It's almost a miracle that so few died in this week's catastrophe in an Oklahoma City suburb. In comparison, 158 were killed by a similar twister two years ago in Joplin, Mo. Perhaps better warnings and shelters helped tornado-prone Oklahoma escape the worst -- for which America is grateful.
Meanwhile, politics is engulfing the tragedy. Debate erupted between Washington Republicans -- who generally defend polluting industries and deny that manmade "greenhouse gases" are causing global warming that produces ever-worse storms and weather calamities -- and Democrats who hold opposing views.
Ironically, most of Oklahoma's Republicans in Congress voted against federal aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy last year. Now we presume they will clamor for all the U.S. disaster relief that Oklahoma can get.
Each week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., gives a brief floor speech on climate danger. When he delivered a Monday talk -- denouncing Republicans for embracing polluters who inflict terrible storm losses on America -- he didn't know that the Oklahoma nightmare was striking as he spoke.
"We feel the dark hand of the polluters tapping so many shoulders," he said. Whitehouse said Senate Republicans may wonder why he, a Democrat, should "care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves?" Then he answered:
"I'll tell you why. We are stuck in this together. When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires torch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover."
Swiftly, conservatives across America railed that Whitehouse had used the Oklahoma disaster to score political points -- not realizing that the Democratic senator was unaware of the disaster as he spoke.
Regardless, this new horror should intensify scientific efforts to learn conclusively whether man-caused carbon fumes in the atmosphere are triggering worse weather perils that kill Americans and cost taxpayers billions.
So far, the world science community is nearly unanimous in agreeing that Earth's surface is getting hotter, which causes more air turbulence and thunderstorm violence. However, researchers generally say the heat-up reduces wind shear, an ingredient needed for tornados. So an answer isn't yet clear.
We trust science will eventually provide a conclusion. But in the meantime, debating whether any individual storm was exacerbated by global warming is not really productive.
"It's not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability," Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said in the New York Times back in 2010. "Nowadays, there's always an element of both."