Climate news poorly reported in the news, about things you should know

Summary: Today we look at arctic sea ice and tornadoes. While they tell us important information about our world, how the news tells us about them tells us even more. As we become isolated into tribes our news becomes dominated by targeted clickbait. So it is with climate change, among our most serious issues but often grossly misrepresented by both Left and Right. Yet the climate agencies tell us what we need to know, if we’d only listen.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Cover of "Turning the Tide On Climate Change" by Robert Kandel
Cover of Turning the Tide On Climate Change by Robert Kandel (2009). Wikipedia Commons image.

The 2015 record low maximum of arctic sea ice

The media overflow with hype about small changes in climate metrics, often records with some combination of narrow criteria, little importance, and influenced by factors in addition to temperature. Putting big labels on these tends to mislead more than illuminate climate trends. These records produce clickbait for websites advertising to the Left, alarming stories given without vital context.

The latest story is about this year’s record low in the maximum arctic sea ice extent, producing the usual alarmist headlines. For reliable information we should first check with the NASA statement about it by scientist Walt Meier (red emphasis added):

“Scientifically, the yearly maximum extent is not as interesting as the minimum. It is highly influenced by weather and we’re looking at the loss of thin, seasonal ice that is going to melt anyway in the summer and won’t become part of the permanent ice cover … With the summertime minimum, when the extent decreases, it’s because we’re losing the thick ice component, and that is a better indicator of warming temperatures.

“The winter maximum gives you a head start, but the minimum is so much more dependent on what happens in the summer that it seems to wash out anything that happens in the winter” …

There is more valuable context to this story, as shown by a few pictures. Look at the record low seasonal maximum extent vs other years.  This shows the past 5 years; blue is 2015. A record by a small amount.


Arctic sea ice extent: 20150325-

But there was no record low for the seasonal maximum sea ice area. This graph shows the past 5 years; yellow is 2015.

Arctic sea ice area: 20150325

What’s the trend over time? Arctic sea ice has been shrinking since records began in 1979 (coincidentally at the end of the 1970’s cooling phase). But even in the Arctic the “pause” has appeared, and shows in the flat trend of February sea ice extent for the past several years (the monthly numbers are volatile; this graph shows the past 12 Februarys).

Arctic February sea ice extent

What factors influence the arctic sea ice? Warming, of course. Winds too have a large effect. Also important are deposits of soot, which increase melting. (See the research about wind and soot.) How will this change when China finishes cleaning up their soot emissions, which they’re doing quickly?

Good news about tornadoes!

Many forms of extreme weather have decreased in recent years, largely unreported by the major news media. For example, look at the frequency of tornadoes in the US, as NOAA explains in this statement on March 17:

“We are in uncharted territory with respect to lack of severe weather”, said Greg Carbin, SPC’s warning coordination meteorologist. “This has never happened in the record of SPC watches dating back to 1970.”

Since the beginning of 2015, the SPC {storm prediction center} has issued only 4 tornado watches and no severe thunderstorm watches, which is less than 10% of the typical number of 52 tornado watches issued by mid-March. The approximately 20 tornadoes reported since January 1 is well below the 10-year average of 130 for that time period.

Let’s see the trend through last year (here is the current data). F3 tornadoes are “severe” intensity; F4 are “devastating”, F5 are “incredible”.


We have a gift of time. Let’s not waste it.

“Ask me for anything, except time.”
— Attributed to Napoleon.

Time is the most valuable of resources. It gives us the ability to do research, to mobilize the public and build political coalitions, and take more tangible measures. With time we can prepare; without it we can only react.

With the pause in atmosphere warming since aprox 2000 Nature has given us a gift of time. Most forms of extreme weather are stabilizing or improving. Even the “sea level rise slowed slightly in the past few years.

Both Left and Right have adopted science denial as their preferred tactic, using selective citation and exaggeration of science — filtered through activists instead of scientists (Full doomsterism isn’t working for the Left. Why do they continue this?). We have time to act if we can break free of the ideologues that surround us and find common ground for action. Likely candidates are development of new energy sources, reduced pollution, and more research.

Truth Will Make You Free

(5)  For More Information.

See these pages listing posts about climate on the FM site:

  1. The important things to know about global warming
  2. My posts
  3. Studies & reports, by subject

To learn more about these things see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr. (Prof of Environmental Studies at U of CO-Boulder, and Director of their Center for Science and Technology Policy Research).

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about climate change and extreme weather. Especially see these posts:

  1. Have we prepared for normal climate change and non-extreme weather?
  2. Let’s prepare for past climate instead of bickering about predictions of climate change.
  3. Some good news about our changing climate. Enjoy it, for it might not last long.
  4. Prof Botkin gives us good news about our changing climate.
  5. More good news about the climate, giving us a priceless gift.



6 thoughts on “Climate news poorly reported in the news, about things you should know”

  1. [caption id="attachment_81617" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Oil Company Advertisement from 1962 Oil Company Advertisement from 1962[/caption]

    1. Advertisements have changed as has our society. Some more so than oil company ads. This is from the Business Pundit website’s collection of sexist advertisements from the past:

      Sexist Advertisement

      Then there are advertisements for things that have changed even more…

      Cigaraette Advertisement

  2. How will this change when China finishes cleaning up their soot emissions, which they’re doing quickly?

    Finishes? Wouldn’t it be far more accurate to say that they’re just beginning?

    “Shutting all the major coal power plants in the city(Beijing), equivalent to reducing annual coal use by 9.2 million metric tons.”

    Do you know that China burns 4 billion tons of coal a year?

    1. Gloucon,

      (1) “How will this change when China finishes cleaning up their soot emissions, which they’re doing quickly?”

      China is the largest producer of the soot blanketing the arctic, increasing the rate of melting. Therefore the rate of melting will slow when the annual deposit of soot is reduced. See the page of citations.

      (2) “Finishes? Wouldn’t it be far more accurate to say that they’re just beginning?”

      Please re-read more carefully. I pointed to their first steps, and asked what will be the result when they finish.

      (3) “Do you know that China burns 4 billion tons of coal a year?”

      Please make some attempt to relate such belligerent statements to what I said. Their massive program to reduce pollution and also the consumption of coal, switching to other sources — especially nukes and solar — will eventually produce the same result as ours did: relatively clean skies. It’s a function of increased wealth. We don’t know how long this will take, just that they’ll get there. My guess is that they’ll make substantial progress in 10 years, and be largely done in 20.

  3. Pingback: Climate news poorly reported in the news, about things you should know | dazhuangcat

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