News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oops, NY Times changes opening sentence of front page "2014 hottest" article to correct scientifically misleading term, 'earth's recorded history.' Waits til paragraph #10 to mention the 'increase' was well within margin of error, doesn't state margin of error is 5 times greater than alleged 'increase.' 'Stubbornly flat' global temperature plateau continues for 16+ years-Tracinski, Federalist

1/19/15, "The Most Dishonest Year on Record," The Federalist, Robert Tracinski

"Last week, according to our crackerjack mainstream media, NASA announced that 2014 was the hottest year, like, ever.

No, really. The New York Times began its report with: “Last year was the hottest in earth’s recorded history.”

If you follow the link I gave to the New York Times piece, you will see that this opening sentence has since been rewritten, for reasons which will soon become clear. But the Times wasn’t the only paper to start with that claim, and most of the headlines are still up. The Washington Post has: 2014 Was the Hottest Year in Recorded History.” The Boston Globe: 2014 Was Earth’s Hottest Year in Recorded History.” And so on.
You can see how misleading this is. When you read the phrase “in recorded history,” you think we’re talking about a really long time—the time dating back to the first historical records in Sumeria, circa 3500 BC. (That’s what you’ll find if you look up the phrase recorded history.”) That’s a time frame of 5,000 to 6,000 years. But in the case of the temperature record, it actually means only 135 years. 

Accurate, systematic, global thermometer measurements of surface temperatures go back only to 1880. That’s why the Times report, presumably after getting whacked for a wildly misleading opening sentence, changed it to: “Last year was the hottest on earth since record-keeping began in 1880.” Which is a whole lot less impressive.
That “recorded history” gaffe is even worse when you consider that during “recorded history,” in the 5,000-year sense of the phrase, there’s good evidence that the Earth has been warmer than it is today.
We don’t have thermometer measurements going back that far, but scientists can use “proxies”—things they can measure that tend to vary with temperature, such as the composition of ancient deposits of seashells, or the thickness of the rings in ancient, slow-growing trees—to get very rough estimates. These have usually shown warmer temperatures during Roman times and the Middle Ages, when “recorded history” describes wine grapes growing in Northern England and Newfoundland.

There have been a few attempts to write these warm periods out of existence—one of them being Michael Mann’s infamous “hockey stick” graph, which implausibly asserts that global temperatures remained totally flat in every century except the 20th—but these claims have been controversial to say the least.
That’s why the implication that this is the warmest year ever in all of human history should never have gotten by a reporter who knows the first thing about the science on this issue. It implies a claim that we’re pretty sure just isn’t true.
Now let’s move on to the corrected statement, that this is the hottest year since the thermometer record began in 1880. But this a very short time for gathering data about the climate and distinguishing new trends from natural variation. For example, about half of the warming that occurs in that time happens prior to 1940, [*] before it could have been caused by human activity. This warming was probably a natural rebound from the Little Ice Age, a cool period that ended in the middle of the 19th century.
More broadly, all changes in temperature that we observe today are relatively small variations within a much larger trend on a geological time scale. We know that the earth is going through a series of freezing and warming cycles on a scale of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. And it has mostly been freezing. We’re fortunate enough to live in a cozy, warm “interglacial” period between ice ages. So we’re all staring down the barrel of the next ice age, yet we’re spending our time worrying about global warming.
But let’s say we take this hyperventilation about a few relatively warm decades seriously. Even by that standard, this latest claim is ridiculously over-hyped.
If 2014 is supposed to be “hotter” than previous years, it’s important to ask: by how much?

You can spend a long time searching through press reports to get an actual number on this—which is a scandal unto itself. Just saying one year was “hotter” or “the hottest” is a vague qualitative description. It isn’t science. Science runs on numbers. You haven’t said anything that is scientifically meaningful until you state how much warmer this year was compared to previous years—and until you give the margin of error of that measurement.
The original NASA press release did not give those figures--and most press reports just ran with it anyway. This in itself says a lot. When it comes to global warming, “journalism” has come to mean: “copying press releases from government agencies.”.
But a few folks decided to do some actual journalism, and Britain’s Daily Mail reports that
the NASA press release failed to mention…that the alleged ‘record’ amounted to an increase over 2010, the previous ‘warmest year’, of just two-hundredths of a degree—or 0.02C. The margin of error is said by scientists to be approximately 0.1C—several times as much.
Pause for a moment to digest that. The margin of error was plus or minus one tenth of a degree. The difference supposedly being measured here is two hundredths of a degree—five times smaller than the margin of error. The Daily Mail continues:
As a result, GISS’s director Gavin Schmidt has now admitted NASA thinks the likelihood that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880 is just 38 per cent. However, when asked by this newspaper whether he regretted that the news release did not mention this, he did not respond.
This is not exactly a high point in the employment of the scientific method.
If we take into account this margin of error, the most we can say is that 2014 was, so far as we know, just as warm as 2005 and 2010. There is no significant difference between these years. And that gives the lie to claims of runaway global warming. As the redoubtable Judith Curry recently pointed out:
The real issue that is of concern to me is the growing divergence between the observed global temperature anomalies and what was predicted by climate models. Even if 2014 is somehow unambiguously the warmest year on record, this won’t do much to alleviate the growing discrepancy between climate model predictions and the observations.
She links to this graph which shows that observed temperatures are falling at or below the low end of the range predicted by the climate models. With every year that passes, the models predict a greater and greater increase in temperaturebut the actual observations remain stubbornly flat. Curry concludes that “ranking 1998, 2005, 2010, and 2014 as the ‘warmest years’ seems very consistent with a plateau in surface temperatures since 1998.

So allow me to suggest a more accurate first sentence to sum up this story: “In the tiny little blip of geological time for which we have accurate surface temperature records, last year was pretty much the same as 2005 and 2010, continuing a plateau of global temperatures that has lasted nearly 20 years.

What remains of the original description of this news? Nothing but bluff, spin, and the uncritical press-release journalism that dominates mainstream reporting on the climate. It may or may not be the hottest year ever, but this is definitely in the running for the most dishonest year on record." via Lucianne


NY Times page one "hottest" article headline and two versions of opening sentences referenced above:

1/16/15, "2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics," NY Times, Justin Gillis

Per The Federalist, original opening sentence of front page article by Gillis:

“Last year was the hottest in earth's recorded history.”

(The Gillis article appeared on "page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: 2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics.")

Revised opening sentence of NY Times 2014 "hottest" front page article originally published 1/17/15:

"Last year was the hottest on earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and undermining claims by climate change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped."...


From Dr. Judith Curry article linked above:

12/9/14, "Spinning the 'warmest year,'" Judith Curry, Climate, Etc. 

"The real issue that is of concern to me is the growing divergence between the the observed global temperature anomalies and what was predicted by climate models. Even if 2014 is somehow unambiguously the warmest year on record, this won’t do much to alleviate the growing discrepancy between climate model predictions and the observations.

If it does turn out to be the hottest does that indicate the pause is over?

One year won’t really make a difference, unless it is extremely warm. And then 2015 would need to be even warmer than 2014. So declaring the pause to be ‘over’ will require continued warming. Again, the pause itself is not of such great significance; rather it is the growing divergence between climate model predictions and the observations – one warm year isn’t going to really change this."...

Added, re NY Times: As of 9pm Jan. 19, 2015, NY Times 'hottest' article makes no mention that any change has been made in the text. 

As a point of interest, the Times does cite the authority of non-scientist billionaire and CO2 profiteer Mike Bloomberg in the last paragraph:

NY Times: "“The steady and now record-breaking rise in average global temperatures is not an issue for another day,” Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who is spending tens of millions of dollars of his personal fortune to battle climate change, said in a statement. “It’s a clear and present danger that poses major economic, health, environmental and geopolitical risks.”"

From the Times description of Bloomberg spending "his personal fortune" to "battle" climate, one might assume Bloomberg's spending is of a charitable nature. As it happens, Bloomberg has suggested himself for a Nobel Prize for what he views as his philanthropy: (NY Times): "“Turkey is a great example, and it can be translated to other countries,” Mr. Bloomberg told his breakfast companions. And who knows, he joked, his philanthropy may even win him a Nobel Prize."... 

Billionaire Bloomberg owns a climate finance company the profits of which depend on Americans believing US CO2 is poisonous, that US CO2 is worse than CO2 of other countries, that it's killing the planet, and that the world can be saved by diverting more of the US economy to Bloomberg endeavors. The article doesn't mention Bloomberg's fleet of private planes which has been the largest user of scarce slots for private aircraft at LaGuardia airport, that Bloomberg spews CO2 flying to Bermuda every weekend, and chooses to advance his global business interests and ideologies via heavy use of fossil fuels. Mr. Bloomberg is probably the largest per capita CO2 emitter on the planet.

2/11/2008, "New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg addresses the U.N. General Assembly during a debate about climate change at the U.N. Headquarters in New York February 11, 2008," Reuters

2/11/2008, "Bloomberg slams US Energy law over corn ethanol" Reuters by Louis Charbonneau and Timothy Gardner

2/14/11, Flight records uncover elusive Mayor’s tracks,” WSJ, Maremont, McGinty, Saul

"The Bloomberg fleet has been the single largest user of scarce slots allocated to private aircraft at La Guardia airport. The flights continued apace even after the mayor two years ago called for curbs on small commercial planes at La Guardia and other area airports to reduce congestion."...   


While in Turkey in 2014 Bloomberg met with "his newest Turkish pal, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former prime minister and the country’s just-elected president:"

8/23/14, "Michael Bloomberg’s Harder Sell," NY Times, Landon Thomas, Jr.

"On a sweltering Saturday in June in Istanbul’s old city, Michael R. Bloomberg, power-dressed in a dark blue suit, monogrammed white shirt and cuff links, sat down to a late-morning breakfast with local antismoking activists on a rooftop overlooking the glittering Sea of Marmara....“Turkey is a great example, and it can be translated to other countries,” Mr. Bloomberg told his breakfast companions. And who knows, he joked, his philanthropy may even win him a Nobel Prize."...


*Added #2: Federalist article references pre-1940 warming. This is demonstrated in peer reviewed Sept. 2014 PNAS study of US west coast, noting "the strongest trends observed from 1910–1920 to 1940."

9/16/14, "Supplemental Information,", Johnstone and Mantua

"Climate Dataset Comparison for the NE Pacific, 1900-2012, Sea Surface Temperature."...chart, pg. 4 in PNAS report

"We do not see a human hand in the warming of the West Coast,” said co-author Nate Mantua, now with NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center. That is taking people by surprise, and may generate some blowback.”"... 

9/1/14, "Atmospheric controls on northeast Pacific temperature variability and change, 1900–2012,", James A. Johnstone and Nathan J. Mantua ..


"Over the last century, northeast Pacific coastal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and land-based surface air temperatures (SATs) display multidecadal variations associated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, in addition to a warming trend of ∼0.5–1 °C. Using independent records of sea-level pressure (SLP), SST, and SAT, this study investigates northeast (NE) Pacific coupled atmosphere–ocean variability from 1900 to 2012, with emphasis on the coastal areas around North America. We use a linear stochastic time series model to show that the SST evolution around the NE Pacific coast can be explained by a combination of regional atmospheric forcing and ocean persistence, accounting for 63% of nonseasonal monthly SST variance (r = 0.79) and 73% of variance in annual means (r = 0.86). We show that SLP reductions and related atmospheric forcing led to century-long warming around the NE Pacific margins, with the strongest trends observed from 1910–1920 to 1940. NE Pacific circulation changes are estimated to account for more than 80% of the 1900–2012 linear warming in coastal NE Pacific SST and US Pacific northwest (Washington, Oregon, and northern California) SAT. An ensemble of climate model simulations run under the same historical radiative forcings fails to reproduce the observed regional circulation trends. These results suggest that natural internally generated changes in atmospheric circulation were the primary cause of coastal NE Pacific warming from 1900 to 2012 and demonstrate more generally that regional mechanisms of interannual and multidecadal temperature variability can also extend to century time scales."


"Northeast Pacific coastal warming since 1900 is often ascribed to anthropogenic greenhouse forcing, whereas multidecadal temperature changes are widely interpreted in the framework of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which responds to regional atmospheric dynamics. This study uses several independent data sources to demonstrate that century-long warming around the northeast Pacific margins, like multidecadal variability, can be primarily attributed to changes in atmospheric circulation. It presents a significant reinterpretation of the region’s recent climate change origins, showing that atmospheric conditions have changed substantially over the last century, that these changes are not likely related to historical anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing, and that dynamical mechanisms of interannual and multidecadal temperature variability can also apply to observed century-long trends."

  1. James A. Johnstone
    • aJoint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195; and
  2. Nathan J. Mantua
    • aJoint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195; and
    • bNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Santa Cruz, CA 95060" 
9/22/14, "Study says natural factors, not humans, behind West Coast warming," Seattle Times, Craig Welch

"The rise in temperatures along the West Coast over the past century [of between .5 to 1C] is almost entirely due to natural forces — not human emissions of greenhouse gases, according to a major new study...."
"It has been a subject of debate for years: How much has global warming contributed to a documented rise in temperatures along the West Coast?

A new study published Monday in a major research journal suggests the answer thus far, particularly in the Northwest, is: hardly any."...

LA Times: "Most of the warming in the region occurred before 1940, when greenhouse gas concentrations were lower and winds were weaker, the study found."...

9/22/14, "West Coast warming linked to naturally occurring changes," LA Times, Tony Barboza

"Naturally occurring changes in winds, not human-caused climate change, are responsible for most of the warming on land and in the sea along the West Coast of North America over the last century, a study has found.

The analysis challenges assumptions that the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been a significant driver of the increase in temperatures observed over many decades in the ocean and along the coastline from Alaska to California."...


Graph linked in Federalist article via Dr. Judith Curry: 


2014 only 34th "hottest" in 48 US states:

NY Times: "2014 was only the 34th warmest year on record for the lower (US) 48 states."...(parag. 19)

Comment: Given enough time you can convince people of anything. 80% of Muslims in Egypt believe you should be stoned to death for adultery:

 12/2/2010, "Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah, Most Embrace a Role for Islam in Politics," Pew Research, scroll down for this graph


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