IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis Tornadoes, Hail, Thunderstorms, Dust Storms and Other Severe Local Weather

Evidence for changes in the number or intensity of tornadoes relies entirely on local reports. In the USA, databases for tornado reporting are well established, although changes in procedures for evaluating the intensity of tornadoes introduced significant discontinuities in the record. In particular, the apparent decrease in strong tornadoes in the USA from the early period of the official record (1950s–1970s) to the more recent period is, in large part, a result of the way damage from the earlier events was evaluated. Trapp et al. (2005) also questioned the completeness of the tornado record and argued that about 12% of squall-line tornadoes remain unreported. In many European countries, the number of tornado reports has increased considerably over the last decade (Snow, 2003), leading to a much higher estimate of tornado activity (Dotzek, 2003). Bissolli et al. (2007) showed that the increase in Germany between 1950 and 2003 mainly concerns weak tornadoes (F0 and F1 on the Fujita scale), thus paralleling the evolution of tornado reports in the USA after 1950 (see, e.g., Dotzek et al., 2005) and making it likely that the increase in reports in Europe is at least dominated (if not solely caused) by enhanced detection and reporting efficiency. Doswell et al. (2005) highlighted the difficulties encountered when trying to find observational evidence for changes in extreme events at local scales connected to severe thunderstorms. In light of the very strong spatial variability of small-scale severe weather phenomena, the density of surface meteorological observing stations is too coarse to measure all such events. Moreover, homogeneity of existing station series is questionable. While remote sensing techniques allow detection of thunderstorms even in remote areas, they do not always uniquely identify severe weather events from these storms. Another approach links severe thunderstorm occurrence to larger-scale environmental conditions in places where the observations of events are fairly good and then consider the changes in the distribution of those environments (Brooks et al., 2003; Bissolli et al., 2007).

Although a decreasing trend in dust storms was observed from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s in northern China, the number of dust storm days increased from 1997 to 2002 (Li and Zhai, 2003; Zhou and Zhang, 2003). The decreasing trend appears linked to the reduced cyclone frequency and increasing winter (DJF) temperatures (Qian et al., 2002). The recent increase is associated with vegetation degradation and drought, plus increased surface wind speed (Wang and Zhai, 2004; Zou and Zhai, 2004).