Saturday, October 29, 2011

Missing news: Problems with climate models

Roger Pielke Snr has an interesting post that will no doubt never be covered by the ABC's Science unit. It's on continuing problems with the skill of climate models, and based on a discussion of the work of Demetris Koutoyiannis.

“….we tested whether the model outputs are consistent with reality (which reflects the entire variability, due to combined natural and anthropogenic effects). Our results extend Huard’s statements further. Specifically, we show that, climate models are not only unable to predict the variability of climate, but they are also unable to reproduce even the means of temperature and rainfall in the past. For example, as we stated in our paper, “In some [models], the annual mean temperature of the USA is overestimated by about 4–5◦C and the annual precipitation by about 300–400 mm”.

Roger comments:
This Comment/Reply illustrates, in my view, the continued pressure on Editors not to publish papers that conflict with the IPCC perspective of the climate system and the ability of global climate models to provide skillful predictions decades into the future. Instead of showing in a quantifiable manner any flaws in the work by Demetris Koutsoyiannis and colleages, Huard 2011 resorts to semantics and criticisms of the review process. Whenever authors resort to such arguments, it illustrates that they cannot refute the substance of the research study.

See the whole post HERE.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Who's Ho?

Credit Ho New (Reuters) 
Screen shot of the offending item taken from ABC Environment's Site 25/10/2011
We have had some fun with ABC environment's woeful attempt to automatically link news headlines to stock images (see this effort for instance), however this time the incompetence relates to attribution of a photo in an opinion piece on its website (shown above).

The correct attribution is shown below in an article from MSNBC. As to who "Ho New" is, we asked Reuters and they indicated the Ho refers to "Handout".
Attribution of MSNBC article reads "Dennis Sarrazin  /  ArcticNet/Centre d'Etudes Nordiques"

You can see more amazing photos by Dennis Sarrazin at his page at the Centre d'Etudes Nordiques. The photo ABC incorrectly credited to a "Handout" from Reuters was taken in on the 20/08/2008 and shows Disraeli fjord, Ellesmere Island, Northern Canada. In Dennis Sarrazin's slideshow it's about the 20th photo in.

In regard to the content of the op ed piece, if you look up "Alarmist" in the dictionary it now simply shows a Lissajous curve. In regard to its author, based on a recent critique by Roger Pielke Jnr, I believe the label "cherry picker" is appropriate.

Update from Reuters received 29/10/2011:
Thanks for the note, and sorry for the delay. The HO is actually an internal code which is added to a picture when its put into our archive. It most likely was a technical glitch.

No, just ABC incompetence.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Missing News: New book exposes UN climate Panel

Donna Laframboise is the author of a new book that lifts the veil from the IPCC. Donna was interviewed on SunTV, we wonder when she will appear on our ABC, perhaps on Lateline, The Science Show or Q and A.

The book, The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, an IPCC Exposé, is available from $5 via Amazon.

This review from the Tucson Citizen.
In this book, Canadian journalist Donna LaFramboise exposes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a fraud. LaFramboise (see author profile here) spent two years investigating the IPCC. She says it acts like a spoiled teenager, hence the title of the book.

The IPCC has long been touted as the preeminent authority on climate science. But LaFramboise shows that the participants were picked by governments, not for their scientific expertise, but for their political connections and for “diversity.” Many of the scientists are in fact, very young graduate students. Many of the bureaucrats in the IPCC are from radical environmental groups. Real experts are often ignored. She says the IPCC is a purely political organization, not a scientific one, and she backs up her charges with copious references.

Read the rest via the link above.

Missing News: No increase in US flooding

Roger Pielke Jnr reports Are US Floods Increasing? The Answer is Still No.
A new paper out today in the Hydrological Sciences Journal shows that flooding has not increased in the United States over records of 85 to 127 years.  This adds to a pile of research that shows similar results around the world.  This result is of course consistent with our work that shows that increasing damage related to weather extremes can be entirely explained by societal changes, such as more property in harm's way.  In fact, in the US flood damage has decreased dramatically as a fraction of GDP, which is exactly whet you get if GDP goes up and flooding does not.
I do not expect research to change anyone's views on the topic or alter the debate over climate change and extreme events.  The debate has moved well beyond that which can be resolved empirically.

From the abstract
Hydrological Sciences Journal
DOI: 10.1080/02626667.2011.621895
In none of the four regions defined in this study is there strong statistical evidence for flood magnitudes increasing with increasing GMCO2. One region, the southwest, showed a statistically significant negative relationship between GMCO2 and flood magnitudes.

ABC's coverage has generally taken a different view on weather related disasters and climate change:
Australia's future forecast: hot, dry and more floods May 1, 2001

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Some links

Links below to some recent articles discussing ABC's climate coverage:

Jo Nova: There is no saving the ABC — We want 60% of our billion back
"We want evidence, reason, and well informed opinions from all sides on important topics. Instead we’re coerced into paying for propaganda, character assassination, and the personal views of journalists."

"So, has the ABC attitude towards CAGW scepticism changed over the past year?"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ABC shrinks quality of science reporting

mini ABC

In a story headlined "Climate change downsizing fauna, flora" ABC Science reported on the results of a new study published in Nature Climate Change (Shrinking body size as an ecological response to climate change)
that suggested (according to the ABC) that "Climate change is reducing the size of many animal and plant species". The remainder of the story reads like a press release, with no critical input from ABC's groupthinkers.

The Australian covered the same story with a report from AP under the headline "Warming blamed for shrinking animals" that included this helpful caveat missing from ABC's typically one sided report:
But Yoram Yom-Tov, a zoologist at Tel Aviv University whose studies Dr Sheridan used in her research, said many species were shrinking, and global warming was not the sole reason.
"Changes in body size are a normal phenomenon," he said.
"Besides, most species will adapt to climate change."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported a day earlier with "Global warming blamed for shrinking species" by Seth Borenstein included a similar cautionary statement:
But Yoram Yom-Tov, a zoologist at Tel Aviv University whose studies Sheridan used in her research, said many species are shrinking, and you can't blame global warming exclusively.
"Changes in body size are a normal phenomenon," Yom-Tov wrote in an email. "When conditions are favourable, they increase in size or reproduce at higher rates, and when conditions are deteriorating, they do the opposite. I think that most species will adapt to climate change and survive. No need for alarm."
And Stanford biologist Terry Root, an expert in climate change, said the study's conclusions "seem kind of far-fetched".

ABC's uncritical report states "Fossil records, they found, were unambiguous: past periods of rising temperatures had led both marine and land organisms to become progressively smaller." (ed I guess that would account for the size of the Dinosaurs). 
Oddly just last week ABC were suggesting that cooling, not warming was responsible for shrinking things: from "Climate change 'shrank people and economy'"
"The Little Ice Age shrank people and the economy, leading to a general crisis in the 17th Century, say researchers."

ABC News: shrinking the quality of science reporting (at least they're consistent!).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Update Nothing abnormal about NT fires

ABC provide the reply below to our complaint regarding their claims CO2 releases from NT fires are abnormal. Tainted as it is by a groupthink mentality, lack of balance and failure to live up to normal journalistic standards on environmental reporting, ABC's exceptionally low standards are fast becoming the norm. (To see how totally normal this year's fire season is, skip to the links below ABC's response-title in red).

Here's their response (in italics) received October 11, our comments in bold:
Thank you for your email of October 7 concerning the story "Science counts carbon cost of Red Centre fires".
As your correspondence raised concerns of a lack of accuracy, your email was referred to Audience and Consumer Affairs for consideration and response. The unit is separate and independent from ABC program areas (as separate as Chang and Eng) and is responsible for investigating complaints alleging a broadcast or publication was in contravention of the ABC's editorial standards (by providing a big rubber stamp for ABC's errors and misleading reports). In light of your concerns, we have reviewed the story and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial requirements for accuracy, as outlined in section 2 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies: In the interests of procedural fairness, we have also sought and considered material from ABC News.

Your complaint is that the use of the “abnormal” in relation to the fires is a “gross distortion” of the facts. The story carefully and accurately described the fact that these fires are part of the natural cycle in the Northern Territory but are, none the less, far from common.  (In the story Dr Ashley Sparrow indicates it is "an example of the boom-and-bust ecosystem in the Red Centre at work". Only activist reporters at the ABC could construe this as abnormal. It is clearly part of a well known common natural cycle.)
That you had to go back 60 years to find reports of equivalent fires, demonstrates this.
(This is a demonstration of the ignorance and laziness of ABCs respondent. I found the news articles on the National Library Newspaper site in about 2 minutes. The Archive ends in the 1950s. A fuller account of bushfires activity in the NT is provided below, this located in about 2 mintues. It seems that large fires in the NT are quite common.)
Describing such events as “abnormal” is only intended to indicate their infrequency, which is quite clear when read in context. The story is not misleading. 
(Based on the evidence of fire activity in the NT use of the term "abnormal" is indeed misleading, sensationalist and inaccurate).
Accordingly, while noting your concerns, Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied the story was in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy (In other words it as woeful and as tainted by Groupthink as the rest of ABC's environmental reporting). Nonetheless, please be assured that your comments have been noted and conveyed to ABC News management (As the same mistakes keep on occurring in ABC's echo chamber one doubts that much notice is paid to any criticism).
Thank you for taking the time to write; your feedback is appreciated (I'm sure it is).
End Response

Few people are aware of the role, the process or the scale of burning (controlled and uncontrolled) that occurs in the tropical savannas of northern Australia. Bushfires are a ubiquitous feature of the Northern Territory dry season, with the territory having the most frequent, largest and more poorly documented vegetation fires of any part of the continent. When considering Northern Territory bushfires it is necessary to discard all preconceptions of size, frequency and even harm, based on southern vegetation fire regimes, as they are simply not translatable to the savannas that dominate Australia’s north
Area burned: The frequency and area burned in any one year varies considerably. Nevertheless, by
southern standards the total and the proportion of land burned in any given year is extraordinarily large. In the higher rainfall savanna woodlands of the northern Kimberley, the Top End and Cape York up to half of the total area may be burned either every year or every second year (Anderson 1996, Dyer et al. 2001, Press 1998, Russell-Smith et al. 1997). Many of these fires are intense and therefore pose the most danger in terms of their capacity to devastate populations of fire-sensitive native plants and animals, to be costly and disruptive to pastoral operations, and to pose a threat to communities and property. The frequency of fires tends to decrease further south for a number of reasons. They include reduced rainfall and therefore vegetation density, reduced grass reserves due to intensive use of these savannas for grazing, and greater efforts to suppress fires to prevent destruction of valuable fodder resources.

Intense fires commonly started by lightning strikes during particularly dry seasons have occurred
throughout the Northern Territory’s modern history. The amounts of land burned in these events are extraordinary. The Council of Australian Governments report (Ellis, Kanowski & Whelan 2004) lists four major bushfire seasons in the territory since the late 1960s that collectively burned 168,000,000 ha. In 2002, approximately 38,000,000 ha burned in planned and unplanned fires. This represents 29 percent of the Northern Territory. In comparison, the January 2003 fires burned ‘only’ 226,000 ha in the Australian Capital Territory and 1,000,000 ha in Victoria.
See Table 1 above.

So nothing "abnormal" about large bush fires in the NT!

See also this animation of fires around Central Australia for the period May 1999 to April 2004:

NASA image from 2007...Below Huge fires scorched grassland and savanna in the Barkly Tableland region of Australia’s Northern Territory in October 2007. 

Based on ABC's story one wonders where Fred Williams got the inspiration for this series of paintings?...
Bushfire in Northern Territory 12) (1976)
How much of Kakadu Burnt each year? Did I hear an average of 46%? And that's abnormal?
Every year large proportions of northern Australia's tropical savanna landscapes are burnt, resulting in high fire frequencies and short intervals between fires.

Austral Ecology

Volume 30Issue 2pages 155–167April 2005
From...Fire and Sustainable Agricultural and Forestry Development in Eastern Indonesia and Northern Australia Proceedings of an international workshop held at  Northern Territory University, Darwin, Australia, 13–15 April 1999. (Link Here) From Russell-Smith et al, on page 95... In northwestern and northern Australia, and possibly also on parts of Cape York in the northeast, intense wild fires typically late in the dry season burn vast tracts annually. 

Vast Tracts! And to the ABC this year's fires are somehow "abnormal"!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Update Comma Butterfly

We received the reply below from ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs in regard to our complaint about ABC reporting that indicated "the comma butterfly was able to make the leap from central England to Edinburgh, a distance of about 220 kilometres, in two decades."
 The report did not clarify that the Comma Butterfly was previously common in Scotland, for instance: 

The Comma is known to have a very dynamic range in the UK. It was known in eastern Scotland in the early-19th century being found as far north as Fife and Alloa, Clackmannanshire in the east but it was absent in western Scotland. After 1850, the Comma was in decline with the last 19th century record being for Denholm, the Borders in 1868.

Seems ABC do not understand the concept of "context"..from its editorial policy...
2.1 Make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context.
2.2 Do not present factual content in a way that will materially mislead the audience. In some cases, this may require appropriate labels or other explanatory information."

Here's the reply received today.let you be the judge. One wonders why the original report did not attempt to get in touch with the authors of the study for clarification. ABC-Cargo cult journalism in action...

Thank you for your email regarding the ABC Science story 'Wildlife responding fast to climate change'. I am sorry for the delay in responding to you.

I understand you believe the statement in the story "But the comma butterfly was able to make the leap from central England to Edinburgh, a distance of about 220 kilometres, in two decades" misrepresented factual information because the story did not mention that the range of the comma butterfly has previously included Scotland.

In light of your concerns, Audience & Consumer Affairs has reviewed this statement, within the context of the story, and assessed its adherence to standards 2.1 and 2.2 in the ABC Editorial Policies. These standards state as follows:

"2.1 Make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context.
2.2 Do not present factual content in a way that will materially mislead the audience. In some cases, this may require appropriate labels or other explanatory information."

I understand the story was sourced from Reuters. ABC Innovation has advised that the statement to which you refer was based on a quote from Dr David Roy, head of the Biological Records Centre in the UK and co-author of the paper the story reported on. The quote appeared in a press release about the paper. I am advised that ABC Innovation verified the accuracy of the statement by checking it against the press release and the paper itself, although there was no direct reference to the comma butterfly in the paper or supplementary material. Additionally, I understand ABC Innovation relied on Dr Roy's relevant expertise in this area.

Following receipt of your complaint, ABC Innovation contacted Dr Roy about the issue you raised. According to Dr Roy, the statement was about the recent expansion of the distribution of the comma butterfly in recent decades, and not the historical distribution of the species. Dr Roy has advised that while it is true that the comma butterfly covered much of England and Wales, plus scattered localities in Scotland (as far north as Fife) in the early nineteenth century, it was absent from Scotland for more than a century (estimated to be since c.1870). I understand Dr Roy's quote in the press release, which formed the basis of the statement, reported the re-expansion of the species since the ~1980s.

On review, having regard to the steps taken by ABC Innovation and the relatively incidental nature of the statement within the context of the story, Audience & Consumer Affairs is satisfied that reasonable efforts were made to ensure that it was accurate and presented in context. Furthermore, given the information subsequently provided by Dr Roy, we are satisfied that the content was not presented in a way that was likely to materially mislead the audience. Accordingly, the requirements of standards 2.1 and 2.2 were met.

Nonetheless, please be assured that your comments have been noted and conveyed to ABC Innovation management so that relevant staff are aware of your concerns. Thank you for taking the time to write.

Yours sincerely
ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs

Monday, October 10, 2011

ABC snowball Alpine report

ACM have some questions for ABC news....

ABC's spin on Alpine catchment report

Following on from the “no snow by 2050″ story earlier today, the ABC gleefully reports more doom and gloom on the state of the alpine catchments. Perhaps they thought nobody would check:

SIMON SANTOW (ABC World Today): Sixty per cent of the 235 catchments are rated poor to moderate – most are declining.(source)

See the real picture at ACM.

Looking over the report it seems ABC did not question the dodgy method that was used to come up with the assessment. The summary report states:

“The assessment was based on judgments from individuals and not by quantitative data and systematic survey and this was an important limitation. In addition, no field survey or ground truthing was completed.” (from p.21) Source is here (9MB PDF).
Best not to let the facts get in the way of a good scare story.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nothing abnormal about NT fires

ABC claim that "An abnormal amount of carbon is being released into the atmosphere from wildfires raging across Central Australia." (I'm guessing they are referring to Carbon dioxide).

This is a gross distortion of the facts. Firstly the scientist interviewed for the story clearly indicates the current bushfires are part of a natural cycle. 
"Dr Ashley Sparrow from the CSIRO laboratory in Alice Springs says it is an example of the boom-and-bust ecosystem in the Red Centre at work.
He says spectacular wet years are always followed by a growth spurt of grasses and scrubs, then a significant bushfire season and the release of massive quantities of carbon dioxide."
So it seems that there is nothing  "abnormal" about the amount of carbon dioxide being released. 

Secondly the briefest check of historical newspaper archives reveals numerous instances of significant fires in the past. 
For instance:
State bushfires checked: Huge NT blaze. The Sydney Morning Herald Thursday 25 October 1951
Bushfire Havoc in two states and NT. The West Australian Thursday 25 October 1951
Huge Bushfires in the NT.  Advocate Wednesday 12 May 1948

So nothing "abnormal" about large bush fires in the NT.

It seems the only thing "abnormal" is ABC's distortion of the facts.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Challenge to Marius Benson

In an opinion piece on ABC's The Drum ABC journalist Marius Benson (who apparently has interviewed quite a number of Australian Prime Ministers) makes the following claim:

"There is an overwhelming consensus among scientists working in the field of climate that the planet is warming and that the human-generated increase in concentration of C02 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is contributing to that warming. There is no major national scientific body which dissents from that view. All major scientific bodies - the CSIRO here, Britain's Royal Society, the AAAS in the United States and others - share the view.

Dissent comes from a small minority of scientists working on climate..."
I don't know of a single scientist, not one, who would argue against the statement: "...the planet is warming and that the human-generated increase in concentration of C02 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is contributing to that warming."

The loose statement Benson uses to define the consensus for climate change includes all the scientists I know of that are often derided on the ABC as "sceptics" or "deniers". The debate on the science is much more sophisticated than this. Marius may have interviewed a lot of PM's but it is clear from this cliche ridden article he knows little of the current scientific debate in climate science.
So here's a challenge to Marius Benson. Name one of those scientists (and provide a link to the evidence). Just one!

Further into his piece Marius quotes the great Richard Feynman: "In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong... That's all there is to it."

As an exercise in science we suggest Marius compare IPCC model projections for global temperature with current measured temperature trends and put the result to the Feynman test. He might be surprised at the outcome.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Errors in the Oh zone

Updated below

The first sentence of ABC's alarming report on a hole in the ozone layer above the Arctic reads:
"A hole formed in the ozone layer above the Arctic in the 2010-11 northern winter, for the first time on record."

AM's Climate Commission Groupie TONY EASTLEY states: Scientists have uncovered the first hole to form in the ozone layer above the Arctic.
AM's LEXI METHERELL: In the stratosphere above the Antarctic, a hole has developed in the ozone layer every winter since the 1980s and this year, for the first time on record, one has formed above the Arctic.

While the "hole" certainly appears to be the largest and perhaps "deepest" in recent records, it is plainly not the "First" as the following articles reveal:
Arctic Ozone Hole Is Confirmed But Less Severe Than Antarctic's‎ March 17 1990 Deseret News
"Scientists have confirmed suspicions that an ozone hole recently developed over the north pole that was similar to but less severe that a previously detected hole over the South Pole."
Ozone Hole easing August 19. 1987 The Pittsburgh Press
"A Norwegian scientist who detected an ozone "hole" last year over this remote Arctic region says the atmosphere apparently has recovered."
Studies confirm 2nd ozone `hole' December 25. 1987 Chicago Sun Times 
"BREMERHAVEN, West Germany Scientists here have found evidence that confirms fears of a second hole developing in the Earth's ozone layer, this time over the arctic."

And from the ABC's 2003 story "Earth's Ozone layer begins to repair itself", the following:
"In the 1980s, scientists detected for the first time an ozone hole forming over Antarctica each August, eventually breaking up by December or January. Another hole was discovered over the Arctic - both regions vulnerable to ozone damage."

We have requested the ABC correct their factual error.

UPDATE 27/10/2011
ABC's reply, received October 27:

Thank you for your email of October 3 concerning the story “Hole in ozone forms above Arctic”

As your correspondence raised concerns of a lack of accuracy, your email was referred to Audience and Consumer Affairs for consideration and response. The unit is separate and independent from ABC program areas and is responsible for investigating complaints alleging a broadcast or publication was in contravention of the ABC's editorial standards. In light of your concerns, we have reviewed the story and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial requirements for accuracy, as outlined in section 2.1 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies: In the interests of procedural fairness, we have also sought and considered material from ABC News.

The story stated that the hole in the ozone layer formed recently over the Arctic was the first to be formed. This was incorrect; the story should have reported that it was the first hole in the ozone layer above the Arctic that is comparable in size to those that have formed over the Antarctic.

ABC News apologises for the error. It has been corrected on both the online news site and on the AM site. Editor’s notes have also been published.

Thank you for taking the time to write; your feedback is appreciated.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Missing News: Malaria Climate links

ABC's reporting on purported links between climate change and malaria appear skewed in one direction:
Here's their last three headlines that link Malaria and Climate change.
Climate change impact on malaria questioned May 26, 2010
Study finds climate change, malaria spread link  February 16, 2009
Temperature spikes key to malaria spread 18 February 2009

The emphasis in these cases is in supporting the alarmist side of the debate. Just as well other news services are present to provide balance to ABC's skewed climate coverage.

Now a new paper the ABC have not reported on,  finds that  "This research suggests that, while climate change is expected to have many serious impacts, other factors including medical interventions appear to be more important in determining the incidence of malaria."