Alaska’s climate scientists tell us the rest of the news, what Obama forgot to mention

Summary: Obama journeys to Alaska and says things. Our journalist-stenographers reprint this as news. They do not consult local experts, and so miss an important part of the story. This post gives you the rest of the news.

Alaska temperatures 1949-2014
From the Alaska Climate Research Center. Click to enlarge.

The great oddity of the climate change campaign is the disinterest of journalists in reporting it well. Stories about our certain doom often omit vital context (e.g., burning off the world’s fossil fuels means the 21st century relies on coal for energy, like the 19thC), forget to mention the IPCC when it disagrees with alarmists (e.g., about the danger of a methane apocalypse), and ignore the host of research facilities studying relevant aspects of our changing world.

We see that last factor at work in journalists’ reporting about Obama’s climate campaign tour of Alaska. Google News shows no stories in the mainstream news mentioning the findings of the Alaska Climate Research Center. I have posted their work in response to previous panicky stories about Alaska melting in 2009, in 2013, and again here.

Here is their Temperature Changes in Alaska page (updated annually; red emphasis added). It’s quite clear.

“This page features the trends in mean annual and seasonal temperatures for Alaska’s first-order observing stations since 1949, the time period for which the most reliable meteorological data are available. The temperature change varies from one climatic zone to another as well as for different seasons. If a linear trend is taken through mean annual temperatures, the average change over the last 6 decades is 3.0°F.

“… Considering just a linear trend can mask some important variability characteristics in the time series. The figure at right shows clearly that this trend is non-linear: a linear trend might have been expected from the fairly steady observed increase of CO2 during this time period. The figure shows the temperature departure from the long-term mean (1949-2009) for all stations. It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year and the 5-year moving average demonstrates large increase in 1976.

“The period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2009, however since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations. The stepwise shift appearing in the temperature data in 1976 corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase. Synoptic conditions with the positive phase tend to consist of increased southerly flow and warm air advection into Alaska during the winter, resulting in positive temperature anomalies.”

Being scientists, they published their research in a peer-reviewed journal: “The First Decade of the New Century: A Cooling Trend for Most of Alaska“, G. Wendler, L. Chen and B. Moore, Open Atmospheric Science Journal, 2012 — Abstract (red emphasis added):

“During the first decade of the 21st century most of Alaska experienced a cooling shift, modifying the long-term warming trend, which has been about twice the global change up to this time. All of Alaska cooled with the exception of Northern Regions. This trend was caused by a change in sign of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which became dominantly negative, weakening the Aleutian Low. This weakening results in less relatively warm air being advected from the Northern Pacific.

“This transport is especially important in winter when the solar radiation is weak. It is during this period that the strongest cooling was observed. In addition, the cooling was especially pronounced in Western Alaska, closest to the area of the center of the Aleutian Low. The changes seen in the reanalyzed data were confirmed from surface observations, both in the decrease of the North-South atmospheric pressure gradient, as well as the decrease in the mean wind speeds for stations located in the Bering Sea area.”

The price paid for this sloppy or biased reporting

Journalists pay for this in lost credulity. Publishers of the news pay in lost credibility. We all pay, as these repeated cries of “wolf“ diminish our ability to respond to serious warnings.

Update: Another example

Obama used Alaska’s melting glaciers as tangible evidence of anthropogenic climate change. As with Lyell glacier in Yosemite, the actual story is more complex — with melting beginning when the Little Ice Age ended, long before anthropogenic CO2 levels surged after WWII. As shown in this table from an article by Susan Huse, a biologist for the Alaskan Support Office of the National Park Service.

Retreat of Exit Glacier in Alaska - from NPS

For More Information

Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and post your comments — because we value your participation. For more information about this vital issue see The keys to understanding climate change and My posts about climate change. Especially see these posts about the future of climate change…

  1. Mother Jones sounds the alarm about global warming! This time about the north pole.
  2. A powerful story about global warming in Alaska that’s set Twitter aflame,
  3. The North Pole is now a lake! Are you afraid yet?
  4. Nine years after Katrina, climate activists have earned their reward. We might pay dearly for it,
  5. 90% of the biggest Yosemite glacier has melted. Did we do it?

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To help you better understand today’s extreme weather

To learn more about the state of climate change 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).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

19 thoughts on “Alaska’s climate scientists tell us the rest of the news, what Obama forgot to mention

  1. Pielke has also written extensively on climate change policy. He has written that he accepts the IPCC view of the underlying science, stating, “The IPCC has concluded that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity are an important driver of changes in climate. And on this basis alone I am personally convinced that it makes sense to take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.” He also states that, “Any conceivable emissions reductions policies, even if successful, cannot have a perceptible impact on the climate for many decades, and from this he concludes that, “In coming decades the only policies that can effectively be used to manage the immediate effects of climate variability and change will be adaptive.”
    Roger Pielke Jr.

    1. Fred,

      Thanks for this quote!

      Roger Pielke Jr’s experience illustrates the dysfunctional nature of climate science. As a professor of environmental studies at U CO-Boulder, he has written about his peer-reviewed research — some of which offended climate alarmists. Their massive propaganda campaign –largely in defiance of the IPCC and literature — was fierce and amplified by leftists.

      Being a rational man, he realized that rational debate had been abandoned in climate science. Now he writes about sports and sports medicine. His gain, our loss.

  2. Alaska bucks the global temperature warming during new millennia“, Valdez Star, 20 February 2013.

    “Despite our recent trend, Alaska has for the last century warmed at about twice the rate of the rest of the globe, “as expected by the increasing CO2 and other trace gases,” Wendler and his colleagues wrote. Regarding the effect of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, they wrote that warming “is sometimes temporarily modified or even reversed by natural decadal variations.”

    1. Joan,

      Yes, the world has been warming for two centuries. The rapid warming in the 19thC and the 1930 & 1940s precedes the massive CO2 splurge from global industrialization.

      So the public policy debate is concerned with warming since 1950 — more than half of which resulted from anthropogenic factors (per the IPCC).

      Most of that warming is during the 1980s and 1990s. So the trend following the 1970s cooling is a focus of interest. Hence the importance of the Alaska Climate Research Center’s report, and other such data.

  3. The People you cited are the same people I cited that went on to claim this a temporary cooling and is not surprising. It also does not seem to be happening anywhere else, nor all of Alaska. It is very similar to el nino and el nina.

    1. Joan,

      If you are attempting rebuttal, please first tell us what you believe is stated incorrectly. These posts about Alaska take specific claims that it is warming (or warming rapidly), and show that they are false. Obama’s is just the latest. These are examples of activists — and the journalists who broadcast their stories — misinforming the public.

      You give in rebuttal other things unrelated to this simple story. This article does not deal with the larger issues of past warming (clearly described by the IPCC) or forecasts of future warming. My guess is that you’re making up an interpretation — unrelated to anything in this post– and giving a rebuttal to it. It’s a story you tell yourself that prevents you from seeing what’s said here.

      Let’s look at your comment.

      (1) You say “This is a temporary cooling.” That’s not relevant to the point here, about claims of past warming. Also, the ACRC staff says “How long the cooling of Alaska lasts is anyone’s guess, but if the Pacific Decadal Oscillation did indeed shift around 2000, cooler temperatures could persist in Alaska for another 20 years.”

      (2) You say “they went on to claim … {this} is not surprising}. “Surprising” is a vague term. They state that this pause in warming — like the global pause since 2000 — has physical explanations. Does anyone doubt this?

      (3) You say “it does not seem to be happening anywhere else” — please provide a supporting quote. I don’t see them say this.

      (4) You say “nor all of Alaska” — You appear confused. The trend described is for “all of Alaska”, but not necessarily every part of Alaska. Temperature trends do not affect large regions uniformly. Some sub-areas remain unaffected, or even have an opposite trend. The world has warmed since 1949, but not Alaska. Similarly, Alaska has not warmed, but some sub-areas have.

      (5) You say: “It’s very similar to el nino” — The long excerpt I give clearly states the role of PDO. What’s your point?

  4. To the Editor:
    Mr. Kummer, you should be ashamed of yourself, trying to foist your misinformation on this blog (WUWT). You picked a quote out of context from the Alaska Climate Research Center report. Below I quote the opening paragraph from that report.
    “Temperature Changes in Alaska”
    “The topic of climate change has attracted widespread attention in recent years and is an issue that numerous scientists study on various time and space scales. One thing for sure is that the earth’s climate has and will continue to change as a result of various natural and anthropogenic forcing mechanisms.”
    Quote taken from the opening on subject of Alaska climate change by the Alaska Climate Research Center.
    What is your agenda and who do you work for? Did you think you could get away with such false propaganda?
    I quote from them again, “one thing for sure is that is that the earth’s climate will continue to change”
    You owe this blog an apology.

    1. Bob,

      How sad for you that you have not read the post, or understood the point raised.

      Nothing here casts doubt on anthropocentric global warming. Quite the reading FAIL. Probably those thick ideological blinders you wear.

      Or perhaps you support the concealment of relevant information from the American people. Either way is sad.

    2. In my humble opinion, you and your minions try to mislead the American people. The relevant information was in the lead paragraph, you attempted to push that aside. “the rest of the news” gets reported quite well. Read “Rolling Stone” mag. They do a good job, in my estimation, on Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Of coarse you don’t want to hear that because it interferes with your agenda.

      With regard to ideological blinders, all of the quotes that you picked are almost irrelevant to the current situation, they are all background. I quote you now, “Google News shows no stories mentioning the findings of the Alaska Climate Change Center, I have posted their work in response to previous panicky stories about Alaska melting…..It’s quite clear. Why should Google post a story that’s not news? The Research Center agrees with everyone else, nothing new.

      Obviously, I read the whole report, but nothing in it over rode the opening paragraph. Aren’t you pretending that the ice isn’t melting in Alaska. Aren’t you pretending that Climate Change is a hoax. So, which way is sad? Enjoy your evening and good luck to you. I enjoyed the back and forth. I know that I can’t win with you, but I don’t lose either. ;-])

    3. Bob,

      Climate change is a complex public issue, not a schoolyard game of Shirts vs Skins. Not everything is just “is there global warming” or “not”. Only the heavily indoctrinated see things in such binary terms.

      This post does not address whether there has been global warming, let alone the blindingly obvious “there has been change as a result of various natural and anthropogenic forcing mechanisms.” That’s a debate for children and VERY low information readers.

      This post discusses an example of the information the public is given vs that needed to make useful decisions. Obama’s speeches in Alaska and the resulting news media coverage did not accurately describe what’s happened in Alaska during the last 35 years. If we allow our leaders to misinform us, Americans will be unable to make correct decisions about public policy — and perhaps even become incapable of self-government.

      This was all quite clear to anyone reading this post without thick ideological blinders. Like yours.

      As for your accusations — they are typical of people whose minds are closed by propaganda. We can only feel sorry for you.

    4. I appreciate your feeling sorry for me and my ideological blinders. When you call me typical of having a closed mind that has been affected by propaganda, doesn’t that put you in the position of someone who is pretending to know some thing that he can’t possibly know. It’s a trait of name callers. Is it possible for me to change your mind? Is it possible that you have “ideological blinders” on? It’s your opinion that the president didn’t accurately describe what has happened in Alaska in the past 35 years. He asked the people living there what has happened. Did you ask the people? Of coarse not, but you have an opinion, which you are certainly entitled to, but don’t lay it on me as gospel. You’re a skeptic, fine.

  5. With regard to “is there Global Warming” or “not”. Whenever there is a question that eventually requires an answer, somebody has to make an “is” or “is not” decision. Most of the world has made the “there is Global Warming” decision. They have decided that the cost of doing nothing will be too great for future generations to bear. That the cost today may bring on some inconvenience, but it will be minor to the future costs. None of that says that the world is right, it just says that the world took into account as many probabilities as it could and made a decision. In my opinion, it’s the right decision. I don’t know what your opinion is, I assume that you have one. The fossil fuel industry has spent a lot of money trying to blame liberals, paid scientists, federal grants and what have you for the Global warming scare. To no avail, so now even some of them are coming, kicking and screaming, into the fold. Why did Warren Buffet spend billions on solar farms? He made a decision that there is where the money is to be made. This Global Warming thing is a big decision, but it has to be made. I’m sure that all the points that you and your fellow skeptics have been gone over many times and that a few of them have been found to be valid, but none the less not critical enough to over ride the present consensus. You guys may eventually may be found to be right, but it won’t make any difference. The world will be a cleaner better place.
    Thanks for your comment. I apologize for not answering sooner, but for some reason I’m not getting e-mails from WordPress.

    1. Bob,

      “With regard to “is there Global Warming” or “not”.”

      Stated like that, the question is meaningless. The relevant questions require stating a time period (e.g., 1950 to now, now to 2100) — and cause (e.g., anthropogenic).

      “Most of the world has made the “there is Global Warming” decision.”

      That makes no sense whatsoever. I suspect you’re just making stuff up. Certainly not reading anything here, or the newspapers. Except for the usual “flat earthers” everyone agrees that the world has been warming for 2 centuries. Almost everybody agrees that more than half of the warming since 1950 due to anthropogenic forces.

      “they have decide…”

      OK, you’re just making stuff up. Your opening is so weak, I stopped at this point.

  6. Editor:
    I’m afraid it is a binary decision, 0 or 1. That’s how decisions are made. You know that. Fiddling around as we have for years hasn’t answered any questions. What you do doesn’t answer what to do. As I said above the decision has been made, right or wrong. It may be too fast for your engineering mind, but there it is, whether we like it or not. I am an engineer by training, but I got over it.
    Anyway it’s been nice chatting with you. It is always important to respect another point of view. I found yours interesting and I’m sorry that you couldn’t say the same for mine. Write me sometime when you figure out what would make you change your skepticism about things in general; and journalists and politicians in particular, hiding things, and their reasoning.

  7. There is an odd “rebuttal” to this posted at HotWhopper. I don’t see an author’s name on the post or the About Page. “Whopper” appears to describe the author’s style of writing.

    I posted this comment.

    ——————————————

    That’s quite a review. You have not given a rebuttal so much as ignored the excerpts given.

    I quote the scientists at the Alaska Climate Research Center — with almost no analysis or summary (which you call “spin”). Several of your comments disparage them. So I’m the “denier”. That’s logic?

    You ask what is significant of this, esp the relevant to the President’s tour? The ACRC shows that Alaska has had little warming since 1977, and the warming shift from the 1949-1975 resulted from a non-anthropogenic effect (i.e., the PDO). That’s 38 years with little anthropogenic warming — making Alaska an odd spot for Obama to highlight AGW.

    Note: my primary source for info about climate change is the IPCC, which I strongly defend.

    What about the warming in 2014? ACRC: “It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year.”

    What about the 2014 paper about warming in Barrow? ACRC: “…little additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations.” My subject was, like Obama’s, Alaska.

    What about Watt’s comments? Not my problem; I don’t care what’s in the comments.

    Nick Stokes says that the ACRC’s text changes little from year to year. That’s only somewhat correct. They update the numbers each year, changing the text as necessary. I doubt they care what Stokes thinks.

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