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Meteorological Malpractice: Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi pushes the “70s Ice Age Scare” myth again

By Joe Romm on January 7, 2010 at 7:40 pm

"Meteorological Malpractice: Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi pushes the “70s Ice Age Scare” myth again"

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Accuweather’s meteorologist Joe Bastardi likes to push anti-science global cooling conspiracy theories, which is no doubt why Fox News extremists like Bill O’Reilly love him (see O’Reilly’s weatherman, befuddled Bastardi: “Global cooling is actually a cause of drought in California”).

Now Bastardi has a new video, “Worldwide Cold not Seen Since 70s Ice Age Scare,” pushing a very old conspiracy theory.  Of course, he doesn’t actually talk about “worldwide cold,” but just some cold over maybe 20% of the Earth.  Nor does he explain there’s plenty of warmth elsewhere — see Australian weather bureau: “Central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are now at their warmest level since the El Ni±o of 1997-98.”³

Fig A2The video truly becomes meteorological malpractice when Bastardi compares today to the 1970s, utterly misleading viewers into thinking that a few days of cold weather over parts of the word somehow undoes the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s climate system that has been demonstrated through direct scientific observation in recent decades.  In fact, “The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record,” said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. “Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming” (see Must-read AP story: Statisticians reject global cooling; Caldeira “” “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous”).

Bastardi’s supposedly Accuweather’s expert long-range forecaster, but he’s predicting “we’re going to see more and more of the cold trending here over the next  20 to 30 years”!  Perhaps we should call him Inaccuweather meteorologist.

Since he repeats his old falsehoods, I’m going to reprint my old debunkings — Killing the myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus and The NYT‘s climate coverage in 1970s was a megaphone for science, not ‘global cooling’ alarmism.

There are two issues about the “70s Ice Age Scare.”  First, did the scientific community have a consensus about cooling in the 1970s?  Answer — quite the reverse.  Second, did the media get the science wrong?  Answer –  other than some stray bad reporting, which is obviously an inescapable feature of the MSM, many in the media did a fair job of reporting, such as the NY Times.

Let’s start with the first post, from November 2008:

There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age. Indeed, the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then.

So begins an excellent September 2008 review article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) by Thomas Peterson, William Connolley, and John Fleck. I had blogged on this when USA Today reported it but just realized I hadn’t blogged on the article itself.

The BAMS piece is easily the most thorough explanation and debunking of the issue I’ve seen in a scientific publication. Any progressive who is engaged in the climate change arena must be able to quickly and assuredly respond to this myth because it continues to live on thanks to the deniers’ and delayers’ clever strategy of ignoring the facts.

Heck even commenters on this blog keep defending the absurd line in Crichton’s novel State of Fear, when he has one of his fictional environmentalists say, “In the 1970′s all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming.

The BAMS piece examines the scientific origins of the myth, the popular media of the 1970s who got the story slightly wrong, the deniers/delayers who perpetuate the myth today, and, most importantly, what real scientists actually said in real peer-reviewed journals at the time. Their literature survey, the most comprehensive ever done on the subject, found:

The survey identified only 7 articles indicating cooling compared to 44 indicating warming. Those seven cooling articles garnered just 12% of the citations.

The authors put together this figure on “the number of papers classified as predicting, implying, or providing supporting evidence for future global cooling, warming, and neutral categories”:

http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/bams-cooling.jpg

The article ends with a powerful discussion of what the National Research Council concluded in its 1979 review of the science:

In July 1979 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Jule Charney, one of the pioneers of climate modeling, brought together a panel of experts under the U.S. National Research Council to sort out the state of the science. The panel’s work has become iconic as a foundation for the enterprise of climate change study that followed (Somerville et al. 2007). Such reports are a traditional approach within the United States for eliciting expert views on scientific questions of political and public policy importance (Weart 2003).

In this case, the panel concluded that the potential damage from greenhouse gases was real and should not be ignored. The potential for cooling, the threat of aerosols, or the possibility of an ice age shows up nowhere in the report. Warming from doubled CO2 of 1.5°-4.5°C was possible, the panel reported. While there were huge uncertainties, Verner Suomi, chairman of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Board, wrote in the report’s foreword that he believed there was enough evidence to support action: “A wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late” (Charney et al. 1979). Clearly, if a national report in the 1970s advocates urgent action to address global warming, then the scientific consensus of the 1970s was not global cooling.

What follows is a March 2009 guest repost by Prof. Robert Brulle:

In “Climate Science in a Tornado,” George F. Will has completely misrepresented the historical New York Times coverage of the “global cooling” issue. Despite Will’s claim that the New York Times was a “megaphone for the alarmed” during “1970s predictions about the near certainty of calamitous global cooling,” its coverage was actually nuanced and prescient.

On December 21, 1969, the New York Times ran a UPI wire story, “Scientists Caution on Changes In Climate as Result of Pollution,” which reported that scientists discussed the possible threat of manmade global warming at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, with calls for greater monitoring of the climate:

J.O. Fletcher, a physical scientist for the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., said that “man had only a few decades to solve the problem of global warming caused by pollution.” Global warming could cause further melting of the polar ice caps and affect the earth’s climate.

On December 29, 1974, the New York Times ran the story, “Forecast for Forecasting: Cloudy.” This article is a long discussion of the state of climate forecasting, and has an extensive discussion of the process of global cooling due to aerosols, and the contrary impact of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, and the great difficulty in developing valid and reliable climate forecasting models. The lead paragraph:

In the long term, climate is cooling off “” or is it warming up? As for tomorrow’s weather, even the world’s biggest computer can’t say for sure what it will be.

On May 21, 1975, the New York Times ran the story, “Scientists Ask Why the Climate is Changing; Major Cooling May Be Ahead.” This article begins with a clear statement of uncertainty:

The world’s climate is changing. Of that scientists are firmly convinced. But in what direction and why are subjects of deepening debate.

On August 14, 1975, the New York Times ran, “Warming Trend Seen in Climate.” In this article, the New York Times discusses two scientific articles that focus on the overall climate patterns. It covers the debate over global cooling due to aerosols and global warming due to CO2 increases:

Dr. [Wally] Broecker’s argument is that the present cooling trend in the north will be reversed as more and more carbon dioxide is introduced into the atmosphere by the burning of fuels.

In the decades since, of course, scientists have come to the consensus that our continued burning of fossil fuels are tied to the warming of the planet. It is not the New York Times that is dishonest in its coverage, it is George F. Will.

I would add that The NYT’s entire August 22, 1981 story, “Study finds warming trend that could raise sea levels,” is reprinted here: “Right for 27 years: 1981 Hansen study finds warming trend that could raise sea levels.”

Science is self-correcting based on observation and analysis.  The science has been clear for decades that GHG-driven warming dominates the climate system, and the reporting has (mostly) followed the science.  But apparently nothing can correct the inaccuweather climate statements of Bastardi and his fellow disinformers.

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18 Responses to Meteorological Malpractice: Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi pushes the “70s Ice Age Scare” myth again

  1. MarkB says:

    Bastardi is an embarrassment to AccuWeather. This isn’t the first time Bastardi has repeated “they predicted an ice age in the 70′s” garbage, nor is it the first time he’s been shown otherwise. Deniers never seem to learn anything, and they are encouraged and rewarded for spouting nonsense, perhaps the most difficult challenge for a rational society to conquer.

    I think he topped himself for inanity by using very short-term weather patterns in some locations to support his science denial. Such tactics should be very transparent, but much of the choir sings right along with him.

  2. B. Waterhouse says:

    Joe -

    It’s pretty depressing that this Accuweather (what an oxymoron!) story will probably get more media coverage than your cogent two recent posts on what’s happening in the arctic or yesterday’s BBC story on growing methane emissions. I haven’t been able to find these stories anywhere in the mainstream US media with Google searches.

  3. MarkB says:

    I wanted to add that Accuweather takes the “faux balance” approach to the topic of global warming, aiming for equal time covering flat-Earth style arguments and fringe skeptics vs real scientists, rather than simply taking an objective look at what the science says.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Interesting read. The problem I have, as a meteorologist is that too many people without any real meteorological /climatological background have become involved in this debate. I’ve seen ‘tweets’ the past couple of days up in arms about how the Arctic has seen incredible warmth in December. This is true, but not in response to anthropogenic warming. It’s due to the AO in the negative phase*–yet an unqualified journalist comes along..sees this and tweets about it or writes a nifty blog about arctic warming.

    *which occurs more often during the quiet phase of the sun. This solar minimum has been one of the deepest in 100 years. Has anybody done any research re: the sun and its expected output over the next 100-500 years?

  5. Peter Sinclair says:

    I just updated my “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” video on this topic:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB3S0fnOr0M

  6. Leif says:

    Jeremy: “This solar minimum has been one of the deepest in 100 years. Has anybody done any research re: the sun and its expected output over the next 100-500 years?”

    Given that the solar output has over all been quite stable for many millions of years I would expect more of the same. (Not minimum but average.) However, notice how fast society was willing to accept that the stock market could grow forever! Past performance is no guarantee of future performance! Remember?

    Also the sun is quite large compared to the earth. Significant changes happen on a SLOW bell. Even a solar explosion will be millions of years in the making. Look for changes here first!

  7. E.A. says:

    Would you purchase forecasts from a Company whose main public figure doesn’t even apparently glance at the abstracts in The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society? Consdiering the study that refutes the 70′s Global Cooling Myth has been out for over a year, it’s amazing that he gets away with going on TV with something like that.

  8. Bob Wright says:

    Interesting: Both the Hockey Stick and Accuweather came from Penn State guys.

  9. Duane Stone says:

    Joe Bastardi is truthful and honest. He predicted the excess chilling and blizzards for the first 15 days of January and the Met refused to until it started snowing in the U.K.
    There are a lot of deaths and damage because of denial of the winter storms. People deserve less biased forecasting.
    Joe Bastardi embarrassed a lot of “forecasters” in the last 2 weeks.

    I will see if this web site is honest enough to leave up my post.

    [JR: Not. The problem is you folks make nonsensical claims and never provide links. Bastardi only embarrasses himself -- and grossly misleads real people who have to make long-term investments based on climate predictions, including, say, farmers and insurers -- by predicting 20 to 30 years of cooling. We have an unusually extreme Arctic oscillation, which, is overwhelming the moderate to serious El Niño in terms of short-term weather impacts in (some) parts of the world.]

  10. robert says:

    Bastardi appears to be a person who is looking for an angle to fit his ‘repugnant’ agenda. He is also out of his league as a Meteorologist trying his hand at Climatology. Dr. Romm said it best with the phrase ‘Meteorological Malpractice’. Bastardi is just another clown who should have kept his day job! Oh, how quickly a camera can turn a grown man into a fool! Of all people, he should know the difference between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’. Oh, i’ll explain … for his sake. It’s Climate that melts 30,000 year old glaciers not the weather cycles! But ‘ya gota’ give him credit for ‘recycler of the month’ with his 1970 ice age myth-spin! I think we should raise some money to buy Bastardi an averaging thermometer that records the decadal temperature values for the past 10,000 years. Make sure that the thermometer has a red arrow that points in the warming direction, to avoid confusion! Accu-weather … my foot! Has they no shame?

    Then we get George Will’s nonsensical piece which is nothing but a ‘Will’-full [PP] misrepresentation of TRUTH! How can these people face their children at night? Educated, sick talking heads [and I’m trying to be nice] that should be taken to Malpractice Court! Oh where are the Sociologists that would help us understand this disorder, wherein a person of higher education can appear so blind! Is it simply a subconscious choice to climb onto any stage just to seek stature? Is being Infamous a desirable goal. For sure i would think they must know this will all unravel and expose their folly!

    Accuwether’s good name is on the line when they allow this nonsense to continue. I see nothing less than the emergence of a political agenda to overtake profession ethics. They may think that this is the balance allowed in ‘free speech’, but it is truly a gross imbalance of judgment to allow the subversion of their duty to present a scientific based incite into weather and just maybe offer a clearer understanding of the difference between the two fields of science called Weather and Climate!

    They claim, eyes that see and ears that hear
    yet a mind so closed, there’s much too fear!

  11. robert says:

    Joe,

    Thanks to your work over the past few years, many have been galvanized to realize the serious plight of mankind. As the crisis looms closer, the masses are dumbstruck by their ‘too busy to bother’ life stiles. They await the leaders of this world to choose the correct way forward. Sad to say, many are not alert to the devious forces at work to subvert the smart reversal of direction needed. I’ll never claim to have even a partial answer to what should be done about all this but the thought rings in my head that your initiative could help push Peter Sinclair’s valued video series into a main stream media presentation! If only Green Peace, Sierra Club or a syndicate of the Green Activist movement could see fit to promote a series of Green commercials derived from his powerful works the resultant effect may be understood as the best possible bang for the buck! If you could use your leverage to reach out to this Green Base with an evolution of this thought, maybe it may result in an awaking as has not yet been seen. I’ll never understand how the masses willfully seem content with ignoring such films as An Inconvenient Truth! Maybe it is just a knee jerk reaction of a ‘repugnant’ mindset! Pete’s videos are a priceless resource that need to be exploited for their full effect. Come On Green Peace! Sierra … where is your public voice? And in closing, maybe Pete has a few thoughts to share on all this.

  12. dhogaza says:

    Perhaps we should call him Inaccuweather meteorologist.

    Well, I’ve been calling them “Inaccuweather” for years, based on their track record compared to the National Weather Service here in the PNW.

    Would you purchase forecasts from a Company whose main public figure doesn’t even apparently glance at the abstracts in The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society?

    If Santorum had had his way, you would not have had much choice:

    “On April 14, 2005, Santorum introduced the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005 to “clarify the duties and responsibilities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service (NWS), and for other purposes”.[39] This legislation, if enacted, would prohibit the NWS from publishing weather data to the public when private-sector entities, such as AccuWeather, a company based in Santorum’s home state, perform the same function commercially. “

  13. rick Zawlocki says:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/6931584/Met-Office-chief-receives-25-pc-pay-rise.html

    Nice info on John Hirst from The Met Office. They do a better job on forcasting than Joe Bastardi does.

  14. Jeremy says:

    Leif-

    You drive my point home

    “Past performance is no guarantee of future performance”

    thank you

    -jeremy

  15. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    I suspect Accuweather is an acronym for Absolutely Can’t Count Upon Weather. :)

  16. Marion Delgado says:

    Jeremy:

    Weather is not climate, and I am not sure you yourself understand that fact, or the nature of Arctic warming very well.

    Nor are meteorologists, by and large, climatologists. Indeed, most are TV weatherman, and frankly, they have an outsized representation in the denialism community. Reporters are going to report on climate, and that they are not themselves TV weathermen in most cases is not exactly the most compelling argument for them not to report on it.

    In this paper from the last big El Nino time, for instance, the question of whether you can, or should, put Arctic warming off on interannual circulation cycles is raised, and basically, the answer is that as the North Atlantic Oscillation reverses the ice loss would reverse in that case, but they think it more likely it will continue to shrink, and it did. I chose a paper from GRL because they published the M&M mess, so they can hardly be accused of an AGW bias.

    I note with alarm how often the fact that warming should be much higher in the Arctic and Antarctic – which comes directly from GCMs – is completely ignored.

    As for driving your point home, what is that point? If you’re heading here, you should not. Also, Twitter is not a venue for actual reporting but for drawing attention to linked stories with a brief summary.

  17. Marion Delgado says:

    By the way, agreed Accuweather is definitely doing the fake balance thing. Not sure it’s gotten worse, by the way. My guess is it has more real science than it used to.

  18. Marion Delgado says:

    Also, if Jeremy’s point was the more innocuous one that you saw just as many stories about the Arctic warming where they didn’t point out the effects of the northern oscillation and air masses, etc. vs. global warming, while there were definitely not as many stories about the Arctic, one was this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/weekinreview/10chang.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

    Which is one story, by a science reporter for the NYT, and it’s to make that exact point about the Arctic as well as the other places that cooled.

    What does seem clear is that these oscillations have nothing to do with global warming, or, for that matter, global cooling. For one, they’re not new. And this winter’s cold has not been global. Santa, by North Pole standards, has been experiencing a balmy winter.

    “Pretty much all of the Arctic is above normal,” said Dr. Walter Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. In some areas, the temperatures are as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.