After Story on Monster Heat Wave, NBC Asks “What Explains This?” The Answer: “We’re Stuck in a Summer Pattern”!

The media loves to report on stories about how public concern about global warming is waning — even if the polling data doesn’t support that view.

Ahh, but when it comes to actually connecting the dots between extreme weather we’re now experiencing and global warming, well, that story is apparently too hot to handle — even when the data does support that view.

The southwest is in an uber-hot drought, but the NY Times says no dots to connect to global warming — a story Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman also criticized. Similarly, no dots for the Arizona wildfire story or the Dust Bowl story. And TP Green’s Brad Johnson noted that last week’s “CBS News piece on 2011′s extreme weather ignored global warming.”

Now I don’t think that every story on extreme weather needs to mention climate change. But it’s different if that story is on one or more record-smashing extreme events that scientists have linked to global warming AND if that story explicitly asks the question why are these events all happening at once. Then yes, as NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth explained, “It is irresponsible not to mention climate change in stories that presume to say something about why all these storms” are happening.


Of course, monster heat waves are at the top of the list of extreme weather events that scientists have already documented have become longer and stronger thanks to global warming.

The PBS News Hour did a long story Tuesday night on “Sweltering Heat Wave Roasts 24 States, Feeds Wildfires,” but the only explanation they would offer up is “Meteorologists say the immediate culprit is a high-pressure system stalled over much of the country’s midsection.”

The NBC Evening News also did a long story on the “massive and dangerous heat wave” that has “half of the US population … under a heat advisory.” Then NBC’s Ann Curry mentions the superstorms and floods the nation has experienced, along with the heat wave, and asks a “Weather Channel meteorologist” just “What Explains This?”

What follows is one of the great tautological non-answers ever seen on a major network:

Well, Ann, during the spring time we were stuck in a very active spring pattern. Now that it’s summer, we’re stuck in a very active and persistent summer pattern.

Seriously. With media reporting like this, we’re soon gonna be stuck in a very active and very persistent summer pattern (see Mother Nature is Just Getting Warmed Up: “Stanford climate scientists forecast permanently hotter summers”).

Here is NBC’s must-see ‘explanation’ for the extreme heat and superstorms of 2011:

It has been exceptionally hot in the last few weeks.

Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate updated his analysis of the data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, which found U.S. heat records in June outnumbered cold records by 2706 to 251 — nearly 11 to 1 — to create this chart:

Scolnik tells me the ratio for the first 12 days of July is around 5.5 to 1.

As I’ve said many times, 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. If you want to know how to judge whether the near 11-to-1 ratio is a big deal, see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.” which discusses an NCAR analysis that found:

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.

It has been staggeringly hot in many places, as Scolnik reports:

The National Weather Service reports that Richmond, Virginia set an all-time record minimum temperature on July 12. The low temperature of 81° was the warmest daily minimum ever recorded:THE MINIMUM TEMPERATURE AT RICHMOND ON TUESDAY JULY 12TH WAS 81 DEGREES. THIS BREAKS THE RECORD HIGH MINIMUM TEMPERATURE OF 76 DEGREES SET IN 1993. MORE SIGNIFICANTLY … THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN RECORDED HISTORY THAT RICHMOND HAS HAD A MINIMUM TEMPERATURE OF 80 DEGREES OR HIGHER.

… The Austin Mabry temperature reached 100° at 3 pm, making this the 12th consecutive day with 100° or higher.

There does not appear to be much let up in sight for much of the country, as the WashPost’s Capital Weather Gang notes with this chart:

So there’s plenty of time for the media to connect, oh, just one damn dot.

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But it is highly improbable that the remarkable extreme weather events of 2010 and 2011 could have all happened in such a short period of time without some powerful climate-altering force at work. The best science we have right now maintains that human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like CO2 are the most likely cause of such a climate-altering force.