Monthly Archives: July 2015

Reading skeptical comments threads (fabricated by alarmists) will make you stupid

It wasn’t my intention of blogging about the recent Cook/Lubos controversy, but it evolved in a rather interesting way, that I couldn’t resist dedicating a blog post to it (maybe even two).

First some background. Last Wednesday Luboš Motl wrote a blog post Identity theft: the thief of Lubos_Motl turns out to be a well-known man about John Cook using the handle “Lubos_Motl” on the SkS “private” forum.

Motl’s article was the first that I read in that regard and it seemed to me that he took it with a healthy dose of humor. Motl and Cook are not exactly best friends. John Cook wrote on SkS a list of Global Warming & Climate Change Myths (I have to admit that I used that list quite often when I was looking for information on global warming in the early days – shame on me) and Luboš Motl then wrote a rebuttal of every point on that list (I later read this list with even more pleasure – it turned out all right after all). The whole controversy came when Motl found out John Cook using the handle “Lubos_Motl”, apparently made comments on a (skeptical looking) blog post (but written by Cook himself) in a way that Motl personally wouldn’t do. In fact misrepresenting his ideas.

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Honest climate reporting, a thing of the past?

July 21 is our National holiday. While our king in his speech exhausted himself explaining that we shouldn’t be tempted to what he called, ahem, “formatted ready-made thinking, at the expense of our own ability to think”, the media seemed to be in full “ready-made thinking”-mode that day. Apparently NOAA issued their global analysis of June 2015, saying it the warmest month since the start of their measurements. Our media seem to love it and brainlessly reporting it.

Let’s first see what the Belgians got to hear that evening on the VRT television news (translated from Dutch):

Caption VRT news July 21, 2015

Caption VRT news July 21, 2015

The month of June was worldwide the warmest month since the beginning of the observations in 1880. The average temperature in June was 0,88 degrees above the average of last century. The previous record for the month of June dates by the way only from last year.

Nicely short, so I didn’t have to translate too much. 🙂 It was not clear on television, but according to their website they indeed reported on the NOAA dataset.

The VTM news was somewhat longer, but not much better (translated from Dutch):

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Of rapid desertification and greening

Collage of two images from promotional video of EWF

Collage of two images from promotional video of EWF

In a previous post I was puzzled why a journalist blamed “climate change” as the cause of “rapid” desertification, while the region is greening for at least two decades. To recapitulate, in the evening news there was the story of a company that plants trees in Burkina Faso in order to fight against desertification and give more resources to the people living there (like make products that can be sold at the local market). As I said then, I have nothing against that. On the contrary, I applaud such an effort.

I did have a problem with the statement from the reporter that “because of climate change, the Sahara is dangerously advancing in the Sahel region, also in Burkina Faso”. This was a strange statement knowing that the area of the Sahel, in which Burkina Faso is situated, is “greening” in the last decades. It is probably a cycle that is repeating itself for many centuries or even millenia. In the 1970s – 1980s there were severe droughts, which were followed by a period with more rains and subsequently more vegetation. In such a light, a statement that the desert is dangerously advancing is puzzling to say the least. My initial guess was that the reporter didn’t know about that cycle and didn’t investigate it further.

In the meanwhile I found out that this statement was not from the rich imagination of the journalist, but actually came from the company itself. They made a promotional video in which they made similar statements. Looking at the video it seems the journalist was supplied with a frame work and could even use some stills from the video to make his report more entertaining. Both benefit: the company had free publicity in prime time, the journalist an easy report with lots of drama.

The video starts with a desolate flute melody and this introduction:

We all know that the desert grows in Africa. And that the people and animals must struggle every day to survive in the Sahel. Through climate change, forests disappear and fertile soils dry out.

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Bipolar reporting of scientific certainty

bipolar reporting

Picture my surprise when I read this in the newspaper a couple days ago: “Mini ice age coming in the next 15 years” (Dutch)… It presents the results of the research of Professor Zharkova, who predicts that the activity of the sun will diminish with 60 percent by 2030, which will give rise to a “Maunder minimum” style event with extremely severe winters. She comes to this conclusion on basis of a new and improved model of sun cycles.

The feeling is double. In a way, I am pleased to hear that attention is given to another side. This is a rare occasion where one find a different message than the global warming meme, certainly now in the running up to Paris when the media are hyping scaring stories even more.

However, I am less pleased to notice this makes EXACTLY the same mistakes as global warming reporting. Just look how it starts (translated from Dutch):

We will face a new Little Ice Age in the next fifteen year.

That is putting it with an incredible high level of certainty. There is nothing in that sentence that expresses any kind of doubt or uncertainty. According to the scientist, or interpretated by the reporter, this is what WILL happen. Very comparable with the global warming reporting in which claims are made in no uncertain terms.

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Heat waves: extreme temperatures or just higher summer temperatures?

In previous post I ended rather abruptly by saying that one of the problems with the vagueness of the definition of a heat wave, is that they are difficult to compare. What I meant by that is that those of the public, who don’t catch the nuances of those different definitions, think that is being talked about exactly the same thing, while they are in fact distinctly different.

For example, when the weather (wo)men in our region talk about a heat wave, they mean a period of five consecutive days with temperatures over 25 °C of which three days with temperatures over 30 °C at Uccle (Belgium) or De Bilt (the Netherlands). We have no real problem with that because in our country we are used to 20 °C, 25 °C temperatures or even higher. But we don’t cope well with 30+ °C temperatures, especially when they last more than a couple days. These are rare occurrences in our region and we are not used to them.

Bottom line: when our weather services declare a heat wave, it is hot and we need to take measures to cope with such (rare) heat. That is the significance of the definition: it captures the extremes of a region. Extremes that could have an impact those who are weak like small children, old people or those who are ill. In our current societal structure and in our climate, we just aren’t accustomed to these temperatures.

Now enter that new definition of a heat wave: the average temperature of three consecutive days. There is no regional threshold anymore, because the investigators wanted to compare between the different countries with different local definitions. Now we see an upwards going graph:

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Heat wave definitions: if one doesn’t suit us, we will take another one

Last week we had a heat wave in Belgium. But just a day before it officially became a heat wave, it was already connected to Global Warming. The alarmist on duty is Jill Peeters, a Flemish weather woman: Jill Peeters warns: a heat wave like this one will occur once every 3 years (Dutch). In it a graph that shows heat waves in De Bilt (The Netherlands) are on the rise:

heatwave climate central

That’s odd. I have been looking for some time at the heat wave data of Belgium and the Netherlands, but as far as I could see there was no reason for alarm, on the contrary. This was nothing like I have seen in the heat wave data of the De Bilt weather station. Where did they get this result?

In a tweet she linked to Climate Central that described the analysis. They tried to find out how likely heatwaves became using “observational weather and climate data, weather forecasts and climate models”. Color me unimpressed.

Apparently they also were in quite a hurry, beside observations, they used forecasts and they presented their result in the beginning of the period in which heat waves occur and apparently couldn’t wait for a couple days… This made me guess there is an hidden agenda here. It is definitely not scientific.

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Climate change and the Great Green Wall

Last Tuesday there was the story on the VRT television news about Belgian entrepreneurs who “stop the desert” in Burkina Faso (Dutch). They take part in what is called “The Great Green Wall” across Africa, planting trees and crops in plowed open land just before the rain season. During the rain season those fill with water and then the seeds will grow to trees, grasses and crops.

Screen cap VRT television news June 30, 2015 Source: http://deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws/videozone/programmas/journaal/2.39737

Screen cap VRT television news June 30, 2015
Source: http://deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws/videozone/programmas/journaal/2.39737

That forest keeps the desert from taking the land and also provide some new income for the people (who for example can weave mats or baskets that can be sold at local markets, providing some additional money).

If those trees keep the desert away and are a new source of income, I can only applaud such an initiative. It is a great idea and it rightfully laudable.

But two thoughts crossed my mind when hearing this success story. First, the journalist mentioned that:

Because of climate change, the Sahara is dangerously advancing in the Sahel region, also in Burkina Faso.

There we go again…

Second, there was also that green band across Africa … I have seen that somewhere else …

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