Arctic Temperature Reporting In The News Needs A Reality Check

There new articles that claim the Arctic is rapidly warming. These articles are an excellent examples of the cherrypicking of particular published papers to promote the very narrow perspective of the journalists.

These include

An Associated Press news article by Randolph E. Schmid titled “Arctic reverses long-term trend”.

A New York Times article by Andrew C. Revkin titled “Humans May Have Ended Long Arctic Chill”.

The Schmid article has the text

“The most recent 10-year interval, 1999-2008, was the warmest of the last 2,000 years in the Arctic, according to the researchers led by Darrell S. Kaufman, a professor of geology and environmental science at Northern Arizona University.

Summer temperatures in the Arctic averaged 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4 degrees Celsius) warmer than would have been expected if the cooling had continued, the researchers said.

The finding adds fuel to the debate over a House-passed climate bill now pending in the Senate. The administration-backed measure would impose the first limits on greenhouse gases and eventually would lead to an 80 percent reduction by putting a price on each ton of climate-altering pollution.”

Revkin reinforces this extreme view in his September 3 2009 article with his figure of  2000 years of Arctic surface temperatures, with each decade having the same temporal resolution as the last 10 years.

The publication of these news articles are clearly meant to influence the political process, as evident in the last paragraph, where Schmid writes “The finding adds fuel to the debate over a House-passed climate bill now pending in the Senate.”

The documentation of their biased reporting is easy to show.  For example,  they do not report on observational data which does not show this rapid recent warming; e.g. see that the current high latitude temperatures are close to the longer term average since 1958

The Danish Meteorological Institute Daily Mean Temperatures in the Arctic 1958 – 2008 [and thanks to the excellent weblog Watts Up With That for making this easily available to us!]

There are also peer reviewed papers which show that the Schmid and Revkin articles are biased; e. g. see

 i) the areal coverage of the coldest middle tropospheric temperatures (below -40C)  have not changed radically as shown in the Revkin figure; see

Herman, B., M. Barlage, T.N. Chase, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2008: Update on a proposed mechanism for the regulation of  minimum mid-tropospheric and surface temperatures in the Arctic and Antarctic. J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos., 113, D24101, doi:10.1029/2008JD009799.


ii) there is a warm bias in the Arctic surface temperature measurements when they are used to characterize deeper atmospheric warming; see

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2009: An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., accepted.

At least the news Editors of the newspapers are starting to recognize that these journalists are presenting slanted news. The Schmid article appeared only on page 12 of my local newspaper.

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