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