Seth Borenstein

Post image for The Greenland Ice Melt: Should We Be Alarmed?

If you follow global warming news at all, you’ve probably seen the NASA satellite images (above) many times. The images show the extent of Greenland surface ice melt on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right). In just a few days, the area of the ice sheet with surface melting increased from about 40% to 97%, including Summit Station, Greenland’s highest and coldest spot.

NASA took a drubbing from Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger at World Climate Report (“Illiteracy at NASA“) for describing the ice melt as “unprecedented” in the title of the agency’s press release. The word literally means without precedent, and properly refers to events that are unique and never happened before. In reality, as one of NASA’s experts points out in the press release, over the past 10,000 years, such events have occurred about once every 150 years:

“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data.

Equating ‘rare yet periodic’ with ‘unprecedented’ is incorrect and misleading. “But apparently,” comment Michaels and Knappenberger, “when it comes to hyping anthropogenic global warming (or at least the inference thereto), redefining English words in order to garner more attention is a perfectly acceptable practice.” New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin also chided NASA for an “inaccurate headline” and the associated “hyperventilating coverage,” but for a different reason: NASA provided “fodder for those whose passion or job is largely aimed at spreading doubt about science pointing to consequential greenhouse-driven warming.”

Enough on the spin. Let’s examine the real issues: (1) Did anthropogenic global warming cause the extraordinary increase in surface melting between July 8 and July 12? (2) How worried should we be about Greenland’s potential impact on sea-level rise? [click to continue…]

Post image for When Scientists Talk Like Lawyers . . .We Should Be Skeptical

“I’m not saying it is global warming, but it’s what global warming would look like. It’s consistent with the kind of weather climate scientists predict will become more frequent and severe as greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere increase.”

“It,” in the preceding, refers to the persistent heat wave affecting the Mid-Atlantic region and the derecho that uprooted trees, downed power lines, and deprived nearly a million households in the D.C. metro area of electricity and air conditioning. Warmists, or most of them, know they cannot actually link a particular weather event to global warming, but they’d like you to make the connection anyway.

This is standard rhetorical fare whenever extreme weather strikes somebody, somewhere on the planet. A commenter on Georgia Institute of Technology Prof. Judith Curry’s blog notes the resemblance to an old court-room trick:

Kind of like a lawyer asking a improper question and then withdrawing it, because all s/he really wanted was to put the idea in the jury’s mind.   [click to continue…]