Tying climate change to the recent tragic weather events in the South and the Midwest is risky because of the perception one is trying to capitalize politically on difficulties that have struck a massive number of people.
However, on the Fox News Channel on Saturday afternoon, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” didn’t refrain from doing so. Although he said it is difficult to tie this recent run of severe spring weather to climate change, he managed to do so.
“Well, it is very difficult to connect tornado to climate change,” Nye said. “They are small evens relative to the other big picture. But i will tell you this – last 11 years are the warmest 11 years on record, since the 1800s. And there is 4 percent more water vapor in the atmosphere than has been in the past. Four percent doesn’t sound like a lot but it is a huge amount. And if you think of the Earth as a disk in space just receiving sunlight, and there are on the other of one and half billion BTU [British thermal unit]-worth of heat than there used to be. When you get that much extra heat and water vapor in the air, you are going to have more storms.”
Nye explained this extra water vapor in the atmosphere leads to more storms.
“Notice that the floods that are probably connected to the tornadoes,” he said. “These floods – there is no Katrina or Rita, it just rain rained. When water vapor changed from a liquid to a vapor it gives up heat high in the atmosphere, or medium height in the atmosphere. And that heat up there makes it churn up more and that leads to more storms. Now, people have talked about this for years and everybody, this is serious business. The tornado is very difficult to mathematically connect to climate change. But the rains and extra warmth in the atmosphere, the extra water in the atmosphere, those are the facts. That’s the real deal.”
And Nye, as a “patriot” lobbied the United States to lead on this issue, or perhaps face more tornadoes.
“You know, we are patriots, we are from the U.S. – I am,” he said. “And you would like the U.S. to be the leader in addressing this problem. We would like to be out in front in trying to deal with whatever it is that is holding in the heat and creating all of the extra water vapor in the atmosphere. Tornadoes are almost certainly a consequence.”
Nye explained the unique characteristics of North America and particularly the United States make it more susceptible to tornadic activity.
“Well, there is not that many other countries that have the configuration of North America to make the tornadoes,” Nye said. “And the word hurricane is a word coined in the Caribbean. This is a unique area in that regard. We have the Gulf of Mexico and we have this access of cold air from Canada or from the Arctic. And these two things conspire to move the jet stream, and then that helps to carry the extra water vapor over the heart of North America. So, it is unique place. You don’t have tornado in Norway. The weather is set up differently. But here in the U.S., it is a serious problem.”