I fully understand why the spreaders of climate disinformation have hyped up a (sort-of) cold January as if it somehow provided scientific evidence to support their campaign to undermine the well-established scientific understanding of human-caused climate change. That’s their job (literally, in many cases).
But I can’t understand why the media keep treating such disinformers as if they were a genuine part of the scientific process who deserve free publicity, rather than as dangerous serial misleaders who don’t believe in either science and real-world observations (but who repeatedly misuse one or the other to confuse to the general public).
Our deep understanding of the climate is, as I’ve noted, based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that themselves are based on countless real-world observations over decades (and paleoclimate data extending back hundreds of thousands of years). It can’t be undercut by a few weeks of cool weather – and the really annoying thing, you may be surprised to learn, is they haven’t even been remarkably cool!
So I don’t understand why the usually thoughtful Andrew Revkin would enable the disinformers write a NYT article titled “Climate Skeptics Seize on Cold Spell,” or the usually thoughtful WSJ blog would write a similarly misguided piece, “Little Ice Age? Cold Snap Sparks Cooling Debate.” Seriously. Who cares what non-climate-related factoid or piece of pseudo-science so-called ‘Climate Skeptics’ seize on? And the only “debate” that has been sparked is one created by the disinformers and the media.
[I will come back to the media critique at the end. In Part II I'll discuss, one more time, why they do not deserve the label "skeptics," and why I'm finally persuaded "deniers" isn't a great term. Let's call them "disinformers," for now, though a good case could be made for "would-be climate destroyers."]
This internet meme began with a misleading post by a meteorologist about how cool January 2008 was compared to January 2007 (but who made no connection to global warming). It got picked up by the climate disinformers at dailytech.com (what else would you call people who publish articles like “Solar Activity Diminishes; Researchers Predict Another Ice Age“). They wrote an article titled, “Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling,” with the subhead “Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming.” The Drudge Report linked to it, and the traditional media got suckered picked it up with blaring subheads like “An Unusually Cold Winter.”
You might think from all this that 2007 was a cold year, surely much colder than 2006, or even that we’ve had an unusually cold winter. NOT! Let’s start with the relevant facts that I didn’t think needed to keep being repeated, but obviously do.
INFORMATION VS. DISINFORMATION
As NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies explains, “The eight warmest years in the GISS record have all occurred since 1998, and the 14 warmest years in the record have all occurred since 1990.” What about 2007? NASA explains “2007 tied with 1998 for Earth’s second warmest year in a century” (NOAA puts the 2007 ranking slightly lower, at a close fifth). NASA’s James Hansen explains:
“As we predicted last year, 2007 was warmer than 2006, continuing the strong warming trend of the past 30 years that has been confidently attributed to the effect of increasing human-made greenhouse gases.”
Are you confused yet? It certainly seems like the climate has kept warming. And the best way to convince yourself the climate is going to keep warming is to challenge anyone to make a $1000 bet that the next decade will not be warmer than this one. Heck give them 2-to-1 odds. That should be a no-brainer for anybody who repeats the nonsense that human-caused global warming isn’t really or has somehow stopped. Yet nobody ever takes the bet.
But the New York Times says we’ve had “an unusually cold winter.” If this were actually true in any meaningful sense of the word “unusually” it would still have no bearing on the climate issue. But is it true? To check, let’s go to maybe the best source for analyzing and comparing historical trends in monthly data — I hate to reveal this secret data source, but circumstances demand it.
NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) issues a report each and every month. So let’s see what their taxpayer-funded analysis concludes. Winter begins in December. How bitterly cold was December?
Now NCDC did note that it might get a wee bit colder in coming months since, “Cold phase (La Ni±a) ENSO conditions intensified during December.”
Okay, well, how bitterly cold was January?
The 31st warmest on record? Are you really confused yet??? As the old saying goes, anybody who isn’t confused here doesn’t understand what is going on.
So what exactly is the news here? What is all the fuss about?
The major answer is big media swallowed the spin of disinformers. The minor answer is two sow’s ears of relatively meaningless weather-related factoids that the disinformers have spun into a climate disinformation silk purse: