Roger Pielke, Jr.
Ph.D. University of Colorado, 1994
Professor, Environmental Studies Program
Roger A. Pielke, Jr. joined the faculty of the University of Colorado in 2001. He is currently Professor in the Environmental Studies Program and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES). At CIRES Roger serves as the Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. He also served as the Director of Graduate Studies for the University's Graduate Program in Environmental Studies from 2002-2004. Roger's current areas of interest include understanding the relations of science and politics, technology policy in the atmospheric and related sciences, use and value of prediction in decision making, and policy education for scientists. In 2000, Roger received the Sigma Xi Distinguished Lectureship Award and in 2001, he received the Outstanding Graduate Advisor Award by students in the University of Colorado's Department of Political Science. Before joining the University of Colorado, from 1993-2001 Roger was a Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Current Research: Normalized tornado losses in the United States: 1959 - 2011
In 2011, thunderstorms in the United States resulted in 550 deaths from tornadoes and more than $28 billion in property damage, with tornadoes causing the vast majority of economic losses, according to data from NOAA. We published a key paper in 2012 that by using several methods, normalized U.S. tornado damage from 1950 to 2011. A normalization provides an estimate of the damage that would occur if past events occurred under a common base year’s societal conditions. This is the first paper to comprehensively“normalize” historical economic losses from U.S. tornadoes. Normalization methods have been widely applied to phenomena around the world, including U.S. hurricanes and Australian bushfires. We normalize for changes in inflation and wealth at the national level and changes in population, income, and housing units at the county level. Under several methods, there has been a sharp decline in tornado damage. This decline corresponds with a decline in the reported frequency of the most intense (and thus most damaging) tornadoes since 1950. However, quantification of trends in tornado incidence is made difficult due to discontinuities in the reporting of events over time. The normalized damage results suggest that some part of this decline may reflect actual changes in tornado incidence, beyond changes in reporting practices. The paper further finds:
• Of the 56,457 tornadoes in our data set, 33,746 caused some recorded damage.
• Overall, we find a decrease in damages since 1950.
• Even so, 2011 was one of the three most costly years in our data set.
• Since 1950, tornadoes resulted in about half the normalized damage as from hurricanes and about twice that of earthquakes.
• The strongest two categories of tornadoes (called EF4 and EF5) represent about 1 percent of all reported events but have caused almost 45 percent of all normalized damage.
• The most damage per square mile from 1950 to 2011 occurred in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
• The most damage overall from 1950 to 2011 occurred in Texas and Alabama.
• During the calendar year, 80 percent of damage occurs January through June.
• The most damaging months are April (31 percent), May (20 percent), and June (16 percent).