Democracy Has Prevailed.

February 19, 2012

Mom...They're Doing It Again

They're omitting stuff and hoping we won't notice.

From today's Op-Ed page at the Trib:
"Global warming" is having such a pervasive effect (ahem) on the Earth that new research shows snowfall in the Sierra Nevada has remained consistent for 130 years. And the amount of snow in these mountains has not decreased over the last 50 years, the climate cluckers' supposedly worst warming period. All together now -- "Throw another log on the fire, honey. It's cold outside."
Oh the things that Scaife's braintrust leaves out! 

Once you see how much they chose not to tell you, you get a glimpse of how much they're willing to do to get you to believe their anti-science. Let's go take a look.

First there's the coverage of the study itself.  There's this from LAWeekly - dated February 14:
If global warming is a serious problem making our summers hotter and our water sources drier, we'd certainly have felt it in California in the last 130 years, right?
But a new study that looks at the Sierra Mountains' snowpack and other statewide precipitation in that span concludes that "over time snowfall in California is neither increasing nor decreasing."
We'll drink to that.

Well, not so fast:

California native John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, authored the paper, Searching for Information in 133 Years of California Snowfall Observations, to be published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Hydrometeorology.
And now we have a name: John Christy.  But more on that later.

The very next day (February 15) there was this at SFGate:
Climate experts and water resources officials were immediately skeptical of the report, pointing out that it doesn't come to a meaningful conclusion and uses data from a ragtag collection of people, many of them amateurs.

Christy's study used snow measurements from railroad officials, loggers, mining companies, hydroelectric utilities, water districts and government organizations going back to 1878. That's when railroad workers began measuring the snowpack's depth near the tracks at Echo Summit using a device similar to a yardstick.
And then:
Mike Dettinger, a climatologist and research hydrologist at the Scripps Institute of the U.S. Geological Survey, said Christy is picking and choosing data while misleading people about what climate change scientists are actually saying.

For one, he said, snow depth is not as good a measure of the winter weather conditions as water content and density.

The number of inches or feet of snow on the ground can mean a variety of things, he said, depending on if it is fluffy powder or compacted, wet snow.

Recent studies by Scripps scientists have found that over the last 50 years the southern Sierra snowpack has gotten larger while the northern Sierra pack has shrunk. Although they have predicted the overall state snowpack would decrease over time as a result of climate change, nobody has claimed that it has happened yet, Dettinger said.

What's significant in terms of global warming, he said, is the fact that the snowpack has declined over three quarters of the western United States, an area that includes Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico. Scripps researchers, in coordination with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists, have concluded that 60 percent of that downward trend is due to greenhouse gases.

"There is a popular conception that the snowpack has declined everywhere, but that is not what the science says," Dettinger said. "What we're saying broadly is that across western North America there have been declines in spring snowpack."
So even if the data is solid (and based on what Dettinger said, that's no where near a certainty) locally the snow pack in the Sierra Mountains isn't decreasing but the solid science says that on a larger scale there is a decrease.  But then again while those states are HUGE, we have to ask if there's any larger trend to look at.  Is there any data about the recent snow cover over the entire Norther Hemisphere?

Luckily, there is.  In its 2010 State of the Climate report, NOAA says:
Annual snow cover extent (SCE) over Northern Hemisphere land averaged 24.6 million km2 in 2010.  This is 0.4 million km2 less than the 41-year average and ranks 2010 as having the 13th least extensive cover on record. This evaluation considers snow over the continents, including the Greenland ice sheet. The SCE in 2010 ranged from 48.4 million km2 in February to 2.4 million km2 in August. Monthly SCE is calculated at the Rutgers Global Snow Lab from daily SCE maps produced by meteorologists at the National Ice Center (a U.S. joint NOAA, Navy, and Coast Guard facility), who rely primarily on visible satellite imagery to construct the maps.
Locally, it's called "weather." Globally, it's called "climate."  Trying to pass off local data as global data is a scam, a con and a ruse.  Over the Northern Hemisphere, snow cover is down.  That's not changed by the local data of the Sierra Mountains.  That the braintrust's scam - they're hoping you don't see the difference.
And John Christy?  He wrote the first chapter in the book "Global Warming and Other Eco Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Dea" published by the Scaife supported Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Funny the connections you find.


EdHeath said...

As you say, we don't want to conflate weather and climate, but climate change does suggest the melting of polar ice puts more moisture into the air. Again, wary of mistaking weather for climate, certainly the snowpocalypse of last year seemed to indicated temperatures cold enough for snow but also mostly a lot of moisture in the air (enough for what, 16 or more inches of snow). And even this year, with a mild winter, we have had a lot of rain.

So at least we say the weather does not contradict climate change and appears to support it.

johnmariow said...

The problem is that some will use the ambiguous evidence of global warming as an excuse not to protect our environment. We can deny global warming.

I'm waiting to hear some anti-environmental politician claim that auto emissions and the smoke stack emissions are not hurting our environment.

Conservatives ignore environmental concerns. They consistently attack the EPA. They wouldn't even allow enough time in the latest Keystone pipeline bill to properly vet for environmental impact. The truth is a leak in that pipeline in certain areas could contaminate the bread basket of America.

Every environmental problem could affect the health and lives of our children and grandchildren. That, all by itself, is an excellent reason to advocate a cleaner environment.