How Fast Newspapers Are Falling

Last week, I wrote about the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper I worked with for over a decade, publishing an editorial (based on the Fakegate documents, no less) comparing people who don’t believe in catastrophic global warming to Hitler. I went on to write:

Every time I think the pro-global warming forces cannot go any lower, I’m disappointed. For fear of repeating myself, Are these the behaviors of people who are confident in the accuracy of their position? To me, this increasingly outrageous behavior smacks of desperation. 

For a decade, WeatherData, Inc. (the company I founded in 1981) provided the weather forecasts and storm coverage to the Times. I really enjoyed working with them and met a number of great journalists. To see the Times fall this far is terribly sad. The Times’ circulation is down, way down. The most recent figures I could find (2010) state:

Circulation at the Los Angeles Times fell 14.7% to 616,606 on weekdays and 7.6% to 941,914 on Sundays.

When we worked with them, their weekday circulation was close to a million!

The next time a newspaper executive complains about dropping readership and increased corporate losses, suggest they look in a mirror. I think most people, regardless of political orientation, are fed up with the “Hitler” accusation. 

With a hat-tip to Instapundit, I came across these figures showing how the bottom is falling out of the newspaper industry’s revenue:

I love newspapers. I was business manager of our high school newspaper when I went to Rockhurst (and, if we didn’t raise enough money, there was no newspaper). I worked with newspapers at WeatherData for more than twenty years! Today, I still subscribe to two daily newspapers, The Wichita Eagle and The Wall Street Journal. 

But, as long as newspapers act as shills for political causes (see Hitler above) rather than honestly reporting news, they are going to continue their collapse. If that occurs, America will be far worse for their loss.  

Worst Science Story of the Week

Worst Headline: “Tornado Forecasting Eludes Weather Scientists” in my hometown paper, The Wichita Eagle. 

The headline was attached to the worst story science story of the week written by Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press. The story was printed in many newspapers across the United States, including the Tulsa World, Miami Herald, and others. 

Let me state — again — on this blog how wrong this story is: Of the 551 people killed by tornadoes in 2011, more than 99% were located in both a tornado watch and a tornado warning at the time the storm arrived! 

Mr. Borenstein cites Joplin. Here is the forecast of the Joplin tornado in the form of the tornado watch:

The watch was issued at 1:30pm, 4 hours and 11 minutes before the tornado reached Joplin! The watch (a forecast) further says there is a “high” probability of tornadoes and a “moderate” probability of a tornado of F-2 intensity or greater.

Did things go wrong later that afternoon in Joplin? Yes. Are there still further improvements to be made to the warning system? Yes, to that, too. The warning system is hardly perfect. But, to trash the science that got the major tornadoes right 99% of the time is ridiculous. This type of ignorant reporting ( ”Tornado Forecasting Eludes Weather Scientists”) does nothing but discourage people from taking warnings seriously — and that is dangerous

Because of stories defending the protagonist in Fakegate, there were many worthy contenders. Still, I hereby nominate Mr. Borenstein for the Dianne Sawyer Award for inaccurate reporting about weather and storms. 

Putting the Chill on Global Warming

Here is another nail in the coffin for those who contend earth is still warming.

Here is my frequently-referred-to graph of world temperatures from the Hadley Center (note: a pro-global warming institution):

World temperatures since 1995.


Many of the global warming zealots dispute the warming has stopped. That, in spite of the data from the Hadley Center and other pro-GW institutions. In December, there were numerous stories (one example here, Google for many more) that global warming is “accelerating” — simply rubbish.

As you know, I’m the first to state that scientific results must be reproducible by other scientists. So, if I and many other atmospheric scientists are correct that indeed global warming has stopped, then the glaciers would have stopped melting, right?

Guess what? The melting stopped ten years ago!

The world’s greatest snow-capped peaks, which run in a chain from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, have lost no ice over the last decade, new research shows.

The discovery has stunned scientists, who had believed that around 50bn tonnes of meltwater were being shed each year and not being replaced by new snowfall.

The study is the first to survey all the world’s icecaps and glaciers and was made possible by the use of satellite data. Overall, the contribution of melting ice outside the two largest caps – Greenland and Antarctica – is much less then previously estimated, with the lack of ice loss in the Himalayas and the other high peaks of Asia responsible for most of the discrepancy.

Bristol University glaciologist Prof Jonathan Bamber, who was not part of the research team, said: “The very unexpected result was the negligible mass loss from high mountain Asia, which is not significantly different from zero.”

So, the glaciers are not melting. World atmospheric temperatures peaked in 1998 and have been flat to down since. Ocean heat content, accurately available since 2003 (deployment of the Argo probes) is flat.

Even more important, when determining whether the Gore/IPCC catastrophic global warming theory is accurate, is comparing the forecasts to the data. Well, here is the Hansen/IPCC forecast of ocean heat content (red) line versus actual:

Courtesy Bob Tisdale via WattsUpWithThat

Since ocean heat content is the most important metric of the earth’s temperature (because the oceans can hold so much more heat than the atmosphere), the fact that heat content diverges more and more from the forecast certainly tends to falsify the hypothesis of catastrophic global warming, accelerating global warming, and an immediate “climate crisis.”

I’m hardly the only scientist that has noticed the overwhelming evidence that global warming has stopped. We learned three days ago that Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt, one of Germany’s most zealous pro-global warming advocates, has switched positions.

In an interview with SPIEGEL, he argues that the official United Nations forecasts on the severity of climate change are overstated and supported by weak science…

He wants to break a taboo. “The climate catastrophe is not occurring,” he writes in his book “Die Kalte Sonne” (The Cold Sun), published by Hoffmann and Campe, which will be in bookstores next week.

I have no doubt other high level defections from the “cause” will occur in 2012.

Now, try to find a U.S. mainstream media outlet that is reporting any of this. 

The media in general, and science reporters in particular, are doing their readers and viewers a tremendous disservice through their propagandizing and self-described mission of “advancing the narrative” of global warming.

Since journalism awards often go to people who “break” big stories, I’d like to suggest to some enterprising journalist a way to win a major award: Report on the now overwhelming evidence the earth has stopped warming. It is perfectly okay with me to qualify it by saying something like “scientists disagree whether the earth will resume warming, cool, or if temperatures will stay the same going forward.” That would be accurate and fair.

It would be a pleasant, and welcome, change if the media would accurately report this story.

From the American Meteorological Society’s Annual Meeting, Part 1

Hello from New Orleans. I’ve never been to a scientific meeting before with Marti Gras floats passing in front of a convention center escorted by police cars.

Trying to take all of this in is like drinking from a fire hose. Still, I promised I would pass along interesting info and I’ll do just that.

I do wish to comment on the overwhelming response to the “Poor Journalism” post below. Wow. Thousands have read it and I’ve received dozens and dozens of emails. For the record, I did submit a comment to ABC News and I hope they will correct the record.

And, without being self-serving: If you know a journalist, or anyone else, who is skeptical of storm warnings, please recommend Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather.  It is an easy, non-technical read that will explain how the warning system works and the rapid, live-saving progress we have made.

Now, back to the AMS meeting.

There was an interesting presentation on a story first broken on this blog, the lack of warning when the tornado struck the St. Louis Airport on Good Friday evening, 2011. The presenter was Andrew Freedman of the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang. Andrew wrote a two part story about the fiasco in St. Louis.

Andrew filled us in on some new details:

  • When the airport finally got word of the tornado (from an employee calling from home!), they evacuated the airport (not FAA’s) control tower. As this blog and the Post’s series said at the time, the airport people did not tell either the people in the terminal or the airline employees!
  • The damage was so extensive that Terminal 1 at the STL airport is still closed.
  • And, as has been reported here several times, and written about in Warnings, the FAA does not consider tornado warnings to be an aviation-specific product and does not distribute them on the aviation weather communications systems! This is just as true today as when I first wrote the book!
  • Bottom line: Unless you are at Denver or one of the (few) other airports that have made independent contingency plans, you are at great risk if a tornado approaches. 
More from the AMS tomorrow.

The Increasing Stench Around Climate ‘Science’

From Steve McIntyre: “Hide the Decline” was worse than we thought.

From Roger Pielke, Jr.: Journalist wins lawsuit against climate scientist’s attempt at intimidation.

Ed Driscoll: Puts things in perspective.

From Australia: Government bureaucrats stifle scientific papers that challenge the notion that the rate of sea level rise is increasing (it isn’t increasing). (h/t Anthony Watts)

Seen much coverage of Climategate 2 in the mainstream media? Of course not; it interferes with the “narrative” (see comments at link): That a few climate scientists made some catty remarks and there is nothing wrong with the underlying science.

How I wish that were the case.

One Bad Global Warming Article Spawns Another

Another writer, Elizabeth Kolbert (degree in “literature“), cites as her sole authority last week’s awful Newsweek story (written by another non-scientist) about global warming to let us know that this year’s storm season has been caused by global warming. I’ll break down her key paragraph:

For decades, climate scientists have predicted that, as global temperatures rose, the side effects would include deeper droughts, more intense flooding, and more ferocious storms. 

The details of these forecasts are immensely complicated, but the underlying science is pretty simple. Warm air can hold more moisture. This means that there is greater evaporation. It also means that there is more water, and hence more energy, available to the system.

Here are the problems with the two assertions.

#1. Temperatures are not rising. Here are the temperatures of the last 20 years. I have highlighted the last decade. See any rise? Didn’t think so.

If tornadoes are correlated to world temperatures, why was April, 2011 — the month with more tornadoes than any other in recorded history (300+) — 0.2°C colder than April, 2010 when only 139 tornadoes were recorded?!

Tornado occurrences are not correlated to mean global temperatures!

#2. The science isn’t simple. Anyone who has taken a Meteorology 101 class knows that the relative humidity (RH) has to come close to 100% in order for a cloud to form. RH is the humidity (expressed as the percent of water vapor the air is holding relative to its capacity). If the RH is 50%, it is holding half of the water it can hold at that temperature. The higher the temperature, the more water the air can hold.

OK, now that you know this piece of meteorological science. Consider these two sentences:
Warm air can hold more moisture. This means that there is greater evaporation. 
The above statement is true!

But, by definition, in order for greater evaporation to occur, the air must remain unsaturated which means a storm cannot form! So, by her reasoning, the Joplin (and the other tornadoes) cannot have been caused  by ‘global warming.’

Now, of course, storm formation is more complicated than this (even though what I just stated is absolutely correct) but she doesn’t go into that. She relies on the Newsweek story (which doesn’t interview a single atmospheric scientist) as her authority.

This is the forth time I have posted on this subject because I believe it is important. But, you may be getting tired of hearing from me.

Here is what a genuine, and rigorously fair (she is hardly a skeptic), climate scientist — Judy Curry — has to say on the subject:

Judith Curry, chair of Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

The substantial interest in attributing extreme weather events to global warming seems rooted in the perceived need for some sort of a disaster to drive public opinion and the political process in the direction of taking action on climate change. However, attempts to attribute individual extreme weather events, or collections of extreme weather events, may be fundamentally ill-posed in the context of the complex climate system, which is characterized by spatiotemporal chaos. There are substantial difficulties and problems associated with attributing changes in the average climate to natural variability versus anthropogenic forcing, which I have argued are oversimplified by the IPCC assessments. Attribution of extreme weather events is further complicated by their dependence on weather regimes and internal multi-decadal oscillations that are simulated poorly by climate models.

I have been completely unconvinced by any of the arguments that I have seen that attributes a single extreme weather event, a cluster of extreme weather events, or statistics of extreme weather events to anthropogenic forcing. Improved analysis of the attribution of extreme weather events requires a substantially improved and longer database of the events. Interpretation of these events in connection with natural climate regimes such as El Nino is needed to increase our understanding of the role of natural climate variability in determining their frequency and intensity. Improved methods of evaluating climate model simulations of distributions of extreme event intensity and frequency in the context of natural variability is needed before any confidence can be placed in inferences about the impact of anthropogenic influences on extreme weather events. 

There are a number of reasons for the high tornado death toll this year. They are related to more violent tornadoes than usual that, by coincidence, have struck densely populated areas, overwarning by some local authorities, and freak power failures potentially preventing hundreds of thousands from receiving timely warnings. We’ll know when those on the post-storm survey teams report their results (unfortunately, months away).

This type of bad journalism is misleading and harmful. The New Yorker can do much better than this.

Leave it to the NY Times to Write an Inaccurate and Insensitive Article

I had planned on moving on to other topics today. There is little more to say about the tornadoes of the last three weeks until the investigations are completed. As I was going through my email this morning, a reader sent me a link to this article in The New York Times:  

Predicting Tornadoes: It’s Still Guessing Game

I thought my book Warnings pretty well makes the case that we have become highly skilled at forecasting tornadoes. With regard to the recent tornadoes this article and, especially, this article convincingly make the case that these tornadoes were very well forecast.

The Times’ article begins with this statement:

The cruelty of this particular April, in the number of tornadoes recorded, is without equal in the United States.

This may or may not be true. The statement is at least premature. The NWS Storm Prediction Center March 8th changed its methodology which allows more reports of tornadoes and other severe storms to be logged (see first note here). We don’t know yet whether this is a record April.

Tornadoes in particular, researchers say, straddle the line between the known and the profoundly unknowable.
“There’s a large crapshoot aspect,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. 

It is correct that we do not fully understand the physics of tornadogenesis but we understand the conditions under which large tornadoes (like Wednesday’s) form so we can forecast them and issue warnings for them with high accuracy. If you don’t believe it, just scroll back through the forecasts of the last three weeks on this blog or, for Wednesday’s storms go here or here for just two examples. It is hardly a “crapshoot.”

Nevertheless, scientists can only guess when and where tornadoes will actually strike.

That statement is so silly I will not bother to comment. The superb forecasts and warnings of the past month easily refute it.

The next paragraphs are, I suspect, the real motivation for this article:

When technology can predict oncoming storm tracks and conditions with greater certainty than ever, and scientists assert with growing unanimity a human impact on climate, what is a natural act of God and what is more correctly the province of humans themselves? Where is the place of psychic shelter in an age when the lines between fate and human action are blurred?
The prevalence of hurricanes, droughts and floods has been linked in many climate models to the impact of a warming planet. Such a connection is more tentative when it comes to twisters.

Ah, ‘climate change.’ The article goes on to discuss the Times‘ linking of these tornadoes to climate change. This linkage can be easily refuted.

This is a graph of world temperatures complied by the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (global warming advocates). I have placed arrows pointing to the temperatures in 1884 (the “Enigma Outbreak” which killed as many as 1,200 in the South), the 1936 Tupelo/Gainesville tornadoes (which killed 800+), the “Superoutbreak” of tornadoes in 1974, and Wednesday’s. Note that these tornado outbreaks — which killed even more people — all occurred with cooler atmospheric temperatures. It is absurd to link Wednesday’s tornadoes to current world temperatures!

The article goes on to babble,

If scientists cannot be sure — or trusted, as doubters of climate change might say — then where should an ordinary person on the ground turn for solace or strength in the raging maw of a storm?

Can’t be “trusted”? As an atmospheric scientist, I resent this. Meteorologists have worked tirelessly over the last month to provide excellent forecasts and warnings of these storms that have been credited with having hundreds of lives.

Few publications can go off the rails like the Times when they want to find an excuse to write about ‘climate change.’ It would be nice if, occasionally, they got their facts right.