NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Gore's Lore On Tornado Alley

July 27, 1998

Vice President Al Gore became the first person to suggest global warming will cause more tornadoes, says the World Climate Report. In a June 8 While House press release, the vice president said, "Tornadoes have killed 122 people this year, matching the annual record set in 1984." He blamed the high number of deaths on global warming.

Experts say there are thousands of tornadoes each year in the United States alone, and the U.S. has more tornadoes than any other country. But tornadoes occur and disappear rapidly and repeatedly, often in remote locations, so that recording their incidence is problematic.

Furthermore, the incidence of death from tornadoes is due to sheer chance, rather than their frequency or severity -- since fatalities in one trailer park, for example, can totally skew the numbers. In fact, say climatologists, neither 1984 nor 1998 was a record year for U.S. tornado deaths, and there is no discernible trend in annual tornado deaths based on government storm data statistics.

  • More than 500 tornado-related deaths were recorded in 1953.
  • Nine years between 1953 and 1996 had more than 100 tornado fatalities.
  • The vast majority of strong tornadoes occur in spring and early summer -- thus historically 85 percent of tornado deaths occur before July 1.
  • And there were more than 122 deaths in the first half of the year in 1953, 1957, 1965, 1968, 1971 and 1974.

Unfortunately, say observers, Gore's misrepresentation of tornado records is being circulated second-hand; for example, it was repeated in a July 15, 1998, letter to his colleagues by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

Source: "Twisting the Truth: Tornado or Smokescreen?" World Climate Report, July 27, 1998.


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