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Masters: “2010 is now tied with 2007 as the year with the most national extreme heat records — fifteen”

As nation, Russia, and world swelter under record heat, NY Times’ Tom Zeller publishes dreadful he-said/she-said, quote-mining piece

We now know that “After the hottest decade on record, it’s the hottest year on record, seemingly the hottest week of all time in satellite record and we may be at record low Arctic sea ice volume.” In this country, we saw new daily high temperature records beat new cold records by nearly 5 to 1 in June.

Uber-meteorologist Jeff Masters reports today:

The year 2010 is now tied with 2007 as the year with the most national extreme heat records — fifteen.

So, naturally, the NY Times is out with what would, for any other paper, be one of its worst climate stories ever, but which is just run-of-the-mill dreadful for the former paper of record (see here)?

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The Tom Zeller’s piece, “Is It Hot in Here? Must Be Global Warming,” buries the one crucial scientific fact that eviscerates its entire narrative:

There is a not-insignificant caveat: Those pointing to hot weather as evidence of global warming are, in the broadest sense, more likely to be right. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado demonstrated last year that record high temperatures have occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade.

That’s in keeping with most models of global warming, which predict not a steady climb in temperature, but higher average readings over time “” and more record-breaking peaks than valleys.

Okay, so climate scientists predicted the weather would get hotter as we poured more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. And now that national and global all-time records are being set, that would seem to be supporting evidence for the theory.

Those of us who explain this are “in the broadest sense, more likely to be right.” But no need to let the facts get in the way of a good story. So the actual thrust of Zeller’s piece is the exact opposite. It opens:

In any debate over climate change, conventional wisdom holds that there is no reflex more absurd than invoking the local weather.

Note the key (mis)framing: “invoking the local weather.” Zeller continues:

And yet this year’s wild weather fluctuations seem to have motivated people on both sides of the issue to stick a finger in the air and declare the matter resolved “” in their favor.

“Within psychology, it’s called motivated reasoning, or the confirmation bias,” explained Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Project on Climate Change Communication at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “People are looking for evidence of any kind that validates or reinforces or justifies what they already believe.”

Thank you Zeller for inserting a quote that is semi-irrelevant here. Yes, some people have confirmation bias. But which people are those? Those who are “more likely to be right”? Or the disinformers?

Last February, for example, as a freak winter storm paralyzed much of the East Coast, relatives of Senator James M. Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is a skeptic of climate change, came to Washington and erected an igloo.

They topped it with a cheeky sign asking passers-by to “Honk if you global warming.” Another sign, added later, christened the ice dome “Al Gore’s new home.”

Environmentalists roundly criticized the stunt for relying on a fact as lonely as a snowstorm. “Weather is our day-to-day experience, while climate is more static, describing a region’s typical weather conditions as established over periods of time,” explained Adrianna Quintero, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a blog post scolding the deniers.

Well, actually, if Zeller weren’t so busy quote mining, he would have noted that Quintero has two points to make, one of which just happens to undermine Zeller’s entire narrative. One point is about climate vs. weather and the other is about the fact that the snowstorm provides no evidence whatsoever against our growing understanding of human-caused global warming. She writes:

With this warmer planet also comes something most of the general public would not expect: more precipitation which means more rain and snow.

A report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), found overall increases in global precipitation averages with substantial changes in the amount, intensity, frequency, and type of precipitation as a result of global warming.

Marked increases in precipitation have been observed in eastern North America, southern South America, and northern Europe, while certain regions, including the Southwestern United States and the Mediterranean, are expected to become drier. The report adds, “[t]he widespread trend toward more heavy downpours is expected to continue, with precipitation becoming less frequent but more intense.”

So Inhofe’s citing the snowstorm is indeed both “invoking the local weather” and “confirmation bias.” For more on the recent scientific literature, see “Research says big snow storms not inconsistent with “” and may be ampliflied by “” a warming planet.”

But then Zeller proceeds to jump the shark entirely:

Now, with record heat searing much of the planet from Minnesota to Moscow, people long concerned with global warming seem to be pointing out the window themselves.

“As Washington, D.C., wilts in the global heat wave gripping the planet, the Democratic leadership in the Senate has abandoned the effort to cap global warming pollution for the foreseeable future,” wrote Brad Johnson at the progressive Wonk Room blog, part of the Center for American Progress.

Brad’s point in that post — and I’ll excerpt his response at the end — is that there is a “global heat wave gripping the planet.” He cites Gore pointing out “we’ve just experienced the hottest six months on record.”

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The fact is that record smashing temperature globally does indeed provide evidence for human-caused global warming, particularly since it was predicted by climate scientists (see “NASA: The 12-month running mean global temperature has reached a new record in 2010.” It’s all the more powerful evidence of human-caused warming “because it occurs when the recent minimum of solar irradiance is having its maximum cooling effect,” as a NASA notes.

But those facts would conflict with Zeller’s he-said/she-said narrative:

For people at either extreme “” that is, those alarmed by or dismissive of climate change “” the local weather isn’t going to have much influence, although they may use it conveniently to drive home a point.

Thank goodness now that Revkin is gone, there is someone at the New York Times to continue to push this fatally flawed narrative (see “NYT’s Revkin persists in selling spin from long-wrong deniers that the IPCC overestimates the danger from warming, when the reverse is true” and links here).

If you aren’t alarmed by the climate change we face on our current path of unrestricted greenhouse emissions, you simply are not reading the scientific literature or talking to leading climate scientists, which, for a journalist writing on this subject, is professional malpractice:

As an aside, if you’re a a member of the general public, its quite understandable why you wouldn’t be “alarmed” — since you are stuck getting most of your information on global warming from lazy journalists, from the status quo media, which failed utterly on climate change.

Berkeley economist Brad DeLong comments:

As I have said many times: the root problem is that the idea that his stories should inform rather than misinform readers about the world is simply not on Tom Zeller’s checklist of things that it should accomplish — or on the checklist of his editors. Which is why the sooner that he leaves journalism the better, and we hope to see him replaced by people who think their job is to tell people the truth — so that they can truthfully sum up: and that’s the way it is.

Again, Zeller knows the core scientific argument that eviscerates his entire narrative:

There is a not-insignificant caveat: Those pointing to hot weather as evidence of global warming are, in the broadest sense, more likely to be right. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado demonstrated last year that record high temperatures have occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade.

That’s in keeping with most models of global warming, which predict not a steady climb in temperature, but higher average readings over time “” and more record-breaking peaks than valleys.

That, of course, is why I repeatedly cite the NCAR work and NOAA data to put the heat waves into a national and global context, something Zeller and the NYT refuses to do — see “As nation, Russia, and world swelter under record-smashing heat waves, The New York Times sets one-day record for most unilluminating stories,” which begins with this chart:

On Friday, uber-meteorologist Jeff Masters showed how one can put everything into context:

At 4pm local time today in Moscow, Russia, the temperature surpassed 100°F for the first time in recorded history. The high temperature of 100.8°F (37.8°C) recorded at the Moscow Observatory, the official weather location for Moscow, beat Moscow’s previous record of 99.5°F (37.5°C), set just three days ago, on July 26. Prior to 2010, Moscow’s hottest temperature of all-time was 36.6°C (98.2°F), set in August, 1920. Records in Moscow go back to 1879. Baltschug, another official downtown Moscow weather site, hit an astonishing 102.2°F (39.0°C) today. Finland also recorded its hottest temperature in its history today, when the mercury hit 99°F (37.2°C) at Joensuu. The old (undisputed) record was 95°F (35°C) at Jvaskyla on July 9, 1914….Finland’s new national heat record makes it the fourteenth country (or semi-independent territory) to break an all-time hottest temperature record this year. My source for extreme temperature records is Chris Burt, author of the book Extreme Weather. July in Moscow is easily going to smash the record for hottest month in Moscow’s history. By my rough estimate, the temperature has been 18°F (10°C) above average this month. The record hottest July, in 1938, had temperatures 5.3°C above average. Given that the planet as a whole has seen record high temperatures the past four months in a row, it should not be a surprise to see unprecedented heat waves like the Russian heat wave. A record warm planet “loads the dice” in favor of regional heat waves more extreme than anything experienced in recorded history.

You can read that Masters post for the list, but it keeps growing, as he reported today:

The island of Cyprus recorded its hottest temperature in its history on August 1, 2010 when the mercury hit 46.6°C (115.9°F) at Lefconica. The old record for Cyprus was 44.4°C (111.9°F) at Lefkosia in August 1956….

The year 2010 is now tied with 2007 as the year with the most national extreme heat records — fifteen. There has been one country that has recorded its coldest temperature on record in 2010; see my post last week for a list of the 2010 records. My source for extreme weather records is the excellent book Extreme Weather by Chris Burt.

Brad Johnson replies to Zeller at Wonk Room, “The World Is Burning, And The New York Times Fiddles Inhofe’s Tune”:

This week, New York Times reporters noticed that the world is hot, but they keep their readers in the dark about the real story, a sad example of the decline of its climate coverage from earlier days. Even in stories about the increasingly catastrophic impacts of global warming, they ignore the scientific understanding of our climate system and the deadly influence of fossil fuel pollution. In Thursday’s “From Fires to Fish, Heat Wave Batters Russia,” investigative reporter Clifford Levy describes the devastation of a superheated Russia:

Much of Russia has been reeling. Forest fires have erupted. Drought has ruined millions of acres of wheat. More than 2,000 people have died from drowning in rivers, reservoirs and elsewhere in July and June, often after seeking relief from the heat while intoxicated. In Moscow alone, the number of such deaths has tripled in comparison with last year, officials said.

In “Fires and Storms Kill at Least 28 in Russia,” Russian correspondent Andrew Kramer at least notes that the record heat in the largest country on earth is part of an even larger geographic trend: “Russia, like much of the Northern Hemisphere, has been baking in a heat wave this summer.” Other stories about record-breaking climate disasters abound: “Floods in Pakistan Kill at Least 1,000,” write Salman Masood and Adam B. Ellick, caused by “record-breaking rainfall.” “Iowa Dam Ruptures Under Torrential Rain,” Christina Cappecchi files. In “Water Vendors Profit From the Heat,” Sam Dolnick describes “July’s historic heat wave” in New York. At no point do any of the writers mention the existence of global warming, or that it is caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

In the case of the Russian heat wave, we’re talking about a record, destructive, continent-wide climate event within the context of record destructive heat waves across the northern hemisphere “” in North America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe “” within the context of global warming during a solar minimum. And we’re not just seeing heat waves, but the full suite of climatic changes linked to the increase of heat trapped in the climate system, as the other stories demonstrate “” more extreme precipitation, intensified droughts, shifts in seasons, fiercer storms, more frequent extreme floods.

But these are just reports on the ground “” not mentioning the context of global warming is merely a sin of omission. The toxic reporting this week is from New York Times green editor Tom Zeller Jr, who kills the nation’s collective brain cells in the Week in Review piece, “Is It Hot in Here? Must Be Global Warming.”

In the article, Zeller accuses yours truly of the “absurd” crime of “invoking the local weather” to declare the “debate over climate change” over, comparing my mention of the record-breaking “global heat wave” as the Senate gave up on climate reform to Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) warming-denial igloo, constructed during a record-breaking snow storm in Washington, D.C. this past winter.

Zeller’s comparison is based on the fatuously false premise that there is a legitimate “debate about climate change.” Inhofe tried to overturn a decades-long mountain of scientific understanding with an event entirely consistent with climate change “” as I pointed out in this blog at the time. Zeller buries the truth in the sixteenth paragraph:

There is a not-insignificant caveat: Those pointing to hot weather as evidence of global warming are, in the broadest sense, more likely to be right.

If Zeller had wanted to enlighten his readership instead of feeding them manure, he could have written that scientists cannot explain the global accumulation of heat waves and changes in weather patterns that the planet is seeing without the man-made accumulation of greenhouse gases. As the years go by, we live in an increasingly manufactured climate. At first our suicidal path was unintentional, but now it’s by choice. The scientific understanding that fossil-fuel burning would change the climate has been well established for decades now “” the real reason people like me are “more likely to be right.”