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[Source: The US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)]

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Is there a link between this year’s violent weather and global warming?

Short answer: it’s complicated. But it’s a question worth asking when April set records for the most tornadoes in a month and in 24 hours. One expert puts it this way:

The atmosphere was explosively unstable with summerlike heat and humidity, interacting with a classic wind shear setup as a strong jet stream and upper-level trough crashed overhead….

The atmosphere is extraordinarily complex, and ultimately what’s happened the past month is probably a combination of influences, including La Nina, other natural variability, and anthropogenic global warming.

When looking at this year’s exteme tornado events, Jeff Masters puts it in context with the many other historic weather catastrophes that have been happening around the world in the last year.

In my thirty years as a meteorologist, I’ve never seen global weather patterns as strange as those we had in 2010. The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability. Natural variability probably did play a significant role in the wild weather of 2010, and 2011 will likely not be nearly as extreme. However, I suspect that crazy weather years like 2010 will become the norm a decade from now, as the climate continues to adjust to the steady build-up of heat-trapping gases we are pumping into the air. Forty years from now, the crazy weather of 2010 will seem pretty tame. We’ve bequeathed to our children a future with a radically changed climate that will regularly bring unprecedented weather events–many of them extremely destructive–to every corner of the globe. This year’s wild ride was just the beginning.

Read the rest of the excellent article at Climate Progress.

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