Monday, March 15, 2010

Missing News: No change in Global Tropical storm days due to Global Warming - Report

Update 5/4/2010 Reply from ABC in Outcome below
MISSING ABC HEADLINE: "No change in Global Tropical storm days due to Global Warming"
ABC DID NOT REPORT: ABC recently reported (Cyclones to become fewer but fiercer) on an article by Knutson et al. in the Journal Nature Geoscience  (Tropical cyclones and climate change). ABC NEWS WATCH provided extended coverage on this paper including a discussion with the authors that significantly supplemented the poor reporting on the part of the ABC (See HERE). The Nature Geoscience article included the following important statement about tropical cyclone activity that was surprisingly NOT reported on by the ABC. "It remains uncertain whether past changes in any tropical cyclone activity (frequency, intensity, rainfall, and so on) exceed the variability expected through natural causes, after accounting for changes over time in observing capabilities."   
A new paper in the peer reviewed Journal, Geophysical Research Letters, finds that "The rising temperature of about 0.5oC in the tropics so far has not yet affected the global tropical storm days." Given the findings of Knutson et al. this is an important finding that deserves news coverage. 
Wang, B., Y. Yang, Q.-H. Ding, H. Murakami, and F. Huang. Climate Control of the Global Tropical Storm Days (1965-2008) Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2010GL042487, in press (accepted 9 March 2010). In the abstract this article reports: "However, the global total number of storm days shows no trend and only an unexpected large amplitude fluctuation driven by El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation and PDO. The rising temperature of about 0.5oC in the tropics so far has not yet affected the global tropical storm days."
The main text includes the following statement: 
"Note also that the global storm days do not show any trend over the past 44 years."
and the report concludes:
"Over the period of 1965-2008, the global TC activity, as measured by storm days, shows a large amplitude fluctuation regulated by the ENSO and PDO, but has no trend, suggesting that the rising temperature so far has not yet an impact on the global total number of storm days."

As of 13 March, 2010 we can find no reporting of this study on the ABC. UPDATE-still nothing as of morning of March 15.

We note that the ABC have recently covered an article from this journal HERE and as such presumably follow the journal's contents.

THE COMPLAINT:Can the ABC please provide coverage of this important article by Wang et al. This would make an interesting follow up piece on the Nature Geoscience article. 

ABC editorial policy 5.2.2 (f) states: Be questioning. Serve the public interest by investigating issues affecting society and individuals. 

Thank you for your email regarding the ABC Online Science story 'Fewer cyclones, but more intense: study'.

ABC Science Online publishes news stories relating to research being undertaken in a wide range of topics: from the environment and the animal kingdom, through to astronomy, palaeontology and nanotechnology. This means it is not always possible to cover every paper or issue.

In regards to the research referred to in your email, as you are aware, the ABC published a similar study on 22 February 2010, which had appeared in the journal Nature Geoscience (Knutson et al.). This research predicted the effect of climate change on the intensity and number of tropical storms throughout this century under a 2.8 degree C increase in temperature scenario (average prediction model). Their conclusion was that there would be no increase, or a possible decrease, in the number of tropical cyclone days.

Wang et al. undertook a review of tropical cyclone days from 1965-2008, which experienced a 0.5 degree C increase and found no significant increase. Given that it did not differ from the findings of Knutson et al., we elected to cover other papers published at the time of this paper's release.

Yours sincerely,

COMMENT: Will the ABC pick this bright red cherry or leave it to rot? Note the emphasis in the Knutson report was on the side of alarm. ABC did not accurately report on the findings o Knutson. A clear case of confirmation bias in ABC reporting.

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