Summary: After two years of hype (often hysterical), this El Niño might peak in December and then rapidly decline. No “super monster” or “Godzilla” El Niño; just severe weather (we won’t know how severe until it ends). With the UN Conference of Parties in Paris (COP21) still running in Paris, it’s time to start thinking about lessons learned if activists are wrong and this El Niño doesn’t wreck destruction on the world.
Let’s rewind the news tape to better understand where we are (see the posts at the end for documentation). Last year climate activists warned of the “super monster” El Niño coming. It was a dud. This year they warned of the “Godzilla” El Niño, telling lurid tales of the epic destruction that awaited us. NOAA provided a calming voice of reason, largely ignored by journalists who found the activists provided better clickbait.
In mid-November the major weather models predicted that this El Niño was peaking, and by January would begin a rapid decline in intensity. That was ignored, as journalists trumpeted that this “Massive El Niño sweeping globe is now the biggest ever recorded” (New Scientist, 2 Dec), forgetting to mention by some (not all) metrics, by small amounts (perhaps insignificant), and in the short records.
- “El Nino Beginning to Decline?” by meteorologist Joe Cioffi (WPIX-TV in NYC), 2 Dec.
- “What this means to me, the El Nino peaked in the fall and now is starting into a transition to La Nina or neutral” by meteorologist Henry Margusity, AccuWeather’s severe weather expert, 7 Dec.
- “2015 El Niño near its peak“, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, 8 Dec.
- “there continue to be indications that significant weakening is likely to occur during the rest of December“, Weather Underground, 8 Dec.
This El Niño is not over. It might strength again. Many of the effects have yet to appear. But If the models’ forecasts prove accurate, what might we learn from the 2014 and 2015 bouts of El Niño hysteria?
(1) The establishment was correct
NOAA and the weather models proved far more reliable than activists (and activist scientists). The models forecast and NOAA predicted that this El Niño would be roughly similar in intensity to the 2 strongest ones since 1950 (1982-83, 1997-98). It’s normal weather, occurring 3 times in 40 years (for comparison, hundred year floods are also normal weather). This will surprise many people on both Left and Right, who value their ideologically conformist sources of information more than those of the establishment (that’s why they’re so deluded).
(2) Let’s demand that journalists get the story right, even if it is less exciting
If we notice the frequent failures of predictions by activists (and activist scientists), perhaps journalists will listen less to them and more to the major weather agencies. When reporting about climate change, that would mean bench-marking activists’ statements to the findings of the IPCC (which too seldom happens). That means relying on sober analysis rather than exciting clickbait, which will only happen if their reputation suffers.
That is, if we decide to prefer accuracy over excitement in our news. Until then journalists will continue to treat us like dogs, throwing us scraps and slop — which we happily consume. Providing news is a business. They give us what we want and what we pay for.
(3) Ask for details
“The last truly massive El Niño appeared in 1997-’98 and ended up causing an estimated $35 billion in destruction and 23,000 deaths around the world. “
— “El Niño, explained: A guide to the biggest weather story of 2015” by Brad Plummer at Vox, 19 November 2015.
What does this tell us? These are large scary numbers given without context. What is the source (it is not in the Wikipedia entry he cites)? How does this compare with devastation from weather in other years?
- The world had an annual income (GDP) of $107 trillion (PPP) in 2014. $35 billion is only 0.03% of that (for comparison see record US winter losses).
- The world population was 5.9 billion in 1997; 23 thousand is only 0.0004% of that. As for the deaths, influenza kills 250,000 to 500,000 every year.
Let’s try to be less gullible.
(4) Don’t pathologize the weather
Weather makes great clickbait, easy to find exciting stories. At some point this becomes fear-mongering, patholgizing normal life. It’s just weather. We have to get a grip on ourselves so that we’re not so easily manipulated.
(5) Get our entertainment from news, not Hollywood
Accurate news is usually boring. It becomes infotainment by distorting it. Citizens need news to help them run the Republic. Subjects (“consumers”) want exciting news so that they feel politically engaged — without the bother of effort or risk. Everything depends on us.
(6) Reliable information is easy to find
One pitiful aspect of America today is that modern tech provides easy access to clear explanations of events — such as reports by NOAA and the IPCC. We just prefer hype and myths. Ignorance is a choice. We’re not living in the X-files world…
For More Information
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see The keys to understanding climate change and My posts about climate change. Also see these posts about El Niño…
- Learning from 2014: Looks like yet another false alarm. Probably no super monster El Niño coming this year.
- Choose your facts: learn about the El Niño from journalists or activists.
- Prepare for a clickbait avalanche about the super El Niño!
- El Niño, The Media Star: Separating Hype from Probability — From the Browning World Climate Bulletin.
- Update on El Niño: will Gaia disappoint the climate activists?