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CNN is spun right round, baby, right round

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 January 2009

With the axing of the CNN Science News team, most science stories at CNN are now being given to general assignment reporters who don’t necessarily have the background to know when they are being taken for a ride. On the Lou Dobbs show (an evening news program on cable for those of you not in the US), the last few weeks have brought a series of embarrassing non-stories on ‘global cooling’ based it seems on a few cold snaps this winter, the fact that we are at a solar minimum and a regurgitation of 1970s vintage interpretations of Milankovitch theory (via Pravda of all places!). Combine that with a few hysterical (in both senses) non-scientists as talking heads and you end up with a repeat of the nonsensical ‘Cooling world’ media stories that were misleading in the 1970s and are just as misleading now.

Exhibit A. Last night’s (13 Jan 2009) transcript (annotations in italics).

Note that this is a rush transcript and the typos aren’t attributable to the participants.

DOBBS: Welcome back. Global warming is a complex, controversial issue and on this broadcast we have been critical of both sides in this debate. We’ve challenged the orthodoxy surrounding global warming theories and questioned more evidence on the side of the Ice Age and prospect in the minds of some. In point of fact, research, some of it, shows that we could be heading toward cooler temperatures, and it’s a story you will only see here on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. Ines Ferre has our report.


INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will the day after tomorrow bring a deep freeze like that shown in the movie? Research more than 50 years ago by astrophysicist Milanchovich (ph) shows that ice ages run in predictable cycles and the earth could go into one. How soon? In science terms it could be thousands of years. But what happens in the next decade is still up in the air. Part of the science community believes that global warming is a man-maid threat. But Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute predicts the next 20 to 30 years will actually bring cooling temperatures.

Dennis Avery is part of the ‘science community’? Who knew? And, while amusing, the threat of ‘man-maids’ causing global warming is just a typo. Nice thought though. Oh, and if you want to know what the actual role of Milankovitch in forcing climate is, look at the IPCC FAQ Q6.1. Its role in current climate change? Zero.

DENNIS AVERY, HUDSON INSTITUTE: The earth’s temperatures have dropped an average of .6 Celsius in the last two years. The Pacific Ocean is telling us, as it has told us 10 times in the past 400 years, you’re going to get cooler.

For those unfamiliar with Dennis Avery, he is a rather recent convert to the bandwagon idea of global cooling, having very recently been an advocate of “unstoppable” global warming. As for his great cherry pick (0.6º C in two years – we’re doomed!), this appears to simply be made up. Even putting aside the nonsense of concluding anything from a two year trend, if you take monthly values and start at the peak value at the height of the last El Niño event of January 2007 and do no actual trend analysis, I can find no data set that gives a drop of 0.6ºC. Even UAH MSU-LT gives only 0.4ºC. The issue being not that it hasn’t been cooler this year than last, but why make up numbers? This is purely rhetorical of course, they make up numbers because they don’t care about whether what they say is true or not.

FERRE: Avery points to a lack of sunspots as a predictor for lower temperatures, saying the affects of greenhouse gas warming have a small impact on climate change. Believers in global warming, like NASA researcher, Dr. Gavin Schmidt disagree.

I was interviewed on tape in the afternoon, without seeing any of the other interviews. Oh, and what does a ‘believer in global warming’ even mean?

DR. GAVIN SCHMIDT, NASA: The long term trend is clearly toward warming, and those trends are completely dwarf any changes due to the solar cycle.

FERRE: In a speech last week, President-elect Obama called for the creation of a green energy economy. Still, others warn that no matter what you think about climate change, new policies would essentially have no effect.

FRED SINGER, SCIENCE & ENV. POLICY PROJECT: There’s very little we can do about it. Any effort to restrict the use of carbon dioxide will hurt us economically and have zero effect on the Chicago mate.

Surely another typo, but maybe the Chicago mate is something to do with the man-maids? See here for more background on Singer.

FERRE: As Singer says, a lot of pain, for no gain.

Huh? Try looking at the actual numbers from a recent McKinsey report. How is saving money through efficiency a ‘pain’?


FERRE: And three independent research groups concluded that the average global temperature in 2008 was the ninth or tenth warmest since 1850, but also since the coldest since the turn of the 21st century.

DOBBS: It’s fascinating and nothing — nothing — stirs up the left, the right, and extremes in this debate, the orthodoxy that exists on both sides of the debate than to even say global warming. It’s amazing.

This is an appeal to the ‘middle muddle’ and an attempt to seem like a reasonable arbitrator between two opposing sides. But as many people have previously noted, there is no possible compromise between sense and nonsense. 2+2 will always equal 4, no matter how much the Hudson Institute says otherwise.

FERRE: When I spoke to experts and scientists today from one side and the other, you could feel the kind of anger about —

That was probably me. Though it’s not anger, it’s simple frustration that reporters are being taken in and treating seriously the nonsense that comes out of these think-tanks.

DOBBS: Cannot we just all get along? Ines, thank you very much.

Joining me now three leading experts in Manchester, New Hampshire, we’re joined by Joseph D’Aleo of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project. Good to have with you us.


DOBBS: He’s also the cofounder of The Weather Channel. In Washington, D.C., as you see there, Jay Lehr, he’s the science director of the Heartland Institute. And in Boston, Alex Gross, he’s the cofounder of Good to have you with us.

Well that’s balanced!

Let’s put a few numbers out here, the empirical discussion and see what we can make of it. First is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has very good records on temperatures, average temperatures in the United States, dating back to 1880. And here’s what these numbers look like. You’ve all seen those. But help us all — the audience and most of all me to get through this, they show the warmest years on record, 1998, 2006, and 1934. 2008 was cooler, in fact the coolest since 1997. It’s intriguing to see that graph there. The graph we’re looking at showing some question that the warming trend may be just a snapshot in time. The global temperatures by NOAA are seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. The ten warmest years have all occurred since 1995.

So let me start, if I may, Joseph, your reaction to those numbers. Do you quibble with what they represent?

D’ALEO: Yes, I do. In fact, if you look at the satellite data, which is the most reliable data, the best coverage of the globe, 2008 was the 14th coldest in 30 years. That doesn’t jive with the tenth warmest in 159 years in the Hadley data set or 113 or 114 years in the NOAA data set. Those global data sets are contaminated by the fact that two-thirds of the globe’s stations dropped out in 1990. Most of them rural and they performed no urban adjustment. And, Lou, you know, and the people in your studio know that if they live in the suburbs of New York City, it’s a lot colder in rural areas than in the city. Now we have more urban effect in those numbers reflecting — that show up in that enhanced or exaggerated warming in the global data set.

D’Aleo is misdirecting through his teeth here. He knows that the satellite analyses have more variability over ENSO cycles than the surface records, he also knows that urban heat island effects are corrected for in the surface records, and he also knows that this doesn’t effect ocean temperatures, and that the station dropping out doesn’t affect the trends at all (you can do the same analysis with only stations that remained and it makes no difference). Pure disinformation.

DOBBS: Your thoughts on these numbers. Because they are intriguing. They are a brief snapshot admittedly, in comparison to total extended time. I guess we could go back 4.6 billion years. Let’s keep it in the range of something like 500,000 years. What’s your reaction to those numbers and your interpretation?



DOBBS: Go ahead, Jay.

LEHR: Lou, I’m in the camp with Joe and Fred Singer and Dennis Avery, and I think more importantly, it is to look at the sun’s output, and in recent years, we’ve seen very, very low sunspot activity, and we are definitely, in my mind, not only in a cooling period, we’re going to be staying in it for a couple decades, and I see it as a major advantage, although I think we will be able to adapt to it. I’m hopeful that this change in the sun’s output will put some common sense into the legislature, not to pass any dramatic cap in trade or carbon tax legislation that will set us in a far deeper economic hole. I believe Mr. Obama and his economic team are well placed to dig us out of this recession in the next 18 months to 2 years, but I think if we pass any dramatic legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, the recession will last quite a few more years and we’ll come out of it with a lower standard of living on very tenuous scientific grounds.

DOBBS: Alex, the carbon footprint, generation of greenhouse gases, specifically co2, the concern focusing primarily on the carbon footprint, and of course generated by fossil fuels primarily, what is your thinking as you look at that survey of 130 — almost 130 years and the impact on the environment?

ALEX WISSNER-GROSS, CO2STATS.COM: Well, Lou, I think regardless of whatever the long-term trend in the climate data is, there a long- term technological trend which is that as time goes on our technology tends toward smaller and smaller physical footprint. That means in part that in the long term we like technology to have a smaller environmental footprint, burning fewer greenhouse gases and becoming as small and environmentally neutral and noninvasive as possible. So I think regardless of the climate trend, I think we’ll see less and less environmentally impactful technologies.

Wissner-Gross is on because of the media attention given to misleading reports about the carbon emissions related to Google searches. Shame he doesn’t get to talk about any of that.

DOBBS: To be straight forward about this, that’s where I come down. I don’t know it matters to me whether there is global warming or we’re moving toward an ice age it seems really that we should be reasonable stewards of the planet and the debate over whether it’s global warming or whether it’s moving toward perhaps another ice age or business as usual is almost moot here in my mind. I know that will infuriate the advocates of global warming as well as the folks that believe we are headed toward another ice age. What’s your thought?

Curious train of logic there…

D’ALEO: I agree with you, Lou. We need conservation. An all of the above solution for energy, regardless of whether we’re right and it cools over the next few decades or continues to warm, a far less dangerous scenario. And that means nuclear. It means coal, oil, natural gas. Geothermal, all of the above.

DOBBS: Jay, you made the comment about the impact of solar sunspot activity. Sunspot activity the 11-year cycle that we’re all familiar with. There are much larger cycles, 12,000 to 13,000 years as well. We also heard a report disregard, if you will, for the strength and significance of solar activity on the earth’s environment. How do you respond to that?

Is he talking about me? Please see some of my publications on the subject from 2006, 2004 and 2001. My point above was that relative to current greenhouse gas increases, solar is small – not that it is unimportant or uninteresting. This of course is part of the false dilemma ‘single cause’ argument that the pseudo-skeptics like to use – that change must be caused by either solar or greenhouse gases and that any evidence for one is evidence against the other. This is logically incoherent.

FEHR: It just seems silly to not recognize that the earth’s climate is driven by the sun.

Ah yes.

Your Chad Myers pointed out it’s really arrogant to think that man controls the climate.

This is a misquoted reference to a previous segment a few weeks ago where Myers was discussing the impact of climate on individual weather patterns. But man’s activities do affect the climate and are increasingly controlling its trends.

90 percent of the climate is water vapor which we have no impact over and if we were to try to reduce greenhouse gases with China and India controlling way more than we do and they have boldly said they are not going to cripple their economy by following suit, our impact would have no — no change in temperature at all in Europe they started carbon — capping trade in 2005. They’ve had no reduction in groan house gases, but a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in the standard of living. We don’t want to go that route.

What? Accounting for the garbled nature of this response, he was probably trying to say that 90% of the greenhouse effect is caused by water vapour. This is both wrong and, even were it true, irrelevant.

DOBBS: Alex, you get the last word here. Are you as dismissive of the carbon footprint as measured by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

GROSS: No, not really. But I think in the long term, efficiency is where the gains come from. I think efficiency should come first, carbon footprint second.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Alex, Jay, and Joe. Folks, appreciate you being with us.

FEHR: Thank you.

In summary, this is not the old ‘balance as bias‘ or ‘false balance‘ story. On the contrary, there was no balance at all! Almost the entire broadcast was given over to policy advocates whose use of erroneous-but-scientific-sounding sound bites is just a cover for their unchangable opinions that nothing should ever be done about anything. This may make for good TV (I wouldn’t know), but it certainly isn’t journalism.

There are pressures on journalists that conspire against fully researching a story – deadlines, the tyranny of the news peg etc. – but that means they have to be all the more careful in these kinds of cases. Given that Lou Dobbs has been better on this story in the past, seeing him and his team being spun like this is a real disappointment. They could really do much better.

Update: Marc Roberts sends in this appropriate cartoon:

596 Responses to “CNN is spun right round, baby, right round”

  1. 51
    BillBodell says:


    But why “added on” to the warmest ten year period in the composite record? Oh, wait, I’m not very good at cherry-picking;

    Nothing so nefarious as that, I figured that the last ten years plus the imagined “20 year cold trend” would get me to 30 years (the widely agreed upon period of time for trends in climate to be meaningful).

  2. 52
    SecularAnimist says:

    Neal J. King: “Steve Chu, as Secretary of Energy, should be asked to take a strong and vocal position: He should certainly be clear on the technological options, and he’s probably well-informed on the climate science.”

    Based on what I had read about Steven Chu, I thought his nomination was a very promising step. However, at his confirmation hearing this week, he stated that he supports the construction of more conventional coal-fired power plants, without carbon capture and sequestration technology. (Of course, coal-fired power plants with CCS cannot be built because the technology does not exist and is unlikely to exist for decades, if ever.)

    This was worse than disappointing — as was Chu’s stated support for “acclerating” massive taxpayer subsidies for nuclear power. It suggests that despite the rhetoric coming from Obama and Chu about the urgency of reducing CO2 emissions, they will in fact pursue a pretty much “business as usual” energy policy that puts the profits of politically powerful industries (coal and nuclear) ahead of actual energy and climate concerns.

  3. 53
    Rod B says:

    It is astounding how Alan Neale (40) can get so much about the media, political bents, and most of the other stuff so bass ackwards. Are you actually watching and objectively assessing media? Liberals want an open fair and balanced discussion? Kinda like Jim Bouldin wants skeptics subject to slander and libel laws? Or others, including Hansen, want them imprisoned? You must be joking.

    [Response: You are misrepresenting both Bouldin’s and Hansen’s positions. Please don’t do that. The issue is not skepticism – this is a worthwhile and indeed essential part of science. It is deliberate misinformation. Now I don’t particularly agree with either Jim on this, but a) everyone is already subject to slander and libel laws, and b) Hansen was talking about the CEOs (analogous to the tobacco executives) who fund disinformation in support of their personal financial interest. Making up positions that neither Jim holds so you can get all outraged about it is not particularly interesting. – gavin]

  4. 54
    EL says:

    #48 – Do you honestly expect the “ordinary” people to accept all claims by the scientific community as if it were a divine message? Just because someone isn’t a formal scientist does not mean that they cannot contribute to science or be critical of it. Micheal Faraday is a great example of a “ordinary” person who changed the world of physics. It’s unlikely he will ever be considered among the greats of science, mostly due to him not being considered a formal elite, but his contributions changed the world forever.

    Science is not an argument, it’s not a debate, it’s not a meeting between world leading scientist who make claims, it’s simply evidence. I don’t give a hoot if Albert Einstein rises from the grave and declares mankind and it’s responsibility for global warming. Unless Albert can produce incontrovertible evidence, then it would be Albert’s opinion not science.

    There is a ton of variables at play when it comes to climate. The sun, orbits, nature (including mankind), ocean currents, water vapor, seismic events, and everything else under the sun. If mankind had never entered the industrial age, would we still have a climate change? What evidence do you have to suggest one way or another, what mathematical proofs? At the present time there is more questions then available evidence. Until that changes, this topic is very debatable about what the implications are of mankind’s activities.

    [Response: Just declaring that you need to be convinced by evidence is not evidence that the evidence doesn’t actually exist. Start with the IPCC report. – gavin]

  5. 55
    jb says:

    This discussion reads like a POLITICAL blog and NOT a Scientific one…. What a shame….I came here to read dicussions regarding the Science of Global Warming and all I see here is name calling and political bickering in the guise of science….again…what a shame…!

  6. 56
    Sergei Rostov says:

    I saw a reference to that Pravda article on another website and gave it the smackdown using info from
    Real Climate (thanks guys! You are making a difference)…not that its poor quality wasn’t obvious even without it [Note to Pravda: If you’re going to claim that the Co2 levels of 325,000 years ago were higher than today’s, don’t link to the ice-core data which proves you are lying :)].


    [Response: Happy to be of service. – gavin]

  7. 57
    John Lang says:

    From the comments on James Hansen’s Blog and on the 2008 Temperature Summation report on the GISSTemp page, it appears the GHG warming trend has been reduced to ~0.15C per decade from the previous estimates of over 0.2C per decade.

    “Greenhouse gases: Annual growth rate of climate forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases (GHGs) slowed from a peak close to 0.05 W/m2 per year around 1980-85 to about 0.035 W/m2 in recent years due to slowdown of CH4 and CFC growth rates [ref. 6]. Resumed methane growth, if it continued in 2008 as in 2007, adds about 0.005 W/m2. From climate models and empirical analyses, this GHG forcing trend translates into a mean warming rate of ~0.15°C per decade.”

    Perhaps you’d like to comment gavin.

    [Response: The estimate of 0.2 deg C/decade from IPCC is for the next two to three decades. This is obviously distinct from rate up until now. If the scenarios that were used in AR4 are out of date (because of the differences in CH4, CFCs, CO2 or aerosols – and the numbers aren’t all in yet, the expected trend right now might change in the new AR5 runs we will be starting shortly. Up til then, I’m content to stick with the AR4 expectations (which for a 10 year trend centered on 1 Jan 2008 is 0.19 deg C/dec (though +/- 0.3 degC/dec, 2 sigma). – gavin]

  8. 58
    Ray Ladbury says:

    JB, I would suggest you look around a bit at some of the postings before you reach a conclusion. Start with the “Start Here” button in the upper right hand corner.
    The thing you must realize is that many of us will be hearing from friends and relatives about the crap CNN has been running. For me, since I don’t watch TV, this is a useful post, as now I have some idea and will be prepared to dispel some the the misinformation Dobbs et al. presented.

  9. 59
    Mark says:

    re: #54.

    Yup, it goes rather like this:

    There is no evidence because if there WERE evidence, then I would be convinced. But since I’m not convinced, there is no evidence.


    Oh and gavin, your reply to #34 is incorrect. Fox (I think) got away with misinformation by arguing that they didn’t have to tell the truth! They got away with saying that and got off the charges!!!

    It doesn’t work very well to have a broadcasting standards like we have here in the UK since there is still a LOT of disinformation. However, we DID get that load of cod about the Great Global Warming Swindle nixed. The papers didn’t bruit about it much, but there’s not going to be a repeat performance.

    The difference?

    A broadcasting standard exists in the UK and doesn’t in the US.

    I don’t see how this is a dead end. It DOES work and it shouldn’t be impossible. How many people will bother with a station that goes against such a statute? “I don’t want to be forced to tell the truth!!!” isn’t going to go down well in public.

    JB, #55. So don’t read this thread. Read one of the other ones. Or if none of them are scientific enough for you, subscribe to Nature.

  10. 60
    David B. Benson says:

    lulo (29) — You managed to get it all wrong. I suggest starting with the “Start Here” link at the top of the page.

  11. 61
    Alan Neale says:

    Re #53, the liberal media want it debated, it is how they want it. The right wing guys just want to flood their world with a load of lies essentially and hence roll out the usual load of garbage and the usual deniers who spout the same stuff over and over. I know the media and read all of the UK newspapers everyday online. RC got it bang on with the Daily Telegraph and the little hitler version the Daily Mail is not worth mentioning an it rants on in a meaningless way. The other media in the UK including the Independent and the Guardian have at times over sold the AGW message and thats intolerable too but relative to the DT they have been far more balanced.

    Re #54, You make it sound as if the scientists do not know that. You only know it because the scientists knew it first. Your ranting to be fair an demonstrating a typical arrogant sentiment. The fact that you mention the word DIVINE makes me thing, oh here we go. This person is just taking the it aint hapenning angle because it does not fit in with his world view. Shame really as there is plenty of evidence and not a jolt of it from God.

  12. 62
    Jim Bouldin says:

    #53 (Rod B):

    Gavin answered well. I never said anything about libel towards skeptics. My comment was in reference to deliberate misinformation of well established data or concepts, and/or misrepresentation of the breadth and strength of scientific evidence by the media.

    #54 (EL): “If mankind had never entered the industrial age, would we still have a climate change? What evidence do you have to suggest one way or another, what mathematical proofs?”

    Your question is important and gets at the heart of why climate models are so vitally important. To the degree that they can accurately describe the essential physics of the climate system, they are able to provide probabilistic answers to exactly that type of question (and others), via model experiments, in which various forcings and model parameters are systematically varied to see the outcome. Without them we are indeed left with the hodgepodge of possible causes you list, and no systematic way to evaluate them. This is typically the case with any system that is not amenable to manipulative experimentation, of which there are many.

  13. 63
    jcbmack says:

    you misunderstand… the political arena is distorting the science and so at some point us scientists, especially climatologists (but all scientifically literate and responsible persons) must respond back. We must illuminate the disinformation with real information ccoming from data, but we must also respond to baselss allegations about a so called “debate,” over whether there is global warming and if human activities influence it.

  14. 64
    Keith says:

    Just today Jim Hansen released his GISS analysis of 2008 global surface temperature is available at

    he concludes:
    “Solar irradiance has a non-negligible effect on global temperature [see, e.g., Reference 7, which empirically estimates a somewhat larger solar cycle effect than that estimated by others who have teased a solar effect out of data with different methods]. Given our expectation of the next El Nino beginning in 2009 or 2010, it still seems likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years, despite the moderate negative effect of the reduced solar irradiance.”

    Is Jim Hansen a climate scientist? I thought he was a physicist. Someone please clarify, thank you!

  15. 65
    JohnLopresti says:

    The issue about the Arctic icecap melt is one of physics of phase shift. The cold \weather\ is from all the melted ice. A lot of energy is required to convert ice to water; It is the physics of that shift which consumes energy.

  16. 66
    JohnLopresti says:

    Then the global warming increases after there is little to no melt. This may take a while, during which there is cool \weather\, but the aftereffect is no buffering from ice, just seasonal wide variations, and true warmer weather.

  17. 67
    cw00p says:

    Funny how the “heat waves” of 2003 and 2006 are considered evidence of global warming (climate change) but “cold waves” of 2007, 2008 and 2009 (respectively) are just “weather”. Hypocrisy much?

    [Response: No. Perhaps you could find some evidence that I have been inconsistent in my treatment of hot and cold weather-related extremes? – gavin]

  18. 68
    Hank Roberts says:

    Note the tactic that described here to sway the apparent outcome of a public debate by spoofing the pre-debate poll:

  19. 69
    cw00p says:

    Maybe not so much you Gavin (however, have you actually used the term Cold Wave?) But, jeeze, just look at the previous 2 posts 65 and 66. Just do a basic search on your site to come up with plenty more examples. Cold periods are almost always referred to as weather (or cold snaps) and periods of heat are “heat waves”.

    If nothings else, as this is your site, why not push for consistency in nomenclature?

  20. 70
    Mike Walker says:

    Mark (59) A broadcasting standard exists in the UK and doesn’t in the US.

    I don’t see how this is a dead end. It DOES work and it shouldn’t be impossible. How many people will bother with a station that goes against such a statute? “I don’t want to be forced to tell the truth!!!” isn’t going to go down well in public.

    The difference between the US and the UK is our founding fathers thought it necessary to include Freedom of the Press in our constitution to protect the fee exchange of ideas. The obvious problem with a statute that requires the media to tell the truth is you then need an arbiter of what the truth is, and the problem with that is who gets to choose who is the arbiter.

  21. 71
    Keith says:

    Well, his(JOSEPH D’ALEO) response is in…

    [Response: Hmm.. I’ll have a look when I get a chance, but given that he is using Monckton as a source of some of his graphics, I think D’Aleo’s position as cherry-picker in chief is likely to be unassailable. – gavin]

  22. 72
    jcbmack says:

    Keith # 64,most climatologists are physicists, meteorologists, and/or mathematicians/chemists. Many have several degrees in different disciplines. There are specialty classes one can take, post graduate and post PHD training in the workplace and through internships as well, but a climate scientist is not one who has degrees in “climate science,” per se.

    For example my graduate degrees are in Biology and Chemistry, (with an emphasis on physical and organic chemistry,) but I have an undergraduate degree in physics and I have taken many courses in Geology, Earth Science, Meteorology, Oceanography etc…However, the basic tenents of weather and climate obey the laws of physics and can be mathematically modelled with great accuracy. It takes more than just one scientific discipline to model climate, peer into the distant past or paleoclimate, and understand where it may be headed.

  23. 73
    Hank Roberts says:

    cw00p, is this concern trolling? Because if you looked up the terms you’d understand them.

    You’re misunderstanding something fairly basic about how weather changes. This has been reflected in the English language for along time.

    Do you know what a “cold front” is? Have you ever heard of a “heat front” from anyone, anywhere?

    Do you know how temperature changes over time when a frontal system passes and the wind direction changes?

    Look at the direction of the air movement around high and low pressure regions, and how the wind changes as the boundary between them crosses a measuring point.

    A “cold snap” is a rapid decrease in temperature — a rate of change — typically when a fast-moving cold frontal system crosses a measuring site.

    A “cold wave” is a long period of cold weather.

    Look up “snap”

    Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828)

    “7. A sudden severe interval or spell; — applied to the weather; as, a cold snap. [ — but not a heat snap — ] Lowell.”

    Warm Fronts
    Active warm fronts are generally located in pressure troughs on surface charts. See figure 10-8. The troughs are not as pronounced as those observed with cold fronts ….

  24. 74
    Rod B says:

    Gavin (53), Bouldin clearly would like to ease the proof of libel or slander so Dobbs and the like can be silenced easier, which is not exactly supporting open discourse as Alan professed. Secondly, there is little evident doubt that a bunch of AGW supporters would be quite happy with the skeptics in jail which again hardly supports discourse, per Alan. I did very slightly exaggerate Hansen’s position (which I thought justified trying to overcome Alan’s preposterous claims), but, given his situation, even a slight exaggeration could become a gross injustice, so I’ll retract him as an example.

  25. 75
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gavin, an aside, I recollect vaguely reading somewhere that one reason early climate modeling was doable was that very large ‘grid’ scales worked, because of the realization that temperature change occurred as fronts passed, oaver rather large areas. It’s a loose end I can’t nail down, but just to the point that actually understanding the difference and how these frontal systems behave does matter.

    Just one more specific source on rate of change:

    “… A cold front … normally lies within a sharp surface trough. Cold fronts can move up to twice as fast and produce sharper changes in weather than warm fronts. Since cold air is denser than warm air, it rapidly replaces the warm air preceding the boundary ….”

    more at:

  26. 76
    lulo says:

    John Lopresti: Oh my goodness, not this again. The argument that more melting in the Antarctic (ie., more cold fresh water to freeze up easily) would carry a lot more weight if temperatures had increased in the Antarctic. There is not only more ice than normal in the Antarctic, but the region has experienced slight cooling, not warming. The latest December 2008 climate maps (admittedly subject to terrible map projection errors that make the poles look way too important) give you an example of what I mean:
    If you can explain to me how this weather is causing more melt, I’m listening.

    Ray Ladbury: I acknowledge these policy positions and must say that, as an active member of two of these societies, I was frustrated when these positions were adopted, even though I tend to agree on the fundamental basis for the theory.

    Dan: Fine, play the Ph.D. & pubs card. Okay, I will too. I also have the aforementioned (though I didn’t feel the need to bring it up until you did) and fully understand the peer-review process. It has been a few years since I have worked on the climate models, however, so you have me there. As for the science being simple, I don’t know… are you referring to the physics of selective absorption (which could be taught in grade school), or are you referring to things like radiative transfer, earth-atmosphere mass and energy exchange and the nitty gritty of the interactions between the algorithms involved in mesoscale climate modelling? If you are referring to the former types of physics as ‘actually really simple,’ then hats off to you. I find it challenging (and I could name a number of global climate change missionaries who don’t have a clue about any of this). I guess you fall into my category of honest pro-AGW climatologists who understand the physics. Further to this, I personally know several ‘skeptic’ physicists. They don’t dare speak to the climatologists, though I hear that this is not the case at other universities:

  27. 77
    Rod B says:

    Alan (61), well, if you’re talking of just the media, which is not at all clear in your first post, then I would agree that they do relish an open debate; or any kind of debate for that matter; as does the conservative media.

  28. 78
    lulo says:

    Mike: No. No arbiter is needed. Honesty is the best policy. Let the press be wildly free, with reasonable articles and extremist articles on both sides of any issue. Give people some credit to be able to sort through the facts.

  29. 79

    Re 28

    Little wonder Ed Greisch’s Javascript won’t run with so many electrons powering his PC stemming from uranium and thorium bearing coal.

    If Big Server server continues to allow allow electrons from mercury and sulfur to contaminate the internet’s vital bodily fluids, epidemic web autism may reduce RC to sounding like , well,Fox TV.

    it’s a wonder Singer and Avery haven’t gotten around to blaming the arctic trend on auroral warming by heavy metal ions in the solar wind. But then, it’s two months till the next Heartland potlatch, so stay tuned telluric currents fans–they’re still out there .

  30. 80
    J. Bob says:

    Lulo #29
    Great Post! I agree, the lack of civility and condescending attitude to those who disagree with the gospel that humans cause 100% of the last few decades of weather patterns, is sad. In looking at, plotted temp data, from GISS, NOAA, UAH, RSS and CRU, there seems to be some discrepancies as to the temp trends. In my opinion, the best source seems to be UAH and RSS, in that there is less “tampering” of the information. While some may dismiss, ICEBERG and others, they do raise some inconvenient items, primarily as to the validity of a number of weather station’s data, and the “enhancement” that goes on.
    The three primary items that bothers me about the GISS data is:

    1-Diffenrce in the raw data vs. the modified of enhanced (seems always to go up)

    2-The warmest parts of the globe seem to have the least weather stations (i.e. Northern Eurasia and Siberia)

    3-The local environment of the weather stations (near A/C units, blacktop parking areas/tarmacs, tops of trailers)

    The other point is that many dismiss critics of CO2 warming as in the pocket of “big oil and coal”. But are not many of the supporters being financed by government and foundation (including those who have a interest in carbon credits) grants? Perhaps a more interesting item to look at would be the migrations of people over time to climate of weather conditions:
    Migration of Goths, Vandals etc. out of Scandinavia and upper Baltic area ~500 B.C. doe to cold weather
    Romans growing grapes in Britain ~50 A.D. (warm weather)
    Great migration of Goths & others (Huns) into the Roman empire due to cold weather 4th/5th century (A.D.)
    Colonization Greenland/Newfoundland 10th/11th century due to warmer weather
    Medieval Cold period 15th/18th century

    These situations seem to be in 900-1000 year periods.

    As for my being “qualified”, my grad and post-grad work included some of the best Heat Transfer professors and authorities in the world. I have been involved in math modeling for over 40 years, starting with the X-15. This included analog, hybrid and multiple digital and parallel systems. Also responsible for evaluation and testing of horizon scanners in the near to far infrared spectrum. A significant portion of this work was in design, modeling and evaluating thermal systems (radiation, convective including viscous flow, and conduction) in 3D. That means models had to be verified in the real world, and you had to “sign off” on your deigns.

    One final note, was back when the Army was about to launch the first satellite on a Redstone missile. At one of the science club meetings on campus, the world’s foremost authority in Heat Transfer quipped “Now we see how constant the solar constant is”.

  31. 81
    guthrie says:

    J. Bob – of course there are descrepancies in temperature trends from Giss, Noa, Uah, Rss etc etc, they all use slightly different data and methods. So, strike one.
    I don’t know a huge amount about this, but on the topic of stations being on the wrong surface etc etc, but I recall reading that someone at Watts place had compared temperature results from stations that they said were “good”, with those that were “bad”. Oddly enough they were almost identical.
    Or in other words, nobody has yet shown that it is really making much of a difference.
    As for migrations, they are irrelevant. We also have more vineyards growing further north in England than at any other time in history, and some people are predicting them by loch Ness by the end of the century.
    If you do have all that knowledge and experience, I look forwards to you actually applying it. Have you read very much about climatology?

  32. 82
    curious says:

    “Hmm.. I’ll have a look when I get a chance, but given that he is using Monckton as a source of some of his graphics, I think D’Aleo’s position as cherry-picker in chief is likely to be unassailable. – gavin”

    It would be interesting indeed to see a reasoned and detailed response to the points that D’Aleo makes in his response to your comments regarding the CNN interview. To this lay person, he appears to make some compelling points. This is an opportunity for you and RC to demonstrate your objective scientific capabilities.

    Alternatively, if these issues have already been adequately addressed, perhaps you can point us to appropriate commentary/sources.

    Also, I cannot help but observe that, for whatever reason, the snide tone you adopt in the quote above serves only to diminish you and your cause. We lay folk are looking for professionally done and competent science.

    [Response: Then why are you paying attention to D’Aleo and Monckton? Scientific credibility is a hard won and fragile thing – and those two have none. Regardless, I will read over his post and see what is worth responding to. In the meantime, read this and this for background. – gavin]

  33. 83
    Ron Taylor says:

    Well J. Bob, so where did you find any climate scientist had asserted “that humans cause 100% of the last few decades of weather patterns”?

    Are you seriously accusing GISS of fraud (tampering with data)?

    The rest of your stale denialist talking points have been dealt with numerous time here. Try putting that background to work at educating yourself about climate science.

  34. 84
    Dan says:


    To refer to “playing the PhD and pubs card” seriously trivializes the scientific method. That has what has worked for science for centuries. Always has, always will. And yes I was referring to radiative transfer. But if you want to keep it simple, try conservation of energy.

    As those physicists if they have any other theory that can come close to explaining the warming trend of the past 30+ years. Better yet, have them publish it. We will wait.

  35. 85
    Neal J. King says:

    #52, SecularAnimist:

    I don’t see things as grimly as you:

    – from, on coal: “But Democrat Byron Dorgan of coal-rich North Dakota reminded Chu that he controls the appropriations subcommittee that determines the Department of Energy budget and that the two of them would be working together for the foreseeable future. “So be nice,” he told Chu. He then pressed Chu to give context to his “nightmare” quote. Chu’s response: “If we use coal the way we’re using it today, then it is a pretty bad dream.” Chu emphasized that the key is making coal plants able to pump their carbon emissions into the ground.”

    – On nuclear: “He would continue controversial programs to study the reprocessing of nuclear waste but at a much slower pace than the Bush Administration had tried.”

    Also, recall that Chu has to get through the approval process. A little bit of fancy footwork is de rigeur.

  36. 86
    Hank Roberts says:

    J. Bob writes of his belief that someone, somewhere, has

    > the gospel that humans cause 100% of the
    > last few decades of weather patterns,

    That’s a prize-winner, even stopping at that point.
    No need to read further or ask where you get this stuff.

  37. 87
    James Staples says:

    This doesn’t surprise me; especially the ‘Pravda, of all places’ bit.
    You see, I did a little ‘study’, in 2002, of the content and accuracy of The ‘Post-Patriot Act Era’ U.S. T.V. News. After viewing an ‘average’ CNN and Fox News Hourly News Program, I then compaired their content and accuracy to The BBC, DW, TV 2 (France), and – of course – Tass; and – much to my astounded ‘Ashamed American’ amazement – when using these reputable European News Sources as a kind of ‘Thermometer’, Tass was MORE ACCURATE and provided GREATER DETAIL in their reporting of ‘Important to Intelligent Politcally Active Americans’ Itemes like Afghanistan, Iraq, The (then) Impending Global Economic Meltdown, etc..
    I LIKE Glasnost (sp)!!!! We could use a little more of that HERE, in The U.S.!!!
    These [edit] (in The White House, etcx.; THOUGH NOT FOR MUCH LONGER) have had me feeling like the proverbial ‘Rat on the Sinking Ship’ for decades now!!!
    Stop The Planet, I wanna GET OFF!!!

  38. 88
    SamWeiss says:

    J. Bob said: “I agree, the lack of civility and condescending attitude to those who disagree with the gospel that humans cause 100% of the last few decades of weather patterns, is sad.”

    Straw-man arguments are especially poor and obviously so. I have never seen here, nor in any leading scientific publication or even letters, the claim that “humans cause 100% of the last few decades of weather patterns”. Ever. However, as evidenced by your post, I do see many of the denying populace project that belief onto the scientific community.

    Your graduate and post-grad work is irrelevant here. You are just not being honest.

  39. 89
    blue says:

    Those global data sets are contaminated by the fact that two-thirds of the globe’s stations dropped out in 1990.
    While I know, that this drop does not significantly affect the temperature trend, I was unable to find the reason for this drop. What happened? Were stations actually shut down, was just their electronic reporting canceled, did funding drop, …? Just curious.

    [Response: No. There was a big effort in the early nineties to collate existing met data and put them in a form suitable for climate studies – this brought a lot of new data into the analyses. The idea was that the network subsequent to this collation was more than sufficient to produce climate data (i.e. regional monthly and annual data summations). Much of the effort in collation now is for the really long term data (pre-1900 and earlier), much of which still needs to be digitised and homogenised. Given that the correlation between the data analyses over the last twenty years is close to 0.999, there is no obvious need to expand the network we have now (though there are some regional efforts that would be worthwhile in Africa or South America). Remember that for the hemispheric mean temperature estimate you need only about 50 or 60 well-placed stations. There are many more than that. – gavin]

  40. 90
  41. 91
  42. 92
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside: “cold snap” is an Americanism.

    “Lowell” is James Russell Lowell

    “… if you do get a crust that will bear, and know any brooklet that runs down a hillside, be sure to go and take a look at him, especially if your crust is due, as it commonly is, to a cold snap following eagerly on a thaw. You will never find him so cheerful….”

    Lowell, “A Good Word for Winter”

  43. 93
    cw00p says:

    Hank (73): I appreciate your response. Yes, I’m aware of the difference. My point being that “heat waves” have, of late, been considered as evidence of global warming. How often have you seen this quoted in the press and in academic materials (especially the “heat waves” of 2003, 2006), yet this rather long period of cold (going beyond a “cold snap”) is never considered to be more than, as you put it, cold fronts (weather).

    The important distinction I make is that “heat waves” get treated as evidence of climate change, and “Cold Waves” (a rapid fall in temperature with a 24 hour period requiring increased protection to agriculture, industry, commerce, and social activities); are treated as anomalous’weather’ occurrences.

    And yes, I was a little snarky in my original post to gavin, my apologies.

  44. 94
    Boris says:

    Don’t the warming oceans shoot down all of these UHI arguments?

    Is there a theoretical or model-derived ratio that would suggest an expected land warming based on a known ocean warming?

  45. 95
    Mark says:

    CNN is a business, like any network. There’s a sizable market for global warming denial, magnified by the U.S. political shift. They are likely to get higher ratings by promoting this stuff as opposed to boring objective science.

    There’s probably a variety of sources for vehement denial of the huge body of evidence on the issue. Ultimately, it comes down critical thinking – something I think should specifically be taught in classrooms. What I find is that most of the so-called climate “skeptics” are ironically not the least bit critical of the material they digest and repeat.

  46. 96

    I hate the media. I absolutely hate them. They’re much worse than that movie NETWORK. GRRRR!!!!! I only got cable 18 months ago, happy at last to see EWTN (which proved a disaster, with their evil anti-environmentalism-Exxon-funded stance) and CNN, ostensibly to get the news. What a sad joke. What a waste of my money. Except now my husband is hooked on the plethora of westerns he can see :(

  47. 97
    Hank Roberts says:

    There is a ‘gospel’ point of view involved, yes:

    “I’m not going to solely blame all of man’s activities on changes in climate. Because the world’s weather patterns are cyclical. And over history we have seen changes there.”

    I found a surprising number of people named as foremost authorities on heat transfer by googling the term.

  48. 98

    The media, if they wanted, could report it like this:

    It is now official, the ten warmest years since measurements began 129 years ago have been within the past 12 years. We’d better act now to mitigate this sucker before it’s too late. All persons of the world can report to their civil defense units to find out how to turn off lights not in use and many other helpful measures.

  49. 99
    Eric Swanson says:

    RE: #76 & #80

    lulo claims that the UAH data over the Antarctic indicates cooling. But, probably lulo doesn’t know that the UAH TLT if flawed over the Antarctic, as I demonstrated some 5 years ago in a GRL paper (doi:10.1029/2003GL017938). Christy and Spencer still present data over the Antarctic, but RSS cuts off their data at 70S. Worse, the UAH TLT includes data poleward of 82.5S (the last actual data points), by interpolating over the pole. The MSU/AMSU data is contaminated by surface effects over the Antarctic due to the high elevations, which is the reason RSS excludes this area, as well as other areas with high elevations.

    J. Bob, you may be educated, but do you really understand? The claim that climate change did in the Vikings in Greenland ignores the fact that there is no conclusive proof that climate change was the cause. About the same time that the Eastern Greenland colony vanished, Iceland was hit with the Black Death, which killed about half the population. After that, there was lots of free farmland available in Iceland, which the Greenlanders might have taken advantage, assuming that they weren’t also wiped out by the Plague. And, you ignore the impacts of volcanoes, such as Kuwae in 1453, which would likely have been much worse than the effects of Tambora in 1815, which caused the “Year Without Summer” in New England and Northern Europe. Besides, Europe is not the world.

    As for your education and work experience, since you understand so much, tell us how Spencer and Christy derived their TLT algorithm and how has it been validated…

  50. 100

    In re @ 95 —

    It’s going to take more than turning off lights. Turning off lights got me the first 25% reduction in electric consumption. The other 50% took things like, buying a modern fridge, not having a giant huge computer sitting idle all the time (I now have three of them sitting idle most of the time, plus two laptops) and turning off those stupid vampire loads.

    Don’t have the current bill just yet, but in spite of using my space heater more (cold bathroom), electric blanket (cold feet), adding two more TVes and a new DVD player, DVR and two extra cable boxes, an electric motorcycle (lots of fun!) and other modern wonders, it’s looking like I’ve cut another 12 1/2% on top of the 75% I already cut. I checked the meter this morning and I’d used 205KWH in the past 25 days or so. And that doesn’t include what I made on the roof and sold back to the grid.