Weather Stupidity

When I first saw this at WattsUpWithThat, I thought it was a prank.

While at the store yesterday afternoon buying supplies for "3 Chasers" (need Sharpies to autograph posters!, etc.) I cruised by the magazine department and there it was.

I've read a lot of silly articles invoking global warming for one calamity after another, but this one reaches a new level of absurd. As far as I can tell, the author, Sharon Begley, has no scientific credentials (her bio lists only a bachelor of arts degree). Then, she goes and interviews a number of other journalists and non-atmospheric scientists who happen to work for -- surprise -- Big Environment. For example,

  • Jeffery Sachs. Economist. Columbia U. "Earth Institute"
  • Vicky Arroyo. Biologist. Georgetown "Climate Center."
  • Mark Hertsgaard. Journalist. Author of "Hot."
  • Bill McKibben. Journalist. Author of "Eaarth." (he does have "honorary degrees")
And, that is just the first four. In fact, not a single atmospheric scientist is interviewed in the article!

How about interviewing people with scientific expertise for a science story? What ever happened to the traditional journalistic ethic of telling both sides of a story? As I have said many times on this blog, there is no institutional incentive to disprove global warming. All of the big $$ are on the pro-global warming side. 

How about context? For example, here is what author Begley says early in the article:

Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland,

So far this year, the number of tornadoes in January+February+March is 152. The estimated number of tornadoes April-June 4 is 1263. Total 1,415. Sounds high, right? Well, the estimates are usually high and revised downward.  But, lets assume the estimate is correct. Now, we put the numbers in context:
  • Number of tornadoes in 2010: 1,282
  • 2009, 1156
  • 2008, 1692
So the claim of "nearly 1,000 tornadoes" sounds high but it is merely routine (note: due to Doppler radar and storm chasers documenting small tornadoes that were not documented in the past, contemporary tornado records cannot be compared with those of past decades). 

The premise of the entire article, that big numbers of tornadoes occur with elevated earth temperatures, is flatly wrong. Those that have read the blog over the last few weeks have seen this graph twice (to my frequent readers, sorry for the repeat):

The graph above shows world temperatures (red) and the dates of historic tornadoes. The worst-ever U.S. tornado occurred (1925) with temperatures quite a bit cooler than today as did the worst single tornado outbreak (1884).

Second, the warmest year was 1998. Number of tornadoes?  1,254. Tornado numbers do not track temperatures. 

Let me say it clearly: There is no scientific evidence that this year's tornadoes are tied to global warming. 

For new readers, I consider myself an environmentalist. I am a "lukewarmer" when it comes to global warming (i.e., humans are warming the planet but at a lower rate than the Gore/IPCC hypothesis and that the Gore/IPCC hypothesis is far too simplistic). As a scientist, I resent the frequent over-the-top "reporting" that is intended to do nothing but spread panic. I especially resent it when it is presented as objective "news." 

This article should be retracted by Newsweek.


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