Pakistani floods

Pained Earth’s summer to forget: the rest of the story

On Friday the 13th, the Arizona Daily Star printed, on page one, an AP gloom and doom story about “floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat” that they claim “It’s not just a portent of things to come, scientists say, but a sign of troubling climate change already under way.” It was an editorial pretending to be news. The story is full of misleading information, omissions, and inaccuracies. Let’s take a closer look.

IPCC predictions

The story states: “The U.N.’s network of climate scientists – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – has long predicted that rising global temperatures would produce more frequent and intense heat waves, and more intense rainfalls.” But the U.N. IPCC has never made any predictions. They just propose scenarios or projections. The IPCC itself says “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” (If you check this reference see third bulleted point from the bottom.)

IPCC senior scientist Kevin Trenberth noted in Nature magazine: “In fact there are no predictions by IPCC at all. And there never have been. The IPCC instead proffers ‘what if’ projections of future climate that correspond to certain emissions scenarios. There are a number of assumptions that go into these emissions scenarios. They are intended to cover a range of possible self consistent ‘story lines’ that then provide decision makers with information about which paths might be more desirable. But they do not consider many things like the recovery of the ozone layer, for instance, or observed trends in forcing agents. There is no estimate, even probabilistically, as to the likelihood of any emissions scenario and no best guess.”

Russian temperatures and Pakistani floods

The story states: “It’s been the hottest summer ever recorded in Russia…Russia’s drought has sparked hundreds of wildfires in forests and dried peat bogs, blanketing Moscow with a toxic smog…” There are two issues here: are the warm temperatures due to “predicted” global warming and has drought dried out the peat bogs.

The bogs: according to the New York times, “As early as 1918 Soviet engineers drained swamps to supply peat for electrical power stations. That approach was abandoned in the late 1950s, after natural gas was discovered in Siberia, but the bogs were never reflooded, though the authorities are currently weighing the idea.”

The temperature: Russian scientist, Michail Kabanov, member of the Academy of Sciences and advisor of the Institute For Climate And Environmental Monitoring says the regional heat wave taking place in Russia is not a sign of catastrophic climate change and that the permafrost has been thawing since the last glacial epoch 10,000 years ago, and its rate of thawing is also not catastrophic. “Deviations in one direction or the other, in this region or the other, are explained completely by the instability of the climate system. It meanders constantly and reaches various anomalies as a result, and does include extremes. The weather conditions of this year are precisely a result of this.”

The high temperatures in Russia and the heavy rain in Pakistan have a common cause unrelated to global warming according the an article in New Scientist. “According to meteorologists monitoring the atmosphere above the northern hemisphere, unusual holding patterns in the jet stream are to blame. As a result, weather systems sat still. Temperatures rocketed and rainfall reached extremes.” “Stationary patterns in the jet stream are called “blocking events”. They are the consequence of strong Rossby waves, which push westward against the flow of the jet stream. They are normally overpowered by the jet stream’s eastward flow, but they can match it if they get strong enough. When this happens, the jet stream’s meanders hold steady creating the perfect conditions for extreme weather.”

The Arctic

The story states: “Researchers last week spotted a 100-square-mile chunk of ice calved off from the great Petermann Glacier in Greenland’s far northwest. It was the most massive ice island to break away in the Arctic in a half-century of observation.” That statement is almost true, but it lies by omission. Such ice calving is not unusual. In 1962, a 230-square-mile chunk of ice broke off the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf. The Petermann glacier, itself, spawned smaller ice islands in 2001 (34 square miles) and 2008 (10 square miles). In 2005, the Ayles Ice Shelf disintegrated and became an ice island (34 square miles) about 60 miles to the west of Petermann Fjord.

The story states: “In the Arctic Ocean itself, the summer melt of the vast icecap has reached unprecedented proportions in recent years.” Technically true but misleading. Arctic summer sea ice melt has been relatively consistent and sea ice extent returns to normal in the winter. The article failed to mention that Antarctic sea ice reached the maximum extent ever recorded in 2007, and is currently more extensive than normal. For many graphics of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, see Anthony Watts’ Sea Ice Page, a compilation of data from several sources.

Sea level

The story states: “The melting of land ice into the oceans is causing about 60 percent of the accelerating rise in sea levels worldwide, with thermal expansion from warming waters causing the rest. The WMO’S World Climate Research Program says seas are rising by 1.34 inches per decade, about twice the 20th century’s average.” The pretended “acceleration” is the result of cherry-picking starting and ending points. The rate of sea level rise is cyclic, but the overall trend is downward. For a detailed analysis of sea level rise, and to see why the WMO statement is dissembling, see my article, Sea Level Rising? Also, a new paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research, says “The global mean sea level for the period January 1900 to December 2006 is estimated to rise at a rate of 1.56 ± 0.25 mm/yr which is reasonably consistent with earlier estimates, but we do not find significant acceleration.”

Overall temperatures

The story states: “Worldwide temperature readings show that this January-June was the hottest first half of a year since record keeping began in the mid-19th century.” This implies that we are experiencing something unprecedented. Isn’t it strange that 60% of the U.S. had cooler than normal temperatures during this period. The article statement is untrue and due partially to NOAA computer programs actually manufacturing temperature readings where none exist.

It didn’t take me too long to do some fact checking of this AP story. I wonder why AP or the Arizona Daily Star didn’t bother checking the facts. Could there be some political agenda in running such stories?

P.S. For your amusement, see the Warm List, a compilation of everything the press claims is caused by global warming.