of atmospheric events. Deadliest event is related not only to the event itself, but how people respond (better buildings, technology, etc.) as well as how many people are in the area. Frequency of events depends on a consistent level of reporting. Also, statistics that depend on counting single events such as this are particularly poor at generating a reliable trend unless there are hundreds to draw on.

      • Mike Davis says:

        Which means that due to lack of reliable evidence there is no Statistically significant trend in weather patterns as they remain variable!

  4. Bigfoot says:

    Just a useless but interesting observation:

    My next door neighbour works in Norman Wells NWT. Three weeks on, one week off. He got home yesterday, happy to see the grass (which, where I am, isn’t green yet and was only exposed in the last week from snow cover.)
    He observed that while sunset is now about 12:30 am and sunrise is 6:30 am, the ice is still 50 inches thick on the Mackenzie river, and they are still driving on ice roads between the islands where the oil rigs are. Snow drifts are still 15 feet high and it has been possibly a record cold winter.

    In the meantime, some of the farmers around here are concerned they won’t get a crop in the ground because there is still snow on the fields and the soil is cold. There just won’t be enough time this year for the crops to grow. More barley than wheat will be planted because it has a shorter growing season. If planting happens at all.

    Just observing the weather of course, and not the climate!

  5. suyts says:

    But speaking of these $@#%^%!@# storms……. do you realize after WinXP and 2003 that windows took out the Win Terminal program? #$#%^@!@!@# Server 2008.

    Oddly enough, the “smart grid” I’m operating uses the archaic serial protocols to communicate with the various devices out there. I’ve got a server with a comm port…….. it’ll send data, but I don’t have anything to trouble shoot with. Q$@#%^%$@ I’m in the middle of changing to serial over TCP/IP, but I’m not done!!!! Monthly bill is figured in 5 days!!!!! …….no pressure.

    My rant for the day.

  6. Andy Weiss says:

    Warnings are better, contruction is probably better, but that isn’t certain. What is certain is that these events took place when we had much less population and fewer mobile homes that are death traps in tornadoes. So you can argue the death toll then vs. now from both sides.

    Most of these events were so much extreme than anything recently that it makes the “storms are worse now than ever” arguement sound pretty hollow.

  7. Brego says:

    “As cold air from the north overrides warm moist air in the south, we get violent weather in the south.”

    Please, Steve, this is getting embarrassing as you have made this mistake before.

    When cold and warm air masses come together, the cold air mass slides UNDER the warmer air mass forcing it to rise and cool adiabatically. It is this rapid, forced adiabatic cooling of the water in the warmer air mass that provides the energy that powers the storms.

    cold front

    warm front

    Cold air masses do not “override” warmer air masses. (Perhaps it was just poor phraseology on your part, but it is an important point.)

  8. Curt says:

    The funny thing is that basic GHG theory says that the enhanced greenhouse effect should be greater in colder areas where there is less water vapor in the air, so an incremental increase in CO2 should lead to greater increase in infrared absorption.

    Because, as our host as noted, winds are fundamentally driven by temperature differentials (or to be more precise, ratios), this would tend to decrease winds and storms. If Al Gore were really interested in the science, rather than scaring people, he would point to the decrease in severe tornados over the last century as evidence for AGW.

  9. Mary says:

    This does not help at all!

  10. Brittney says:

    these weather changes day and night so you always better keep a umberrala in your purse or backpack

  11. jeff says:

    I would like some thoughts on whether satellites in space could be causing severe weather in the USA or anywhere in the world?

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