Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I blame global warming

So far, 2008 has been an achingly cold year in Anchorage. Near record low temperatures in January and significant snowfalls into April. Adding insult to frostbite, since the beginning of May, daily highs, with just a few -- as in three -- exceptions have been two to ten degrees below historical averages. The average number of summer days with temperatures exceeding 70 degrees is 15. So far this summer, two. That is the fewest on record.

Clearly, this is AGW's fault, since just as surely as weather warmer than average is standing proof, so is decided chilliness.

So far, so what.

This summer's undeniable chill, though, brought to mind this AP story of a month ago in the Anchorage Daily News. According to a leading ice scientist, [there's] a 50-50 chance that the North Pole will be ice-free this summer, which would be a first in recorded history.

The cause?
The explanation is a warming climate and a weather phenomenon, scientists said.

For the last couple of decades, there has been a steady melt of Arctic sea ice - which covers only the ocean and which thins during summer and refreezes in winter. In recent years, it has gradually become thinner because more of it has been melting as the Earth's temperature rises.

Then, this past winter, there was a natural weather shift called the Arctic Oscillation, sort of a cold weather cousin to El Nino. That oscillation caused a change in winds and ocean that accelerated a normal flushing of sea ice in the Arctic. That pushed the older thicker sea ice that had been over the North Pole south toward Greenland and eventually out of the Arctic, Serreze said. That left just a thin one-year layer of ice that previously covered part of Siberia.
There are a few things that should jump off the page to anyone even barely capable of critical reading:
  • 50-50 means the ice scientist is right, no matter what. Great gig if you can get it.

  • "Recorded history." Hmmm. Just what does that mean?

  • "Warming climate and a weather phenomena" conflates the two in such a way that it is impossible to determine the contribution of each.
Having been put to mind, there was nothing to do for it except Google. From which I learned a couple things:
  • Recorded history, in this instance, actually amounts to every bit of 133 years.

  • Arctic temperatures have risen 1.2oC over recorded history, or about 0.094 degrees per decade. Restrict history to the 20th century, though, and that increase amounts to all of 0.05 degrees per decade.

  • And, by the way, it was warmer in the 1930s and 40s than in recent decades, and there is a little matter of current and atmospheric pressure variations making untangling the causes of arctic ice melting nearly impossible.
Which, in turn, brings me to the real point: AP is guilty of agenda journalism, just as is the Anchorage Daily News in which this article appeared as part of the daily dose of AGW indoctrination.

Contrary to Harry Eagar, the newspaper business isn't failing because of the internet, at least directly, or bad management. It is failing because it has stopped doing what Harry says only newspapers can do: be the primary source for the facts of whatever matter is at hand.

Only a few minutes internet investigation revealed this story's shambolic nonsense. So, indirectly, I suppose, the internet is responsible for the demise of the news business. It is now a doddle to reveal otherwise steaming heaps of dung.

The alternative explanation, I suppose, is the cock-up theory of history: sheer, glassy-eyed professional incompetence.

Either way, replacing this story with an equivalent amount of blank newsprint, then using it to train the puppy, would have been a win-win.

31 Comments:

Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Well, it is July 24th and if the ice intends to melt it had better hurry up.

What is going on here? Can't the bloody scientific community even decide whether the damn ice is melting unusually or not? Are each and every one of us going to have to trek to the North Pole next summer to check it out for ourselves?

July 24, 2008 2:53 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Well, they're torn between accuracy and grant money.

July 24, 2008 6:49 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

The truly sad part of this is that if AGW turns out to be a massive hoax, it won't make any difference in the gullibility for the next massive hoax. That's what really bugs me.

July 24, 2008 6:50 AM  
Blogger David said...

I really love the point that AGW is proved by above average temperatures and AGW is proved by below average temperatures, and both are disasters. From which we can only conclude that the climate as about 1970 was the only possible climate for humans and no change should be allowed.

July 24, 2008 7:47 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

SH:

Do you think there is anything to my growing suspicion that the reason there is so much focus on polar ice has as much to do with the fact there is nobody up (and down) there to observe and verify what is being claimed as it does with heat sinks?

Not that I'm paranoid or anything. ("Attack of the Killer Climatologists!")

July 24, 2008 9:03 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I'll have more to say later, but start with a thought that, I think, offers a mirror to both Skipper's points (dubious widespread beliefs; bad reporting):

Laffer Curve.

There wasn't an Internet in those days, but I certainly don't recall that the people who disparage the MSM these days were complaining about the naive reporting on the Laffer Curve 25 years ago. They were promoting it.

It's all about oxen.

July 24, 2008 9:08 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Todays Anchorage Daily News carried a front page article about this being the coldest summer on record.

In the year I have been here, the ADN has prominently placed a global warming story at least seven days out of ten. If this summer had been its mirror image, it is dead certain the ADN would have trumpeted this as yet another sign of AGW.

They are apparently sentient enough to recognize no one is going to buy record cold as a reason to lie awake nights worrying about global warming.

To quell rumblings about this being the end of AGW, though, they firmly assert this cold summer is a consequence of La Nina.

Ahem.

AGW is, ostensibly anyway, the biggest story since, oh, the Black Death.

Yet it is clear that both the AP and ADN aren't really interested in reporting -- that would have been easy enough to do in this case -- heck, I did it, and I'm not an officially accredited reporter -- and an honest story would easily have been interesting enough.

I should have also noted, but forgot, that Polar Bears have been added to the endangered species list, despite their burgeoning numbers.

Why? Because of disappearing Arctic Ice (great link, BTW, Peter; I had no idea what the reality on the water is), caused by AGW.

Harry:

I remember the Laffer curve. There was plenty of skeptical reporting.

However, what the newspapers need to be doing isn't skeptical reporting, but honest reporting.

In this case, an honest report would have noted the fact that Arctic ice has been thinning, reported the meteorological and oceanic phenomena over the period, then, if possible, draw some conclusion.

Not possible, in this case.

Perhaps newspapers (among other MSM) have always pushed agendas. Now, however, it is easy to blow their cover.

July 24, 2008 10:07 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"Do you think there is anything to my growing suspicion that the reason there is so much focus on polar ice has as much to do with the fact there is nobody up (and down) there to observe and verify what is being claimed as it does with heat sinks?"

No, I think it's far more of a cherry picking thing. In any system as complex as a planetary climate, there will be many contradictory signals. The focus is on the Arctic ice because it happened to be going the "right" way. The growing ice pack in Antarctica is no easier to verify, but it's ignored because it's going the "wrong" way. Watch Arctic ice disappear from the focus the first year it doesn't signal global warmening.

July 24, 2008 11:09 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

Just as cold weather can be trumpeted as further proof of global warming by the faithful, so it seems that historically record numbers of polar bears proves they are endangered. But where are you Alaskans? GWB has lined up behind protecting the polar bears to the great consternation of sensible folks up here, including even leftist wildlife biologists. One has to assume he has been advised this is a no-cost symbolic sop to the environmental lobby, so what the heck. Washington is completely ignoring the threat of war with Canada over this and we would have thought you folks might have been a voice of sanity. What is the point of all those guns of yours if you just sit back and let them take away all your targets?

July 25, 2008 4:11 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Some days I think this issue is inducing global mental illness.

Nobel Prize-winning climate change scientist Gordon McBean told CTV's Canada AM on Friday that the federal government needs to have a co-ordinated national warning system for potentially hazardous weather patterns such as extreme hot or cold temperatures.

Just what we need--a new national service to tell Canadians when it is really, really cold out there. And what is the difference between a "co-ordinated national warning system" and the weather report?

July 25, 2008 8:30 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Mucho big bucks.

July 25, 2008 9:19 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'Perhaps newspapers (among other MSM) have always pushed agendas.'

Now you're getting warm.

Many have open agendas. Which change. The paper I worked for 1968-76 had a special reporter for race, and later he was turned into an environment reporter.

To say that papers have sgendas is not very helpful. Compare today's papers to those of 30 years ago, and you'd have to say they have adopted an agenda for French bicycling.

We go with the floe, so to speak.

The coverage of AGW is one of the low points in newspaper history -- but not the lowest, which was McCarthy, or even the second-lowest, which was Reagan's Bitburg speech -- so I'm not going to defend it very much.

Now, I'm just a provincial business reporter, but I did write several columns 20 years ago questioning the existence or reliability of historical climate data. My editor published all those.

It was the research community, not the reporting business, that failed.

It is obvious that I was right, but where were the qualified researchers to deeply analyze and quantify my superficial suspicions? Nowhere, pretty much.

There were Pat Michaels and the Idsos (who had their own axes to grind), and today there is the estimable Steve McIntyre.

But newspapers -- contra MSM haters -- follow and do not lead. If there are fewer skeptical AGW stories today than there used to be (which is the case), it's because newspapers are accurately reporting the noise levels of the professionals (combined with the noise levels of politicians, etc.)

My editor stopped publishing my AGW stuff about 10 years ago. He did not explain why, but I suppose he was embarrassed. "Everyone knew" by then that AGW was real, so why was he giving forum to a crackpot like Eagar?

Now, though, when they asked me to blog, my question was, can I write about AGW, and they said yes. (And, Tricia, bless her, said, "Do they know what a crackpot you are?")

All that said, the Anchorage Daily News ought to own the Arctic ice story, as apparently it does not.

(Maui's a funny place. Last year, while covering a lawsuit about ferries, I interviewed, within 72 hours, the general commanding the Afghan army's legal division and a
Canadian Arctic researcher. The story wasn't about Arctic ice, but since I had him in front of me, I asked him about it. "There's a lot less ice up there than there used to be" is the short version.)

July 25, 2008 1:28 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I can see your point, but the real problem with bias isn't positive reporting, but lack of skepticism. When some guy claimed AGW was bogus, Old Media would dig in to his life and find all of his connections and conflicts of interest. When some guy claimed AGW was real, no investigation, it was just taken on faith. It is this pattern, far more so than open advocacy, that's the problem.

That, plus the infantile crushes, such as we see for Obama presently. It's worse, but not that much different, from the crush on Bill Clinton when he was first around. When was the last time Old Media had a crush on a right winger?

July 25, 2008 6:35 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

What is the point of all those guns of yours if you just sit back and let them take away all your targets?


LOL Peter! I'll be right there with my trusty Lee Enfield. You supply the booze, I'll bring the ammo.

July 25, 2008 6:39 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

When some guy claimed AGW was bogus, Old Media would dig in to his life and find all of his connections and conflicts of interest. When some guy claimed AGW was real, no investigation, it was just taken on faith.

Good point sh. Why aren't motives or conflicts of interest examined on both sides of the debate? I wrote about this on Chris Dornan's blog in June:

Monbiot should be careful about using an affinity of narrative to explain the global warming skeptics, because the same affinity can be used to explain the gw alarmists. Man-made global warming is the perfect, apolcalyptic morality tale. Monbiot also makes the mistake of questioning the motives of every scientists he disagrees with, while putting those who agree with him under no such scrutiny. Why not question the motives of scientists who work for governmental agencies, agencies that stand to increase in power and influence, and butgetwise, under any anti global warming regulatory scheme? When facts are not with you, question motives.

July 26, 2008 5:24 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry:

No doubt the MSM have always pushed agendas.

Until Google, though, busting those agendas has been much more difficult.

Newspapers accurately reporting the noise levels of professionals doesn't hack it as a reason. Using the term "recorded history" in this story is so wrong it utterly defies adequate description. Failing to do even the most cursory fact checking is just as bad. Heck, one would think a reporter whose shoulders are even scarcely capable of shouldering the burden of that term would have had the sense to look for, and print, just how much warming there has been in the Arctic. It is worse, though, to think the reporter did, but wrote the story anyway.

The utter disregard for the terms used in this story, or the complete absence of evidence for the headline conclusion means that reporters in their thousands are either drool-bucket stupid or so analytically challenged as to be unable to parse a simple if - then statement.

Either way, why should I, or anyone, pay any attention to what the MSM has to say?

To this AGM agenda I would add the war in Iraq. Before the surge, the paper was filled with stories on the war. Since December, and particularly over the last couple months, coverage has nearly vanished.

Then there is the coverage of The One that is even less critical than my Golden Retriever is of me.

If it wasn't for local news, I wouldn't bother getting a newspaper. I don't know how many other papers have done this, but the Anchorage Daily News section A is now almost exclusively local. National / International has been relegated to B.

Duck:

Extremely well said.

July 26, 2008 12:00 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'When was the last time Old Media had a crush on a right winger?'

1980-88?

1950-54?

I keep seeing claims (almost daily at Instapundit) that newspapers are not covering the turnaround in Iraq. I guess Reynolds et al can do that because they don't read th papers.

My paper has been running such stories frequently on page one.

If the Anchorage paper is concentrating on local news, that's smart. If it doesn't consider Arctic ice local, that's dumb.

July 26, 2008 12:43 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I think it is smart to move local to the front, too.

The Arctic Ice story was page one, above the fold.

I remember 1980-88 reasonably well, and I don't think it can possibly said the MSM had a crush on Reagan.

However, the absence of overt antagonism might seem like one in comparison.

July 26, 2008 1:56 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Eagar;

No. Either not a crush, or not a righ winger.

July 26, 2008 3:35 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Reagan and McCarthy weren't right-wingers?

Both'll do till the real thing comes along.

Setting aside the opinion pages, I cannot think of anything the newspaper reporters said about Reagan that was one-tenth as bitter as what they said routinely about Clinton. All I remember is blather about the great communicator -- you know, thy guy who went to Bitburg to whitewash German atrocities, the one who sat out World War II humping starlets in Culver City.

July 26, 2008 5:58 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 26, 2008 5:58 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 26, 2008 5:58 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

FYI: Harry's posts I deleted were duplicates.

July 26, 2008 7:11 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Blogger holds many mysteries for me. I had put a comma where a dot should be in my email address. Got an error message.

Yet apparently the posts were posted anyhow.

July 27, 2008 1:55 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I cannot think of anything the newspaper reporters said about Reagan that was one-tenth as bitter as what they said routinely about Clinton.

What would you have liked, Harry? A piece condemning Reagan for destroying an important tourist attraction like the Berlin Wall balanced by a celebration of how Clinton liberated White House interns from the cruel fetters of traditional Christian morality?

July 27, 2008 4:15 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

How many Nina Burleigh's did Reagan get?

July 27, 2008 7:05 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

A little more disrespect for an administration of astrologers, Nazi whitewashers and ignorant hicks from east Texas would have suited me fine.

There's a long, sordid history of lady reporters hopping into bed with powerful politicians, athletes etc. It isn't specific to reporters, of course. All ladies do it.

There is no history, that I know of, of gentlemen reporters doing the same with lady politicians and athletes etc., and not only because there have been fewer such situations.

July 27, 2008 11:45 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"an administration of astrologers, Nazi whitewashers and ignorant hicks from east Texas"

See, that's exactly the kind of love and respect for Reagan that I remember from the 80s.

July 27, 2008 12:48 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

But honest and accurate

July 27, 2008 9:02 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I feel sorry for your romantic interests if you consider that kind of thing a "crush".

July 28, 2008 8:21 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I had to look up Nina Burleigh. She wasn't MSM. Free-lancer.

July 28, 2008 9:28 AM  

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