Is weather becoming more severe?

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Dear Tom,
It seems as if the weather is becoming more severe. Is there any truth to this observation?
Teresa Vandermoldt, Chicago
Dear Teresa,
There is no definitive answer to this question because it cuts across so many issues. The number of reported severe weather occurrences is increasing, but many non-meteorological factors are involved. Technological advances (like radar), heightened public awareness of severe weather, better communication and a vastly larger world population all contribute to increases in reported severe weather events. Another difficulty: Documented severe weather climatology covers only about 70 years, too limited a time to draw conclusions. Meteorological aspects of the question — global warming and climate change — are still-unresolved, but it is speculated that they might contribute to greater storm intensity.

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