L.A. Times Explains U.S. ‘Seems to Have Largely Escaped Winter.’ Failure to Mention Global Warming Is ‘Journalistic Malpractice’

U.S. Heat Records Demolish Cold Records 13th Month in a Row; January Ending With Incredible Ratio of 27.5 to 1 in Lower 48

For reasons that no major U.S. news outlet can apparently explain, it has been really, really warm in the middle of winter over much of the country.  How warm is it?  It is so damn warm:

  • “Dick Cheney waterboarded himself.”
  • “Charlie Sheen was snorting actual snow.”
  • “I saw Rupert Murdoch trying to hack his way into a Cold Stone Creamery.”.
  • “Congress had to install a fan on the debt ceiling.”

It was so damn warm that the New York Times ran this amazing story:

Now this is just the paper’s City Room blog, so it is almost understandable that the article never mentions global warming.  But the L.A. Times actually wrote an entire story the same day trying to explain why most of the country missed out on winter:

That story was filed under “news/science” — so climatologist Michael Mann rightly tweeted that it was “simply journalistic malpractice” to omit any mention of global warming in the story.  Indeed, as we’ll see, that omission was beyond absurd in this case.

But first, it is important to point out that this isn’t the case of just a few warm days over part of the country.  January has, statistically, seen an extremely off the charts heat wave for the whole month for most of the country.

Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate analyzed the data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center and found U.S. heat records have been outnumbering cold records by a stunning amount, as this chart shows:

Monthly ratio of daily high temperature to low temperature records set in the U.S. for December 2010 through January 30, 2012, seasonal ratio for summer and fall 2011, winter 2011-2012 to date, and annual ratio for 2011 and 2010, data from NOAA.

Scolnik explains:

This is now the 13th consecutive month that new high temperature records have exceeded low temperature records in the U.S., since cold records eked out a ratio of 1.5 to 1 vs. heat records in December 2010.  The preliminary reports from the National Climatic Data Center through January 30 show heat records crushing cold records by a ratio of 20.7 to 1, nearly as high as the incredible 22.2 to 1 last August. Without the 25% of total January cold records set in Alaska, the ratio for the contiguous 48 states is 27.5 to 1. With meteorological winter now two-thirds over, the ratio for the season as a whole is at 6.2 to 1.

I like the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one record temperature on global warming.  Obviously, 20.7-to-1 is an astonishing ration for a whole month for the entire country.

If you want to know the historical ratios, see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.,” which is the source of this figure:


Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

Our science-based institutions, like the National Center for Atmospheric Research, have no difficulty straightforwardly explaining the connection between human-caused global warming and these monster heatwaves.  If only our news-based institutions could do the same.

Now as I’ve said many times, every story about extreme weather does not need to mention global warming.  But if you are writing about a heatwave that is so uniquely extensive in space and time — just the kind of heat wave climate scientists have warned would become increasingly likely — and you are devoting an entire science article to explaining why it’s been so warm, then, yes, it is incumbent on you to at least mention global warming.

The article notes:

Throughout the continental United States, it’s been a very warm winter.

“The talk across the whole country has been, ‘Where has winter been?'” said Dale Eck, who runs the global forecast center at the Weather Channel in Atlanta.

The answer: A combination of factors has trapped the winter’s cold air in the northern latitudes over Canada and Alaska.

“If you look at U.S. temperatures, you’d say, ‘Wow, it was a warm winter,'” said Dan Cayan, a climate researcher at the U.S. Geological Service and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla. And you’d be right.

And yet global warming from human-generated greenhouses gases never gets mentioned.

What makes the L.A. Times article especially head-exploding — put your head vise on, you have been warmed — is this amazing paragraph:

La Niña-related dryness might have helped California stay cool at night, Kittell said, because less rain means less water vapor in the air. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas that traps heat near the ground.

Yes, reduced greenhouse gases due to La Niña supposedly helped COOL California, but GHGs from humans apparently had no impact worth mentioning at all on the record-smashing warming across the rest of the lower 48!  I can’t do any better than this:

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30 Responses to L.A. Times Explains U.S. ‘Seems to Have Largely Escaped Winter.’ Failure to Mention Global Warming Is ‘Journalistic Malpractice’

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Why can the media not simply get in touch with an climatologist when writing about climate? Over and over it has been shown that writing about ongoing science requires input from people actually working in the fields.

    This topic is to important to have every time slippery slope journalism.

  2. fj says:

    there is a psychology experiment — i believe — that when people develop on their own what the cause is for unusual situations it sticks in their minds much better so, when people see a lot of warm weather in winter it’s not a stretch to consider that maybe global warming is true and we better do something.

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Methane, breaks down in the stratosphere into water vapor, and is roughly responsible for 1/3 of the ozone lose there in the last 30 years or so. Now extrapolate this with permafrost and sea-bed methane release (and ofc the growing natural gas buzz).

  4. prokaryotes says:

    To be clear the water vapor destroys the ozone.

    More on this

    Further on the media reporting about climate change. Most of the time when writing about climate, the media is just referring to La Nina is this or La Nina is that What the media fails to mention is that the La Nina today is also extraordinary pronounced (warmer) then past La Nina events. And that we had the past month continues La Nina conditions, but still had record breaking climate observations. Why is the media not writing about this?

  5. NBC Nightly News aired a segment tonight talking about the very warm January and the 2890 record high temperatures broken across the country.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    There should be part 2, upcoming “Implications from Climate Change” In part 3 we show what we can do about it (Drive less gas guzzlers and switch to clean tech and more efficient forms of energy management).

  7. bioblogger says:

    The L.A. Times should be forgiven. Unlike the rest of the country, L.A. had the coolest summer in memory.

    It isn’t going to be warmer all over all the time during global climate change. NY Times’ Tom Friedman more correctly calls it “global weirding” – a result of +39% more carbon in the atmosphere than before the Industrial Age. See the NASA video “Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 seconds” at .

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    The reason that the global warming connection never gets mentioned is that American news and broadcast editors are the most pitiful and destructive cowards in the history of the world.

  9. Scott says:

    Mike Roddy is right. The owners of the media do not want to antagonize their advertisers who use the media to frame the public agenda. The owners are cowards, inevitably so. It is how our system works. Shareholder value, and all that… The day to day management and editorial decisions protect managers’ jobs and bonuses. What else should we expect? They can always find someone to do the dirty job. We have to outshout them.

  10. with the doves says:

    And the president doesn’t drive the narrative. There is no leadership here.

  11. mjm says:

    In all fairness to NBC and Anne Thompson (who did the report) she did have the last 15-20 seconds of the report where she discussed climate change. She had an snip-it of an interview with Dr. Gerald Meehl where he explains the impact climate change is having on the weather through altering the probability of having a warmer winter. NBC has dropped the ball numerous times on this issue, but tonight they at least got it right.

  12. Paul Magnus says:

    Actually looks like the warm Arctic is forcing the cold air to lower latitudes…

  13. To see how mild the country has been for the past month, look at the NOAA El Nino/La Nina status report:

    Scroll to page 14 to see the temperature anomaly for the past 30 and 90 day periods. Minnesota, North and South Dakota have seen the largest positive temperature anomalies. Temperatures have been between 6 and 7 degrees C above normal over that region during January.

  14. Doug Bostrom says:

    Mission of the all-volunteer army of useful idiots accomplished.

    Mention “global warming” in a newspaper w/a comments option and hey, presto, grunting zombies will be clawing their way into the threads, spewing noisome, partially digested offal served up to them from bottomless troughs such as Watt’s (TF) Up With That.

    After a while it all becomes too tiresomely repetitious; it’s easier and less painful simply to not mention global warming at all…

  15. Raul M. says:

    I think the experts are still saying that the ozone blocks UV rays and that UV rays are harmful to eyesight.
    There are UV absorbing clear contact lenses for people.
    Birds and critters though.
    Many birds and critters could be expected to live longer than the one year for cumulative effects of UV damage to happen.

  16. Gnobuddy says:

    The talented Jill Sobule wrote a song about global warming back in 2006 that is well worth listening to; it’s called “Manhattan in January”:

    In her introduction to the song Sobule talks about being “bummed out” by the bad news about climate change, so she chose to write a funny song about it. Graveyard humour.


  17. Raul M. says:

    Ok, I’m thinking “Is it crazy to plant the spring garden in early Feb. in Fla.?”.
    And do I really have to build a screen roof for the plants to thrive under the Fla sun? Nah, it’s only just a little warmer.
    Thanks for letting me know that winter is two thirds over.

  18. Merrelyn Emery says:

    And meanwhile, down here in SE Australia we are still stuck in early spring or the end of winter. We got a max of 19C today, wearing jumpers all day and now (7.50pm) considering a jacket on top. Another year without a summer – aaagh!

    How are we all going to psychologically prepare ourselves for the onslaught of winter when we haven’t experienced the joys and miseries of all those heat-wracked months? ME

  19. BillD says:

    Even without much mention in the media, I have to think that most Americans are thinking “Global Warming” this winter. When I check the weather chart it shows normal high and low temps of 31 and 17 degrees (F). Yesterday was 55 and 43. Not many days during January did we make it down to the “normal” temperatures in northern Indiana. Still, it’s crazy and sad that the underlying scientific reason for the warm weather

  20. BillD says:

    Add to the last post: “receives so little mention in the news media.”

  21. Raul M. says:

    huffington Post has a story on the British review of risks
    associated to climate change in their green section.
    I think they missed reporting of the findings about the ozone hole and the dangers from UV rays to eyesight.
    Cataracts are associated with UV exposure there are also other damages to the eyes from cumulative exposure.
    It does seem to be an increased risk when the ozone was thought to block the UV rays.
    There are contact lenses that block UV rays with corrections or without.

  22. Tom says:

    HAARP use and experiments aren’t helping any either.

  23. John McCormick says:

    “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.,” which is the source of this figure:

    Follow the trend of the red bars 1950-1970.

    What you are seeing is the effects of global dimming, at least in the Northern hemisphere as the US began a massive construction of unscrubbed coal power plants which the Clean air Act in early 1970 began to regulate.

  24. Raul M. says:

    UV exposure is another reason to use cool paint on the sunny side of your building. Cool coatings absorb UV rays so those rays are reduced in reflections off the sunny side of the building.
    Getting sun burned eyes just looking at the sunny side of the building? Not even facing the direction of the sun?

  25. Raindog says:

    The map with the record highs and record lows over the decades is perhaps the single best figure there is to explain global warming. I use it all the time. It shows that we are without doubt getting warmer, but that we still get record cold. So just because it gets cold doesn’t mean that global warming isn’t happening. Thanks for first showing me that figure two years ago.

  26. SecularAnimist says:

    It’s time to start calling this what it is:

    A deliberate coverup.

    As the effects of anthropogenic global warming become more extreme, the corporate media will go to ever greater extremes of “journalistic malpractice” to avoid discussing it.

    After all, we wouldn’t want to create a “panic”, would we?

    People might start demanding that something be done about it.

  27. Update: 123 heat records to 0 cold records yesterday brings the overall ratio for the month up to 21.9 and 29 for the lower 48 alone. That means the daily heat records on Jan. 31 were 1.5X the total cold records for the whole month in the 48 contiguous states.

    Revised chart at CapitalClimate:

  28. Sigurdur says:

    When did weather become climate? Warm USA, cold Europe, latest global anomoly down.

  29. Joe Romm says:

    Nice try. Read the post next time.