Must-hear audio of press call with Dr. Jeff Masters and me on record snowstorms, extreme weather, and climate change science

NOTE:  I am keenly interested in your thoughts on my answers (and Dr. Masters’).

Regular readers know what uber-meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters and I think about extreme weather and climate science [see “Massive moisture-driven extreme precipitation during warmest winter in the satellite record “” and the deniers say it disproves (!) climate science“].

But what makes the call a must-hear is the window into the media’s thinking from the collective set of questions posed by the many journalists on this call:

We had incredible press interest — in part because of the pure coincidence that the press call came on the same day that Dr. Masters and I were featured in that front-page NY Times story with the bad headline

One answer in particular a couple of people mentioned  they liked, so we transcribed it:

First, Blake Snow of asked me “In light of recent errors in [the] 2007 UN climate report, are public concerns about the validity or cause of climate change justified?”  I gave a way-too-long answer, and Snow followed up, “So in this case would you ask the public to overlook these errors given that they are minor?”

I answered:

Well yeah. Look, each of you works for media outlets that publish corrections. Yet you expect day by day the public should come back and not think because you made a mistake and admitted 2 or 3 or 4 mistakes every single day that somehow your reporting is not trustworthy. Now, in the case of the scientific body, these are reports every 5 or 6 years. And they publish like three 1,000-page reports. It’s going to be very difficult for errors not to creep into it. But again I encourage you to draw distinctions between the wealth of observations in this scientific liteature and these reports, which are an effort to collect everything and digest it. It would be very difficult for it to be error free.

Yes, I know the irony of saying that to  And yes, in general I think the media are infinitely less reliable than the IPCC or scientific literature.  But the point is framing.

Every reporter knows he or she has made mistakes and yet they generally view those mistakes as inconsequential, while expecting people to trust their body of work and their next story.

As I said, comments are desired.  For me, many of these are questions I haven’t heard before, and I am just working out the best answers, and I’ll be doing many more interviews in the coming days and weeks, especially with my book coming out.

In a larger sense, though, these are the questions that the media will be asking over and over again — and by extension these are the questions that opinion-makers and the public will be asking — so everyone who communicates on this issue needs good answers.

65 Responses to Must-hear audio of press call with Dr. Jeff Masters and me on record snowstorms, extreme weather, and climate change science

  1. Wit's End says:

    Perfect pitch!

    Now, why is it that Yahoo headlines “climate skeptics seize on blizzards to disprove global warming” and right below it is a headline about the lack of snow in Vancouver for the Winter Games?

  2. My simple question: How come it’s so hard to understand that expected heavy precipitation events can be heavy snowstorms where it is (still) cold enough?

  3. Stuart says:

    GREAT answer! That is the way to frame an answer that everyone (particularly the reporters) can relate to. Hopefully they will think a little more critically next time some denier starts spouting BS.

  4. ChicagoMike says:

    Can you post as an MP3, so I can upload to my iPod?

  5. How the purported IPCC error on sensitivity of Amazon forest to change in rainfall was hyped, with help of a journalist:

  6. Dennis says:

    Very well done. Perhaps next time ask the questioner how many public errors he will admit to in the past three years and ask if that invalidates his other work.

  7. fredo says:

    Shouldn’t that be “with Dr. Jeff Masters and ME” in the headline?

    [JR: Yes. Missed that. Too much shuffling around of the headline. At least it didn’t say “Big Freeze.”]

  8. SecularAnimist says:

    Fox News doesn’t make mistakes.
    They deliberately lie.

  9. paulm says:

    Perfect Storm of counter attacks…
    these winter storms are actually helping to turn the tide!

    Joe you should collect all the good links in a single post..

  10. mike roddy says:

    Great answer, Joe. You were polite and careful, but…

    I think this should stimulate a counterattack. The best comprehensive collections and debunkings of denier fabrications are in Climate Coverup and on this blog. If you don’t read either source (98% of the public), you are likely to have no idea what is really going on here, and even reporters seem to be lost.

    The deniers nitpick credible scientists, and lie continuously and compulsively themselves. I’m amazed that none of the media has picked up on this, except for occasional pieces in The Guardian. How can the media continually present two sides without investigating the veracity of the deniers? This is part of the job description of a high school reporter. There is a journalism prize awaiting the mainstream writer who steps up here, and it won’t even be difficult- most of the background information is easily found on the Net.

  11. Peter Bellin says:

    My feed kept halting in the middle of your long answer to the Fox news reporter.

    Overall, I thought the responses good, but you should try to follow up as much as possible to see what message is published. What you say and what is reported are, of course, different. Your answer will be truncated. So, perhaps it is better to give shorter responses to keep the message as succinct as is possible.

  12. Richard Brenne says:

    Joe and Jeff, great job! Here are some suggestions for the future about how you might consider saying things – you made most of these points, here’s some different ways of saying them:

    1. Precipitation and cold are two different things. Global warming means more dramatic precipitation of all kinds, including snow where it’s cold enough to snow.

    Global warming predicts more dramatic precipitation events like these snowstorms, but it predicts less cold records relative to heat records.

    2. You mentioned the blizzard of 1899. That was also one of America’s greatest cold snaps, with lows in Tallahassee, Florida of -2F, Atlanta -9F, Tennessee -30F, and Washington -15F. The expected coldest day in this current cold snap is expected to be 19F above in Washington, D.C. That means 34 degrees above Washington’s all-time record. This Winter’s cold snaps are cold by today’s standards, but are not cold compared to the records. In 1899 the Mississippi froze solid all the way to New Orleans and discharged ice into the Gulf of Mexico, we often saw the solid freezing over of other rivers and lakes including the Great Lakes that we rarely see freeze over today.

    What’s impressive about the Mid-Atlantic storms this winter are the snowfall totals, not the temperatures. Snowfall is precipitation, and more extreme precipitation is what climate models have long predicted.

    3. Conversely, more heat records are being set in the U.S., at over a 2 to 1 ratio to cold records in the last decade. Gerald Meehl’s models show that this could become a 20 to 1 ratio by 2050 and a 50 to 1 ratio by 2100 if we do nothing to control emissions.

    4. Instead of Jeff saying we have “inadequate data” which is like pouring honey over your head in the presence of a hungry grizzly, he could say “We have massive data over the last 130 years, are always improving proxy data from ice core bubbles, tree rings and sediment, and of course we always want more and better data. The farther back and more reliable that data becomes, the more we’ll be able to see all the cycles of natural variability. What we do know is that none of these cycles can explain the warming we’ve seen and are likely to see increasing without factoring human burning of fossil fuels and resulting CO2 increase.”

    5. The longer and more global the view, the more we see evidence of global warming. Thus Vancouver’s all-time warmest January is more helpful than a day in Washington, especially one 30 or more degrees from the all-time cold record. Looking throughout the U.S. is more helpful still, but that’s still only 1.5 per cent of the Earth’s surface, and oddly the U.S. has often seen less warming than the world the last few years.

    6. We need to look at the overall trend. Imagine we all get in our plug-in hybrid together and drive from Washington, D.C. to the crest of the Appalachia’s to our west (and this is not a trip I’d recommend right now). The overall trend would be up, but there would be several downhills along the way. We want to stay focused on the overall trend and not be distracted by the temporary downturns. The overall upward trip is like global warming, a cold snap in any time and region is simply a temporary downturn within that overall trend.

    Similarly the overall trend of the stock market throughout the 20th Century was also up, but with temporary downturns. Those who made the most money like Warren Buffett looked at the overall trend more than temporary and usually unpredictable downturns.

    7. Look, there are perceptions and there is reality. The reality is that Earth has warmed 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century (Gerald Meehl and many others use this figure while Jeff used 1 degree and Joe used both – we need to get on the same page with things like this), and it is warming at an ever-accelerating rate over time.

    The perceptions of the uneducated are merely their own surroundings – in the Dark Ages many Europeans believed there were all kinds of monsters lurking in the forests beyond their village or experience.

    Science has given us the unprecedented gift of a truly global view. Understanding science means that you’re educated. Looking only at your own experience or snow outside the window without listening to what science tells us about our world is, in a word, being uneducated. We need education of all kinds if civilization is going to survive the threats civilization has put before us.

    8. If you needed difficult and rare heart or brain surgery you’d want to work with the finest doctors drawing on the work of the finest scientists. You wouldn’t want to go to a dentist or veterinarian or to someone without even those credentials speaking on talk radio or a blog that doesn’t listen to this science. It is no different here. Climate scientists are every bit as good as scientists in all other fields, in fact the IPCC is a review of more science done by more scientists in more fields than any other scientific review or process ever.

    9. We need to accept that the implications of climate change are so overwhelming that the starting point for virtually each of us is denial. Only those truly educated people will get beyond that denial and their own perceptions to listen to what scientists who know more about this than anyone in the world and in history are trying to tell us. We need to be educated. And you need to educate your readers, viewers and listeners. We at Climate Progress are happy to help you with that process, so view our blog, ask questions in the comments, and report what you, your editors, advertisers and audience are open-minded and educated enough to learn. Or, we can all go to hell.

  13. Jay Turner says:

    Just once I’d like to see a commentator on a mainstream media channel talk openly and frankly about the need to distinguish who is a credible speaker. Special-interest spokesmen, sensationalistic infotainers, and industry-funded experts simply don’t deserve the same level of credence as actual climate scientists who do real research and report real research findings. It’s very frustrating to see self-serving propagandists given the same level of credence as genuine scientists with relevant expertise.

  14. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    The doomsayer likes the use of pro polluter as being a more accurate description. It is slowly creeping in.

  15. paulm says:

    Joe you highlight an important point – these extreme events are not proof (as of yet) of, but are evidence, strong supporting evidence, of Global warming.

    They form and are part of the proof of the phenomena and contribute to the theory. As we become more sophisticated and our models better they will be shown to be very much a part of climate change that is happening.

  16. Robyn Bracey says:

    Beautiful comparison (i.e. with errors which reporters make). Puts the whole thing in perspective.

  17. Dan says:

    I’d like to second Chicago Mike at #4. Please let me listen to this on my mp3 player. I also have way too many friends who are in climate change denial. It would be nice to have a coherent intelligent argument to pass along as I’m not the greatest debater out there.

  18. Dean says:

    I would reiterate what Joe said that I think most of his answers were too long. They weren’t bad in a technical sense, but what is technically correct is not necessarily the best media response.

    [JR: A press call is an unusual case in that it isn’t a radio interview for the general public, but a rare chance to speak to multiple members of the media once. I’m not saying that some of my answers weren’t too long, only that one can’t judge a press call by the same standards. There were a few misconceptions that I did want to address. And frankly, when answering from tricky question for the first time, I do confess that I air on the side of too much. Another interesting reason why a press call is unusual in that there is a little less chance that you will be misquoted or quoted out of context in a long answer because there is an audio tape record.]

  19. paulina says:

    Can you run the audio through your speech recognition software?


  20. Michael T. says:

    When you have a strong El Nino and an extreme neg. phase AO, at the same time, then you’re going to have a lot of snow on the east coast. If the AO was more positive (warmer air in U.S.) then the precipitation would probably be heavy rain instead. The Earth’s average temperature is about 58F so I don’t see how it’s impossible to still have winter precipitation in one corner of the globe especially with an El Nino and strong neg. Arctic Oscillation. I don’t find it that complicated but some people do.

  21. Leif says:

    Richard Brenne, #12: Good suggestions all, very thoughtful on many levels. Thank you.

    If I may, I am into Bertrand Russell today, one more quote:

    “The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.”

  22. Tom Yulsman says:

    In case you missed it, temperatures in some places in Greenland yesterday reached 50 degrees, and it rained in some spots too. Today, temperatures weren’t quite that high, but they still exceeded freezing in a number of places, and there were rain showers again. (For you weather geeks, here’s a handy Weather Underground page with current conditions in Greenland: As Michael T. says, we’ve got a strong El Nino and the AO has gone very negative again, just like in December and January. I would love to hear Dr. Masters address the question of whether there is any way to know how much of what we are experiencing now is due to these natural phenomena and how much can be attributed to extra atmospheric water vapor and a souped up hydrologic cycle due to long-term warming.

    [JR: Yes, be meaning to blog on that. This is no doubt the AO plus AGW. The issue of whether AGW affects the AO is also uncertain.]

  23. Michael T. says:

    It was said in the press call by Dr. Masters that January was the 10th coldest on record for Florida. Florida was even colder in January 2003 with the 6th coldest on record. See the NCDC info below.

    Regionally, the southeast had the 14th coldest January on record, last month, which 2003 was slightly below that value at 13th coldest.

    So why wasn’t there any controversy over the cold conditions in the southeast in January ’03? Which was also an El Nino year I would add.

  24. Peter Sergienko says:

    I thought you did extremely well with an interesting format–a chance for longer and in-depth answers and not sound bites.

    In terms of constructive criticism, I don’t have much to add to Richard Brenne’s comments, which are extremely helpful as usual.

    One minor point, though. If you say something like, “the average global temperature has ‘only’ increased by one degree fahrenheit,” don’t leave that thought hanging. It stuck out to me because I think it would sound like no big deal to the average person (and probably to the majority of the reporters participating in the call).

    As an alternative, and you’ll characterize the scientific points or find better ones to use than this, “We’ve only seen one degree Fahrenheit of average warming so far and, as just one example of its effects, there has already been a massive loss of glacial ice around the world. Millions of people in the United States and in other countries depend on glacial run-off for drinking water and irrigation. The threat to these water supplies is a current threat. Unfortunately, the loss of glacial ice will increase over time because global warming is accelerating. The longer we wait to act, the more difficult and expensive these problems are to solve.”

  25. Dean says:

    Re #22 and Greenland being so warm – let’s send all the deniers there! They think that a warm Greenland demonstrates that warming will be good. Well, let them prove it personally. Maybe we need a petition. Who should we send first?

  26. Terry Heidelberg says:


    It occurred to me, listening to the conference call, that you and Masters were mostly trying to “educate” and make more disciplined, the listening press corps.

    I think you could render humanity and the press corps a huge favor by doing the following: review all of your blog entries on the topic of “press does a terrible job by [misquoting | under-researching | giving less-qualified deniers equal space as real climate scientists | making or accepting logical errors with respect to climate change science ] and from those findings, put together a master check-list for any journalist who is writing a climate-change-related story. This would include all the major sins of omission and commission that you regularly see in bad climate-change press reports.

    Get this checklist vetted by your best contacts in the climate science and journalist worlds.

    Distribute this checklist as aggressively and widely as possible: print, radio, tv, internet outlets. Make it a real campaign to get the checklist into every honest journalist’s hands (the dishonest ones will ignore anyhow).
    Ask the journalists to use the checklist on every single story that they write (or cite) to see if the reporting is up to quality standards.

    Then, in your future blog entries about poor press stories on climate change, you can also cite the item(s) on the checklist that the writer/reporter of the story violated, in addition to your usual prose critical analysis. Other commentors can start referring to the checklist items when finding fault with climate stories that they are reviewing/blogging on. E.g. “this report from [source] blatantly violates ClimateProgressReportingChecklist 3, 7, and 12.”

    If we are lucky, after a while, honest reporters will be afraid to post a climate-change story without reviewing the checklist first. It could become “best practice” in the climate-science reporting biz.

    I’m probably too hopeful here, but I think it’s worth a try. You seem to be a good choice for the person to do it.

  27. David B. Benson says:

    Terry Heidelberg (26) — Certainly seems worth trying!

    Caree to produce a first draft?

  28. Andy says:

    These are some bullet points:

    The global warming signal has just now emerged from the long term temperature record – it will become much more evident in the future.

    Future global warming will produce great enough temperature increases and other weather phenomena that almost no one will question its existence.

    Once global warming produces such obvious effects, it will largely be too late to stop severe adverse effects.

    Once global warming produces such obvious effects, the natural world maybe releasing enough carbon dioxide and methane that extreme adverse weather will occur even if humans stop burning all fossil fuels. Drought and high enough temperatures to cause massive forest and crop loss, and kill fish and wildlife thus vastly reordering and depopulating the natural world, as well as cause extreme human hardship. Ocean acidification will also causes losses of marine life. Perhaps extreme losses.

    It may already be too late to stop portions of the world’s ice caps from melting enough to raise sea level 15 to 30 feet over a few centuries. It certainly will be too late if we wait on obvious effects before addressing global warming. If we wait that long we may lose all of our ice caps and incur over 200 feet of sea level rise. It may take 1,000 years for them to melt completely, but unless humans become god-like in power, we will have put enough carbon dioxide into the air before the end of this century to melt the ice caps entirely.

  29. Michael T. says:

    ABC News has a good story about the snow.

    “Politics, Science Collide Over Recent Snow Storms”

    “This conflation of weather and global climate is a classic ploy by skeptics,” said Mark Serreze, a professor at the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center.

    “Mother Nature doesn’t care about whether you speak in loud voices, or what your political affiliation is. It just does its thing. There is always variability in weather. It’s all in the science,” he said.

    It’s nice to see a news organization, like ABC, go to actual scientists and let them explain. I think ABC does good coverage of climate change science. Much better than orther media outlets anyway. I watched ABC World News with Diane Sawyer last night and they showed a global warming report that was written a few years ago (I think) explaining impacts of climate change on the U.S. They even showed a line from the report that read “the seasonal storms in the eastern U.S. will become stronger and more frequent over the long-term, meaning more heavy precip. events.” They also explained the past decade was the warmest in the laste 2000 years. I figure ABC World News has big ratings so I’m glad that they explained some of the science to many american’s who were watching.

  30. Richard Stewart says:

    It is arrogant of man to believe he can control the weather. God is in control.

    Genesis 8:22 –
    “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”

    [JR: I assume you don’t go to the doctor. Don’t want to interfere with God’s plan … unless his plan was to give people a brain to figure out that man can ruin the climate.]

  31. Leif says:

    Accentuate the energy acquired each day in excess of equilibrium. This energy must either be dissipated as wind, evaporation, ocean currents, ice melt, ocean temperature increase, air temperature increase, jet stream intensification, and just plane vigorous weather systems, both hot in the summer and cold in the winter. At least until winter ceases to exist anywhere in the world! At which point humanity and most other life forms are long since toast.

  32. Dano says:

    “The Bible doesn’t tell you how the heavens go, the Bible tells you how to go to Heaven.” — Cardinal Baronius (Vatican Librarian during Galileo Inquisition)



  33. Leif says:

    Richard Stewart, #29: It is arrogant for mankind to not use his God given powers of reasoning and intellect as well as the God giver powers of science and learned men to ignore obvious facts in favor of dogma and ignorance at the expense of humanities long term survival.

  34. Leif says:

    Dr. Joe: Had God not given Man a superior brain we would not be in this dilemma in the first place.

  35. Guillaume Tell says:

    The word “global” could have been used more often in the responses to the reporters.
    The word “regional” could have been advantageously applied to every local question.
    And every interview should be taken beyond, “the United States is only 1.5%.” There could be mention of the greater significance of global warming in the Southern Hemisphere because of the greater expanse of higher-heat-content oceans. And how 2009 was the Southern Hemisphere’s hottest year.

  36. Mim says:

    Joe, Thanks for this. I’ve listened to the phone-in and then went and read your excellent two part article on scientists, deniers and communicating the message. So these comments might be elsewhere, but for what it’s worth.

    The main messages that I heard were:
    1. The world and the USA is getting warmer – even winter to winter.
    2. Hotter means more water in the air means more rain and snow in some places.
    3. There are going to be more fierce and extreme events over time (is this so, or is it one or the other eg more fierce?)
    4. It’s been really hot down where I live (SE Australia) :)
    5. Vancouver is getting too warm for the winter Olympics :)
    6. People in glass houses etc – ie the press makes mistakes every day but it doesn’t ruin their credibility – especially when they fix it and apologise.

    Short and sharp is best, and simple analogies and examples to elaborate can drive the message home.

    The main mixed message was ‘we don’t have enough data’. I know the context was the past, but the risk is only the first half of the message will be retained out of context. That could be pounced upon to so doubt of all messages. So I agree with another comment about framing the message as a positive and not apologising for anything, more to promote how amazing it is that there is all these mountains of data all saying the same thing, even before there were thermometers everywhere.

    The other mixed message was how to distinguish between single events and trends in regard to attribution to global warming. I think that turned out all right in the end, but nearly got lost along the way. (One hurricane doesn’t make a warming, but ten times more hurricanes together with rising temps gives a big clue that something is up.) :D

  37. Dan B says:


    The challenge with your message, which is so far more out-front than mine, is that’s it’s still framed with brands that are no longer successful.

    Global climate change and the “solution” 21st Century Energy Economy is the frame.

    When people think of “environment” they think of rich white people in the US and Europe who care more about Polar Bears, cuddly furry Polar Bears than about economic growth, or kids, or their neighbors, or values.

    Economic growth is our new “Religion”… “RELIGION”. Religion means what “binds us” together. The new belief that “binds us” is growth: quantity not quality, goods not goodness, things not wonderful times with friends and families.

    People who fight climate science fear it will destroy their religion – economic growth – boundless economic growth. After all it made them rich. After all it gave them moments of bliss.

    You’ve shaken the Fox News reporter who will “report to” Rupert Murdoch.

    Murdoch’s media empire has prospered mightily by exploiting fear, and the human limbic system, and destroyed our moribund belief that humans are rational. At least most business leaders understand that emotional intelligence, and its masters rule. Why should he, or we, change?

    What’s the vision of quality, love, joy, future, hope that trumps being able to buy the latest “thing”?

  38. Richard Brenne says:

    Richard Stewart (#30) wrote “It is arrogant of man to believe he can control the weather. God is in control.”

    Human burning of fossil fuels is by far the primary cause of global warming and thus extreme weather events that can’t be controlled or the where and when predicted months in advance. So you’re right in saying that humans can’t control the weather, but all the fossil fuels we burn have become the primary forcing of climate change, which is manifest in increasingly bizarre and destructive weather events.

    It is arrogant of humans for the richest to allow a billion malnourished-to-starving people in the world, it is arrogant for humans to commit genocides and war killing hundreds of millions, it is arrogant for humans to keep burning fossil fuels when all those sufficiently educated among them know that continuing this will bring catastrophe to their children, grandchildren and countless generations to come.

    I agree with you about God being in control, but I believe this is only seen when anyone turns to God with complete humility and desire to understand, and with complete kindness, caring, compassion and empathy for all other beings on Earth.

    We’re behaving like destructive alcoholics, addicted instead to the lifestyles we derive from burning fossil fuels. An alcoholic who is deeply sincere about stopping drinking and thus hurting everyone in his life doesn’t merely say “God is in control” and leave it at that. He admits what he’s done with honesty and courage, stops drinking, apologizes to everyone he’s hurt, and works to start anew while remaining determined to never drink again.

    I don’t think any truly great spiritual or political leader would recommend one-stop shopping without question for all of one’s spiritual, political and economic beliefs. The greatest gifts include humility, wisdom, intelligence, education, reason, kindness, caring, compassion and empathy and we need to exercise and practice all of them as much as we can. The faith that leads in all these directions is also priceless, but blind faith in and of itself is worthless.

  39. David Smith says:

    Many times in history, great powers used the religious faith of people to serve their ends, to assert power. I guess this is part of the nature of power and people. Examples are the rise of the Arabic empire, the crusades, the inquisition and the current radical violence emnating from the middle east. The underlying cause was always the increasing or application of power by the relative few, the secular powerful. I see this repeated in the climate struggle.

    This current conflict over climate change is paid for by great industries (energy and related)who are having their money generators threatened. A Part of this action involves exploiting the faith and passion of religious folks. When I see the biblical quotes, I think that people’s most personal, sacred beliefs are being manipulated by individuals hiding inside corporate interests) whose actions are driven by greed, hate, fear,….

    The faithful are being duped.

  40. A Siegel says:

    1. Let me echo others, Richard (Breene) — your comments are quite useful / thoughtful. Love the DC to Appalachia analogy.

    2. Let us add that the most serious “errors” within the IPCC work are almost certainly on the optimism side, understating the speed and severity of climate disruption for a variety of reasons such as the mandate to look backwards at already published peer-reviewed literature and inadequate modeling of positive feedbacks (positive feedback, unlike at the work place, is actual negative). Thus, rather than some form of pessimism, the IPCC reporting is almost certainly optimistic in nature.

    3. And, sadly, the modeling / examination of the benefits of action to mitigate climate disruption seem to systematically overstate costs and understate benefits.

  41. Chris Dudley says:


    You walk right up to, but then stop when talking about the last record warmth in Vancouver being recent. But, you did get in the bit about more recent record high than low temperatures. It seems to me that you are just on the verge of what may turn out to be a very compelling statement: that (say) last decade’s record highs are more likely to have broken recent records than last decade’s record lows. There may be a dramatic and high signal-to-noise ratio measure in there. Without a trend, for recent records, the average interval back to the last record should be around half the record keeping duration. With a trend, that average interval should shorten for high temperature records and lengthen for low temperature records. For a country devoted to baseball statistics including interest in streaks and slumps, this measure should be pretty intuitive, just as it seems to be for you. Don’t know if it is worth a paper, but in might be worth a study.

  42. Guillaume Tell says:

    What-I-should-have-said afterthoughts are always so futile.

    But not for your press call. With the posting of the audio, your accompanying article becomes a second chance (somewhat delayed) to shape the message.

    And not for my Comment No.35. Mim (No.36) mentioned the best way to make the Weather-is-not-Climate argument. It takes 30 years of single events to establish climate.

    And I would add that for any one time an average of readings taken over the entire globe will give the best measure…
    Ask the reporters if they follow NOAA’s “Daily Earth Temperatures from Satellites”.

    For whatever reason, its the 14000feet (channel 5) graph that is usually cited. Click on the yearly boxes below to see how the current temperature (in the white box) compares to the hottest years (that are also the previous years).

  43. prokaryote says:

    We apparently in need of transscripts as the media is cherry picking quotes today.

  44. john says:

    thanks for the article. I liked it. Keep up the good work.

  45. fj2 says:

    A good sound bite from Joe Romm: “You actually get more snow from warmer years on average.”

    [JR: I’m going to do a post on that Sunday. It is an amazing factoid.]

  46. Mal Adapted says:


    Dana Milbank, in the Washington Post, has a lukewarm(ist) take on your press call. Sending your readers there to comment might be a good idea, although there are already nearly 300 comments only 12 hours after publication.

    [JR: Masters will set the record straight on this soon.]

  47. Dean says:

    The angle that it is arrogant for humans to think that they can impact (or control) the environment is a version of a standard one that every major environmental era has faced. Back in the 1960’s, many claimed that it was ridiculous to think that the emissions from our little tailpipes and factories could affect the big atmosphere, same for dumping in rivers. Orange skies and burning rivers, among other things, put an end to that. Then it wasn’t so much a religious angle as it is now, but in both cases, there was resistance to the concept that we could have that much impact. You don’t hear that about air and water pollution now, and it’s only a matter of time till that argument falls by the wayside for climate as well.

  48. prokaryote says:

    Mal Adapt, i don’t find a comment section. Do you need to register?

  49. fj2 says:

    It may be useful to further develop the idea of increasing unstable equilibrium like a seal balancing a ball on its nose and the difficulty and resultant extreme reactions to keep the ball balanced if the ball were to increase in weight.

    Same with extreme weather events as global warming increases.

  50. prokaryote says:

    Nvm, i see them now with scripts enabled.

  51. BBHY says:

    Less than one percent of what the scientists say is incorrect, while 99% of what the deniers say is incorrect.

    Result? Scientists are not to be trusted! The deniers win!

  52. prokaryote says:

    51, the flaw, there is no longterm gain from denying climate change and obfuscate clean energy solutions. Even the media starts to realize this now.

    The winds have changed.

  53. john atcheson says:

    Great job.

    I believe we need to be clear on this issue of “cyclic” patterns, because it is raised as a shibbolith by deniers.

    We should focus on tow things: For now, the issue is the frequency of extreme events relative to historical frequencies — but in the longer term, the thing that should keep us all up at nights is what the world will look like when warming is superimposed upon normal cycles — since we are at a solar minimum, we could be facing a nightmare ….

    or something like this

  54. prokaryote says:

    53, there are solution and in order to make it happen we need the biggest effords in human history. This is the only choice we have left.

    After the industrial revolution and 10.000 years of human civilizations it is our task now – it lies in our hands, our generation to make this fundamental change happen. Clean energy, sustainability and climate farming.

  55. prokaryote says:

    Climate sceptics denounced by Brown as he launches climate change group

    Gordon Brown has launched a new UN climate fundraising group, and says sceptics go ‘against the grain’ of science

  56. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Few Thoughts

    First of all, I think the call-in session was a great idea, and Joe and Jeff did a great job.

    Today is cleaning day, so I’ll be brief.

    Three thoughts . . .

    * You should do these things much more frequently. Don’t wait for a news event — e.g., all the snow — to prompt the occasion. Instead, pick key misconceptions that people have (or conceptions that they should have but don’t) and then call — and widely publicize (to journalists) — such an event. Make the matter so clear that they can’t not get it. Send several announcements out, and extend invitations with followup calls. (By the way, I hope the lady at ClimateProgress who hosted the event is recovering from her cold or allergy.) Cover only one or two misconceptions (or conceptions) in each event, to make sure you “nail them down” and make them clear. In other words, do everything necessary so that there is no real, or good, excuse if key media outlets “don’t get it”. If you invite them once, twice, and three times, and then a fourth, and if you make followup calls, and then if you explain matters with crystal clarity, including examples and excellent metaphors, and then if you allow and ask for questions, and then if Newspaper X or TV Station Z STILL gets it wrong, there’s no excuse. In that case, concern is warranted, and it’s time to name names. So, eliminate all excuses that reporters or media outlets might be able to give for their not understanding. This is the excuse-elimination strategy.

    * But — as you have suggested — that also calls for more homework on our parts. In other words, each misconception to be corrected, or accurate conception to be provided, calls for excellent metaphors, accurate science, great examples, crystal clarity, practice in communication, credible reference papers in hand, a nice haircut, and white teeth. Perhaps even a picture of Albert Einstein on the wall, behind you, if there are cameras. So, lots of homework. The good news is that there are only so many misconceptions going around, so the number is not infinite — although admittedly people will try to invent new ones. So, more homework necessary. I’d be happy to help with two or three misconceptions that I can try to help clarify, by coming up with valid and clear metaphors and so forth.

    * Finally, the media folks have a LONG way to go. The media participants were well-spoken, and professional, and many of the questions were good and understandable, and some were great. But, in general, from listening to this and from reading and watching coverage, the large majority of the media don’t really “get it” in important ways. In some cases, it seems as though there is very limited understanding of science itself. Also, people tend to stick to one line of evidence — and the answers allowed them to stick to one line of evidence, for the most part: Everyone likes to talk about temperature temperature temperature, because people know what that is. But, that can give the impression — and many people seem to have this impression — that temperature data are the only line of evidence in the whole matter. We can clearly measure, of course, the CO2 increases, and those are corroborated in a number of ways. Because of the known properties of CO2, one would PREDICT and EXPECT that temperature would go up, all else equal, unless a compelling reason can be given why temperature should stay flat even in the face of increasing CO2. And, of course, people can measure changes in the large masses of ice, from space. And so forth. So, MUCH MORE needs to be done to help people understand the MULTIPLE lines of evidence, and what that means. If it tastes like a pancake, and smells like a pancake, and soaks up syrup like a pancake, and if it came from a pan, and so forth, you know what? It most likely IS a pancake. So, help people bring the full picture together.

    Well, that’s it. Great job. These are just quick thoughts. Time to do dishes.

    Be Well,


  57. Michael T. says:

    Dylan Ratigan is at it again!

    I wasn’t sure where to post this but I felt people should see it. He really crushes Glenn Beck.

  58. Andy says:


    OK, my honest opinion is that it was fairly painful to sit through the press call. I’m sure you will get better with practice. Very long and convuluted answers and sometimes you lost the thread.

    A couple things stood out.

    When the reporter commented that a few years back DC was experiencing a very mild winter and some environmental groups were stating we may not see much snow or cold again due to global warming. You should have jumped on that and stated that those who say such things are wrong. Science says otherwise. It will be many years yet before snow and cold come to an end in DC.

    When asked about whether it was just as bad to blame extreme heat on global warming as it was to say extreme cold or snowfall refutes it; you should also have stated “Yes, this is just as misleading. No single event can be blamed on global warming although we expect that as time goes on we will see fewer cold records and more heat records fall and that more and more the weather will be dominated by extreme heat, drought and precipitation events.” Then discuss Dr. Meehl’s work.

    Instead you indicated that Vancouver’s warmth was a global warming signal while Florida’s cold snap was not a signal proving global warming science was faulty. This is illogical.


    [JR: I strongly disagree with you here. See the Met Office and Royal Academy statement. The anti-science crowd win if one is simply not allowed to explain that record-smashing heat is entirely consistent with what we expect from global warming. I think my long answer there was in fact something that very much needs to be said. In fact, the media always does stories on, say, the connection between lung cancer and smoking and illustrates it with an individual smoker, or the connection between obesity and diabetes and illustrates it with an individual overweight diabetic — even though you can’t prove causality in the individual case. The cases are illustrative.

    BUT you can’t illustrate a non-existent trend (cooling) — and it is nonsensical to claim to illustrate that nonexistent trend with an extreme event that is in fact consistent with the actual warming trend. So you are making a false equation.

    We are in a long-term warming trend that science says will lead to record smashing extreme weather events. When you see a record-smashing extreme weather event consistent with the science, it is perfectly acceptable to say so. What’s more, the record snowfall isen’t even

    My explanation was long, but it had to be said, since lots of smart people, including you, don’t seem to get it.]

    Dean Says

    “Back in the 1960’s, many claimed that it was ridiculous to think that the emissions from our little tailpipes and factories could affect the big atmosphere, same for dumping in rivers. Orange skies and burning rivers, among other things, put an end to that. Then it wasn’t so much a religious angle as it is now, but in both cases, there was resistance to the concept that we could have that much impact. You don’t hear that about air and water pollution now, and it’s only a matter of time till that argument falls by the wayside for climate as well.”

    Yes, but by then it will be too late to prevent major ecological and physical damage to the planet and life will be much more difficult and less beautiful.

    That is the task you have in front of you as you try to communicate the science of global warming to the public.

  59. Andy says:

    The only way to detect a trend is with careful observation and the meaningful use of statistics. Individual points above and below the trend line are expected but by themselves don’t tell you much.

    [JR: They don’t tell you much, but when they are record-smashing over an extended period of time, then they are consistent with and illustrative of what we expect.]

    The difference between climate and smoking is that sometimes we will get new cold records for example when Maine hit 50 below for the first time last year (the previous record was 49 below I think). That would be like finding someone for whom smoking made them live a little longer.

    [JR: It would be like finding someone who smoked and lived to be 100.]

    I will read your comment over again as well as the MET/Royal Society post.

  60. John McCormick says:

    RE # 57


    Dylan Ratigan is at it again!

    Go to :

    and you will hear a cogent explanation for warmer temperatures producing more precipitation (even snow).

    Are we ready for a Dylan Ratigan vs Glenn Beck showdown?

    I am.

    Beck aint.

    John McCormick

  61. MapleLeaf says:

    Excellent response to the Fox News reporter.

  62. MapleLeaf says:


    I posted a long message yesterday, twice in fact, but it never appeared. My browser was probably at fault not your side. Anyhow, I had a long-winded message, but I’ll try and keep this short.

    1) You need to keep doing what you are doing; these briefings need to become a frequent/regular occurrence. Public and media education is critical. Bringing in relevant experts, as you did with Dr. Masters, is also crucial.
    2) Regarding the snowfall. People need to understand that we are not changing the tilt of the earth’s axis here, we will have winters, even under tripling of CO2.
    3) AGW is sometime going to manifest itself in counterintuitive ways. For example, warmer temps, leads to less lake ice over the Great Lakes and potential for more lake effect snow. Similarly, heavy snowfall events are counterintuitive, but still consistent with what the experts have said would happen. At the end of the day those east coast storms produced so much snow because the air was relatively mild, and the amount of moisture that can be held by the air and precipitated out increases as the air temperature goes up.
    4) The lower 48 accounts for only 1.5% of the planet’s surface area. This point really needs to be brought home. People need to understand that whatever is happening in the USA is not necessarily representative of what is happening globally. This is of course reflected clearly in the global SATs and other metrics.
    5) A lot of money needs to be thrown at public education on AGW. One image is worth a thousand words, animations of disappearing Arctic sea ice, spatial maps of global SATs. These kind of images if displayed on a billboard or airport TV screen can convey a huge amount of information.
    6) Regarding N. Atlantic hurricanes. People must keep in mind they account for less than 10% of all globals TCs each year. The paper by Knutson et al. (2010) has some very interesting projections on TC activity in the N. Atlantic basin. Things Break has some really good info at:

    Knutson et al. conclude that there will be “nearly a doubling of the frequency of category 4 and 5 storms [in the N. Atlantic basin] by the end of the 21st century”

    Thanks again for taking the time and trouble to engage the media and public, and to educate them on this important and complex issue. And yes, your retort to the Fox news reporter was dead on and needs to be repeated every time they point the finger. That and why they do not apply the same scrutiny and skepticism to arguments and ‘science” put forth by the “skeptics”, or blast their errors all over the front page?

  63. Michael T. says:

    60 John McCormick
    That was the same video I posted. I think you took my comment the wrong way. I’m on Ratigan’s side not Becks. I was saluting him for going the extra mile to explain the global warming science. I’m impressed with MSNBC’s and ABC news coverage of this.

  64. Marc Anderson says:

    Maybe it would help to explain extreme weather events to compare the warming signal to weighing a die. With a degree of warming, all 6 sides are going to come up, but you’d expect to see, say, more 6’s. Then lead into the ratio of record highs to record lows. At an intuitive level, I find that chart very powerful.

  65. Matt Walters says:

    Corporate chiefs and their puppets in the media and political circles depend on public ignorance to drive policy such as those related to climate change or any other policy that cuts into profits.

    There may be a decade long drought or record temperature not consistent with recorded climate change patterns as recorded in glacial ice cores and many other scientific facts to support these changes in climate.

    If it is raining somewhere and you can get a Fox News man under an umbrella then there is no drought! What drought?

    We educate our children as to the great length of time it takes to measure climate changes and how tiny changes in Earth temperature slowly reshapes the global environment and then some Fox reporter is standing in a blizzard suggesting that it’s OK to keep polluting our environment because from where he is standing the whole earth is getting colder, and not hotter! I fighting the urge to use the “R” word to describe the mental capacity of these corporate spokespersons disguised as reporters and politicians.

    But I don’t believe they are that stupid, just that they believe enough Americans are still that stupid…. The mentally challenged core of their listening group is asked to believe that more snow,(which scientist had already predicted would occur as ocean temperatures rise increasing the moisture in the atmosphere) proves that pollution is good for the Earth and somehow leaving God to clean up our mess is the best answer.

    Never mind passages in their “Good Books” that say we are tasked with being good stewards of the Earth!

    These people don’t believe in earth science or evolution as numb minds tend to gather around in masses. The facts get in the way of the mission of fincial climate change. Lining corperate pockets from money gleaned from the ignorant masses.