Category Archives: Bias In News Media Reports

Comment On The CBS News Article “Is Extreme Weather a Result of Global Warming?”

Update: January 27 2011 – Mike Smith also has an excellent discussion of media misinformation regarding recent extreme weather in his post on his weblog Meterological Musings

NBC Global Warming Nonsense
 

**************************

There is a news article by CBS titled (h/t to Marc Morano)

Is Extreme Weather a Result of Global Warming?

Excerpts read

In the past year, every continent except Antarctica has seen record-breaking floods. Rains submerged one-fifth of Pakistan, a thousand-year deluge swamped Nashville and storms just north of Rio caused the deadliest landslides Brazil has ever seen.

 Southern France and northern Australia had floods, too. Sri Lanka, South Africa, the list goes on.

 And while no single weather event can be linked definitively to global climate change, a growing number of scientists say these extreme events represent the face of a warming world.

 “Any one of these events is remarkable,” said Jay Gulledge, senior scientist for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “But all of this taken together could not happen without the extra heat that’s in the ocean. It defies common sense to overlook that link.”

That link works more or less like this. Concentrations of greenhouse gases are the highest the earth has seen in 15 million years. These gases trap heat, warming both the air and the oceans. Warmer oceans give off more moisture, and a warmer atmosphere can hold more of it in suspension. The more moisture in the air, the more powerful storms tend to grow. When these supercharged weather systems hit land, they don’t just turn into rain or snow, they become cyclones, blizzards and floods.

 “There is a lot of tropical moisture in the atmosphere that is getting transported over very long distances and is dropping out in various places around the world in dramatic fashion,” Gulledge said.

and

“Weather like this matches the predictions of numerous recent climate studies. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that severe droughts and heavy rains were already on the rise in many parts of the world, and linked them to the surge in greenhouse gases. A study published last year by the National Academy of Sciences predicted an increase in heavy rainfall of somewhere between 3 and 10 percent for every Celsius degree of warming. Each additional degree would also cause the amount of area burned by wildfires in North America to double or quadruple, according to the same report.”

What does the actual data say.

The current sea surface temperature anomaly (which is the interface where ocean heat interfaces with the atmosphere) is presented below [from http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2011/anomnight.1.24.2011.gif].

The most recent global average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly is given below [from http://www.remss.com/msu/msu_data_description.html]

Channel TLT Trend Comparison Ch

From University of Alabama at Huntsville Lower Tropospheric Temperatures for 2010 and December 2010

The water vapor anomalies, unfortunately, are not routinely, updated and made available to us. Nevertheless, papers such as

Randel, B. et al, 2004: Interannual Changes of Stratospheric Water Vapor and Correlations with Tropical Tropopause Temperatures. Journal of Atmospheric Sciences. 2133-2148

where the abstract reads [highlight added]

“Interannual variations of stratospheric water vapor over 1992–2003 are studied using Halogen Occultation Experiment (HALOE) satellite measurements. Interannual anomalies in water vapor with an approximate 2-yr periodicity are evident near the tropical tropopause, and these propagate vertically and latitudinally with the mean stratospheric transport circulation (in a manner analogous to the seasonal ‘‘tape recorder’’). Unusually low water vapor anomalies are observed in the lower stratosphere for 2001–03. These interannual anomalies are also observed in Arctic lower-stratospheric water vapor measurements by the Polar Ozone and Aerosol Measurement (POAM) satellite instrument during 1998–2003. Comparisons of the HALOE data with balloon measurements of lower-stratospheric water vapor at Boulder, Colorado (408N), show partial agreement for seasonal and interannual changes during 1992–2002, but decadal increases observed in the balloon measurements for this period are not observed in HALOE data. Interannual changes in HALOE water vapor are well correlated with anomalies in tropical tropopause temperatures. The approximate 2-yr periodicity is attributable to tropopause temperature changes associated with the quasi-biennial oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation.”

and

Susan Solomon, Karen Rosenlof, Robert Portmann, John Daniel, Sean Davis, Todd Sanford, Gian-Kasper Plattner, 2010: Contributions of Stratospheric Water Vapor to Decadal Changes in the Rate of
Global Warming. http://www.sciencexpress.org / 28 January 2010 / Page 1 / 10.1126/science.1182488 (see)

where the abstract reads [highlighting added]

Stratospheric water vapor concentrations decreased by about 10% after the year 2000. Here we show that this acted to slow the rate of increase in global surface temperature over 2000-2009 by about 25% compared to that which would have occurred due only to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. More limited data suggest that stratospheric water vapor probably increased between 1980 and 2000, which would have enhanced the decadal rate of surface warming during the 1990s by about 30% compared to estimates neglecting this change. These findings show that stratospheric water vapor represents an important driver of decadal global surface climate change.”

The NASA water vapor dataset would help further diagnose the global atmospheric water vapor issue, but, as discussed in

Statement By Vonder Haar Et Al 2010 on Using Existing [NASA Water Vapor] NVAP Dataset (1988 – 2001) for Trends,

while a preliminary study showed a  (1988-1999) decrease in global atmospheric water vapor (see), an updated accurate NVAP data analysis will only be available in 2012 or 2013!

The available data shows that sea surface temperature anomalies show large spatial variations, including large areas of cooler than average conditions, the lower tropospheric temperature anomaly is only slightly warmer than the long-term average (and shows no statistically significant trend since 1998), and the global water vapor anomalies, to the extent we can determine from recent data, shows that it has not increased significantly in recent years. The tropical sea surface temperatures also show large areas of cooler than average conditions.

The conclusions in the CBS news article and the statements by those interviewed failed to examine the actual current values of key climate metrics.

My Recommendations are:

1. Make the latest global average sea surface temperature anomalies available along with the spatial map.

2. Make the latest global average sea surface temperature anomalies available along with the spatial map.

3. Make the latest global tropospheric and lower stratospheric water vapor anomalies available along with the spatial map.

With this information, claims such as made by CBS, and those who were interviewed, could be quickly confirmed or refuted.

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Recommend Reading By Judy Curry On The IPCC Assessment Process

There is a post today by Judy Curry

Reversing the direction of the positive feedback loop

that very clearly and effectively summarizes how the IPCC process and a set of climate scientists have compromised the scientific process. Judy’s discussion fits closely with my experience as to how the events have unfolded.

Among her insightful statements are

“…..the policy cart was put before the scientific horse, justified by the precautionary principle.  Once the UNFCCC treaty was a done deal, the IPCC and its scientific conclusions were set on a track to become a self fulfilling prophecy.”

 “National and international science programs were funded to support the IPCC objectives”

“So were the scientists innocent victims and pawns in all this?  Were they just hardworking scientists doing their best to address the impossible expectations of the policy makers?  Well, many of them were.  However, at the heart of the IPCC is a cadre of scientists whose careers have been made by the IPCC.  These scientists have used the IPCC to jump the normal meritocracy process by which scientists achieve influence over the politics of science and policy.  Not only has this brought some relatively unknown, inexperienced  and possibly dubious people into positions of influence, but these people become vested in protecting the IPCC, which has become central to their own career and legitimizes playing power politics with their expertise.”

I recommend reading the her entire post.

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Comment On A Washington Post Editorial “The Truth About Global Warming” – Another Media Disconnect

There is an editorial today in the Washington Post titled “The truth about global warming” which illustrates the failure of the author of this editorial to properly investigate claims in the NOAA report regarding the climate system. This is yet another media disconnect with the real world. I am discussing just one of their erroneous claims here.

 The article writes

“If the land surface records were systematically flawed and the globe had not really warmed, then it would be almost impossible to explain the concurrent changes in this wide range of indicators produced by many independent groups,” the report said.”

With respect to the land surface temperature record [which is the primary metric used to diagnose global warming by NOAA],  the different groups (e.g. NASA, NCDC, CRU) analyze starting from mostly the same raw data.  We have reported on this in peer-reviewed papers (e.g. see) and on this weblog (e.g. see and see).

As Phil Jones himself has reported (see Section 7)

“The raw surface temperature data from which all of the different global surface temperature trend analyses are derived are essentially the same. The best estimate that has been reported is that 90–95% of the raw data in each of the analyses is the same (P. Jones, personal communication, 2003).”

It is widely agreed that there has been warming of the climate system, as is more appropriately monitored by the changes in upper ocean heat content (see, see and see). However, the quantitative value of this warming as measured by the global and land surface temperature trends from different groups are NOT independent from each other. Indeed, there is peer reviewed research that indicates an overstatement of the magnitude of the warming as a result of a warm bias in the land surface temperature record;

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., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841.

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2010: Correction to: “An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841″, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D1, doi:10.1029/2009JD013655

The NOAA report is in error in their claim and the Washington Post editorial swallowed this claim without a proper investigation of its validity. 

I will have a post on the other claims in the NOAA report in an upcoming post.

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Comment On Tom Karl’s Interview In The Washington Post

There is an interview of Tom Karl, Director of the National Climate Data Center titled Global warming: What the science tells us. His responses repeat his advocacy position that he has presented in other venues.

However, I want to highlight what one of his answers which is quite a dishonest response.

The question and answer are

Silver Spring, Md.: Hello,

“Many people imply that the CRU temperature data are the exclusive or principal basis for climate change predictions. Please identify some key studies that do not rely heavily on CRU data, and their conclusions. Thanks.”

Thomas R. Karl: Hi there – thanks for the question. In fact, there are other global temperature datasets that are calculated by other institutions. For example, NASA calculates an independent global temperature dataset, as does NOAA (here at National Climatic Data Center). The analysis techniques for each of these datasets are all independent of each other and yet they all come to the same conclusion: that global warming is unequivocal….”

This is a dishonest answer and Tom Karl knows it. The NASA data set and the CRU data sets are not independent of the NCDC data set.

I have discussed the interdependence of the data sets in recent posts (e.g. see and see ).

Tom Karl has  even conveniently ignored the text from the CCSP 1.1. report [of which Tom Karl was the Chief Editor!];  i.e.

In the report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences Final Report, Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.1” on page 32 it is written

“The global surface air temperature data sets used in this report are to a large extent based on data readily exchanged internationally, e.g., through CLIMAT reports and the WMO publication Monthly Climatic Data for the World. Commercial and other considerations prevent a fuller exchange, though the United States may be better represented than many other areas. In this report, we present three global surface climate records, created from available data by NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies [GISS], NOAA National Climatic Data Center [NCDC], and the cooperative project of the U.K. Hadley Centre and the Climate Research Unit [CRU]of the University of East Anglia (HadCRUT2v).”

These three analyses are led by Tom Karl (NCDC), Jim Hansen (GISS) and Phil Jones (CRU).

The differences between the three global surface temperatures  that occur are a result of the analysis methodology as used by each of the three groups…… This is further explained on page  48 of the CCSP report where it is written with respect to the surface temperature data (as well as the other temperature data sets) that

“The data sets are distinguished from one another by differences in the details of their construction.”

On page 50 it is written

“Currently, there are three main groups creating global analyses of surface temperature (see Table 3.1), differing in the choice of available data that are utilized as well as the manner in which these data are synthesized.”

and

“Since the three chosen data sets utilize many of the same raw observations, there is a degree of interdependence.”

The chapter then states on page 51 that

“While there are fundamental differences in the methodology used to create the surface data sets, the differing techniques with the same data produce almost the same results (Vose et al., 2005a). The small differences in deductions about climate change derived from the surface data sets are likely to be due mostly to differences in construction methodology and global averaging procedures.”

and thus, to no surprise,  it is concluded that

“Examination of the three global surface temperature anomaly time series (TS) from 1958 to the present shown in Figure 3.1 reveals that the three time series have a very high level of agreement.”

There are also other major unresolved issues with the surface data sets of NCDC, NASA and CRU which Tom Karl continues to ignore; e.g. see

 Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2007: Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S08, doi:10.1029/2006JD008229

and

Recommended Reading Of An Article By Joe D’Aleo On The Lack Of Quality Of The Long Term Surface Temperature Trend Data Set Over Land

Tom Karl has a serious conflict of interest, as I have documented in these posts

Do The CRU E-Mails Provide Further Documentation Of A Conflict Of Interest In The Preparation Of A CCSP Climate Assessment Report?

E-mail Documentation Of The Successful Attempt By Thomas Karl Director Of the U.S. National Climate Data Center To Suppress Biases and Uncertainties In the Assessment Surface Temperature Trends

He also keeps showing his lack of knowledge of climate science; e.g. see

Erroneous Climate Science Statement By Tom Karl, Director Of The National Climate Data Center And President Of The American Meteorological Society

Tom Karl has clearly demonstrated that he is an advocate and is presenting  erroneous information on the robustness of the surface temperature data record as a metric to assess multi-decadal surface temperature trends. We need a new Director of the National Climate Data Center who will provide policymakers with an accurate balanced monitoring of the climate system.

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A Myth About The Surface Temperature Record Analyses Perpetuated On Dot Earth By Andy Revkin

On the weblog Dot Earth today, there is text from Michael Schlesinger, a climatologist at the University of Illinois, that presents analyses of long term surface  temperature trends from NASA, NCDC and Japan as if these are from independent sets of data from the analysis of CRU.  Andy Revkin is perpetuating this myth in this write-up by not presenting the real fact that these analyses draw from the same  original raw data.  While they may use only a subset of this raw data, the overlap has been estimated as about 90-95%.

The unresolved problems with this surface data (which, of course, applies to all four locations) is reported in the peer reviewed paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2007: Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S08, doi:10.1029/2006JD008229.

I discuss this issue in my recent post

Further Comment On The Surface Temperature Data Used In The CRU, GISS And NCDC Analyses

where I document that even the CCSP 1.1. report acknowledged this lack of independence.

Andy Revkin’s post on the surface temperature record data sets is not journalistically accurate.

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Comment On The Inaccurate Response By Gavin Schmidt Of Real Climate On The Role of Land Use Change On Temperature Trends

UPDATE: December 1 2009

Gavin Schmidt  responded to this post with the following [thanks to Bob Thompson for alerting us to this!]

From Real Climate

990 whatAboutBob says:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack-conte=xt/comment-page-20/#comment-145828> 30 November 2009 at 8:21 AM

Gavin,

Your response in comment #289 is incorrect (at best uninformed) please see

 <https://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/> https://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/

Gavin’ response

[ Response: Not sure what you are pointing to specifically, but I stand = by that statement. The relevant IPCC summary (Chp 2. p185) is as follows:

Since the dominant aspect of land cover change since 1750 has been deforestation in temperate regions, the overall effect of anthropogenic land cover change on global temperature will depend largely on the relative
importance of increased surface albedo in winter and spring (exerting a cooling) and reduced evaporation in summer and in the tropics (exerting a warming) (Bounoua et al., 2002). Estimates of global temperature =
responses from past deforestation vary from 0.01=B0C (Zhao et al., 2001) to = =960.25=B0C
(Govindasamy et al., 2001a; Brovkin et al., 2006). If cooling by = increased surface albedo dominates, then the historical effect of land cover = change may still be adequately represented by RF. With tropical deforestation becoming more significant in recent decades, warming due to reduced evaporation may become more significant globally than increased surface albedo. Radiative forcing would then be less useful as a metric of climate change induced by land cover change recently and in the future.

and (p184)

On the basis of the studies assessed here, including a number of new estimates since the TAR, the assessment is that the best estimate of RF relative to 1750 due to land-use related surface albedo change should =
remain at =960.2 =B1 0.2 W m=962.

Thus while there are complexities and uncertainties involved, the best estimate is that LCC has been a cooling effect historically. I still don’tknow where the US statistic that was quoted in #289 comes from. – gavin]

My Reply

Gavin is using old information. New research has shown a significant warming effect for a number of landscape conversions; e.g. see

 Fall, S., D. Niyogi, A. Gluhovsky, R. A. Pielke Sr., E. Kalnay, and G. Rochon, 2009: Impacts of land use land cover on temperature trends over the continental United States: Assessment using the North American Regional Reanalysis. Int. J. Climatol., DOI: 10.1002/joc.1996. https://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/r-329.pdf

from the abstract

“….most of the warmingtrends that we identify can be explained on the basis of LULC changes, we suggest that in addition to considering the greenhouse gases–driven radiative forcings, multi-decadal and longer climate models simulations must further include LULC changes.”

and

New Idea offered to fight climate change  from Georgia Tech which has 6 links (under the author’s name) in google news where the press release has the text

“Across the (United States) as a whole, approximately 50 percent of the warming that has occurred since 1950 is due to land use changes (usually in the form of clearing forest for crops or cities) rather than to the emission of greenhouse gases,” Stone said. “Most large U.S. cities … are warming at more than twice the rate of the planet as a whole — a rate that is mostly attributable to land use change.”

******END OF UPDATE****

There is a response by Gavin Schmidt on Real Climate with respect to the role of land use change on the attribution of surface air temperature trends [thanks to Charlie Allen for alerting us to it!]. While Gavin has expertise in global climate modeling, his reply illustrates his lack of expertise on the role of landscape processes within the climate system, and, in this example, with respect to the role of land use/land cover change on long temperature trends.

The text from Real Climate is

  1. 1.       CCPO @258 – you quoted Gavin as saying “Note. global land use effects result in a cooling because the biggest issue is the chopping down of forest (dark) to make cropland (bright)”

Well, that’s not actually true. Here’s a press release for a new paper from Georgia Tech, showing how 50% of the warming across the US is due to land use changes.

Original reference for Gavin’s comment was from Edward’s post @95.

Cheers.

[Response: A statement in a press release is not a scientific result and the paper referred to does not show this to be true (and in fact I doubt very much that it is true). There are many papers on the global impacts of land cover change – Pondgratz et al is good, and all such papers show that land use at the global scale drives a cooling. – gavin]

The person who prepared the comment (CCPO CORRECTED Dec 1 2009 – Thanks to Michael Lenaghan who let me know the correct person to credit was Ted) clearly better understands the science issue  better than Gavin Schmidt. 

 I have already documented his lack of expertise in research topics that he comments on at Real Climate and elsewhere in my post

Does Gavin Schmidt Understand Boundary Layer Physics?

A Recent paper of ours which document an increase in surface temperatures due to landscape change include

Fall, S., D. Niyogi, A. Gluhovsky, R. A. Pielke Sr., E. Kalnay, and G. Rochon, 2009: Impacts of land use land cover on temperature trends over the continental United States: Assessment using the North American Regional Reanalysis. Int. J. Climatol., DOI: 10.1002/joc.1996

With respect to the study by Stone Jr, Gavin apparently did not even read it before he commented!

 In the paper

Stone Jr., Brian, 2009: Land Use As Climate Change Mitigation,  Environmental Science and Technology (in press).

 it is written [emphasis added in bold face font]

“….the mean decadal rate of warming across the urban stations is significantly higher than that of rural stations. Averaged over the full period, the mean decadal rate of warming for urban stations was found to be 0.08 °C higher than that of rural stations. This average rate of heat island growths i.e., urban warming in excess of the rural trends rises to 0.20 °C/decade over the most recent 20 years of observation.”

and

“The increasing divergence between rural and urban temperature trends in U.S. cities highlights the limitationsof a climate policy framework focused on emissions reductions alone. If land use change is the dominant agent of climate forcing at the urban scale, Kyoto-based emissions trading schemes may fail to sufficiently safeguard human health in the most heavily populated regions of the planet. It is important to emphasize, however, that the phrase “urban heat island effect,”muchlike the phrase “greenhouse effect,” is a misnomer…The physical mechanisms underlying warming trends in cities are limited neither to urban areas nor to small geographic regions. Rather, changes in surface moisture and energy balances accompanying land conversion processes across large swaths of the planet’s land area are giving rise to changes in climate that may be of the same order of magnitude as changes brought about through the emission of GHGs. As such, the urban heat island effect should be understood to be only the most visible manifestation of a larger phenomenon occurring across multiple geographic scaless a phenomenon better characterized as a “green loss effect” than as something unique to urban areas.”

This reply by Gavin, besides ignoring (e.g. Fall et al 2009) and his trivializing (e.g. Stone Jr 2009)  peer reviewed papers that disagree with his perspective,  his comment also shows that he has learned little from the exposure of the inappropriate attempt by Phil Jones and colleagues to serve as gatekeepers to climate science issues.

Since Gavin Schmidt is not a recognized expert on the role of land use/land cover change, he should have sought a qualified climate scientist to address the comment by CCPO. Instead, he perpetuates the biased and often inaccurate presentation of climate views on Real Climate.

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Filed under Bias In News Media Reports, Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Climate Change Metrics

Bias In News Reporting

UPDATE: November 14 2009 There is a very informative discussion of my post at http://cruelmistress.wordpress.com/2009/11/14/bias-in-reporting/.  The issues that are raised in that post are valid; hopefully, my post will encourage a rigorous scientific assessment of this question.

There is a press release on a paper yesterday from NCAR titled Record High Temperatures Far Outpace Record Lows Across U.S.

I plan to post on the paper on which this news article is based next week ( it has major problems, as already identified at Watts Up With That). However, today, I want to just compare the news exposure of three press releases, one of which supports a surface temperature changes from the human addition of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (the NCAR press release), and two others which present other explanations for at least part of the surface temperature increases.

The NCAR press release as of 10am EST November 13 2009 has 95 links (under the lead author) at google news.

The other two press releases are

“Study gives clearer picture of how land-use changes affect U.S. climate”  from Purdue which has 3 links (under any of the co-authors) in google news where the press relase has the text

“What we highlight here is that a significant trend, particularly the warming trend in terms of temperatures, can also be partially explained by land-use change,” said Dev Niyogi, a Purdue earth and atmospheric sciences and agronomy professor, and the Indiana state climatologist.”

New Idea offered to fight climate change  from Georgia Tech which has 6 links (under the author’s name) in google news where the press release has the text

“Across the (United States) as a whole, approximately 50 percent of the warming that has occurred since 1950 is due to land use changes (usually in the form of clearing forest for crops or cities) rather than to the emission of greenhouse gases,” Stone said. “Most large U.S. cities … are warming at more than twice the rate of the planet as a whole — a rate that is mostly attributable to land use change.”

The news community clearly has a bias in its reporting.

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