Is our weather really getting worse? We’ve seen the destruction from flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons the world-over, and that has led many people to proclaim that our weather is getting more extreme.
But one local atmospheric scientist says there’s nothing to suggest that the weather, at least in the Pacific Northwest, is getting any worse.
University of Washington’s Cliff Mass had seen one too many weather stories proclaiming that our region’s weather was getting more severe so he decided to actually look at the data, to see if he could find any trends or patterns to back that up.
“First we looked at the winds to see if the winds were increasing in places like Sea-Tac or Astoria or other places, and I found that they aren’t increasing,” Mass said.
“Then I took a look at pressure. Stronger storms would be associated with lower pressure in the middle of the storms. We looked at the trend from roughly 1950 to now to see whether the storms are getting deeper, lower pressure, and they’re not.”
So what is fueling all these stories proclaiming the weather is getting more severe than ever?
“The media keeps on hyping-up stories about all these terrible storms and how they may be associated with global warming, but I think a lot of it is the fact that the media loves to play up big storms,” Mass said.
He also believes many global warming advocacy groups might be using these storms to push their agenda.
“I think they see this as a way to motivate people by trying to kind of scare them to suggest that bad things are happening right now,” he said.
Mass believes climate change will impact the weather patterns in the Pacific Northwest, eventually, but he said it’s not happening now.
“Most of those implications will be later in the century so things are going to get much worse, but right now, things haven’t changed that much.”
Mass said the next time you see or read a story that suggests our weather is getting worse, be sure to pay attention to who’s behind it.
“When you see people who are not meteorologists, who are not atmospheric scientists, who are putting out these claims, you have to be very careful before you believe them.”
Mass said there is no evidence that storms in the Northwest are getting stronger. The biggest wind storm in history in our area continues to be the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, with other big events in 1880, 1921, 1934 and 1951.