This El Niño is not Godzilla. What can we learn from the 2 years of hype?

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.

Godzilla in action

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.

Eventually the news begins to catch up with the data, seen in technical analysis such as NOAA’s Weekly ENSO report and Bob Tisdale’s El Nino Update.

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?

Demand real journalism
We get what we demand — but only if we pay for it.

(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 you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”
Anthony Lewis in 2010 summarizing the 1973 short film “Television Delivers People“.

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?

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.

CBS News: Walter Cronkite (1968)
Serious news for serious people in 1968.
Andrea Tantaros of Fox News.
Andrea Tantaros of Fox News.

(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…

The Truth is Out There

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…

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “This El Niño is not Godzilla. What can we learn from the 2 years of hype?

Leave a comment & share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s