Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks
Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

This Sunday, two UK periodicals (the Daily Mail and the Telegraph) decided to publish misleading stories about anthropogenic global warming. Both stories, by David Rose and Hayley Dixon respectively, are full of disinformation that a piece at the Guardian by John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli gladly corrects, because, honestly, there's a lot of disinformation.

But for the purposes of this post, let's just take the lead paragraph from Hayley Dixon's writeup on for size:
There has been a 60 per cent increase in the amount of [North Hemisphere] ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, they [sic] equivalent of almost a million square miles.

This is not responsible or even competent science reporting: if you are discussing a trend, you can not just compare two points of data, namely, Now and 1 Year Ago. Does Ms. Dixon bother to provide more than two points of data? No, but she mentions:
In a rebound from 2012's record low

If 2012 was a record low, that insinuates there is more data. Why does Ms. Dixon not provide any reference to this other data? It isn't tough to find, it exists, and there is monthly data since 1978 (available at ftp://sidads.colorado.edu/DATASETS/NOAA/G02135/ if the link doesn't work) There's even an image in case a person writing about the data is too lazy to make a graph in Excel:

Illustration for article titled AGW 101: Two data points bad, four data points better

This image shows the extent of relatively dense sea ice in the Arctic during September of a year based on satellite readings from 1978 to 2012. The value of 2012 was a record low: 3.63 million square kilometers were covered with ice. A 60% increase from that record low would be 5.8 million square kilometers. Please note that the gain of 3.63 million square kilometers to 5.8 million square kilometers is not an increase of an "equivalent of almost a million square miles", which raises the question of what data Hayley Dixon is even using, which is another useful reason for citing data: so that other people can figure out if you're incapable of doing simple arithmetic.

September 2013 Arctic sea ice extent is higher than it was in 2012. It's actually the highest level of Arctic sea ice extent... since 2006. That places it well below the 1981-2010 mean and below most of the September sea ice extent recorded since satellite readings began. I don't know how anyone could conclude that this means global warming is somehow not happening: doing so requires pretending that two data points are useful and all previous data points are not.

David Rose and Hayley Dixon both deserve no gold stars on their report cards for this awful science reporting. When discussing climate change trends, they could have actually put in 3 minutes of work and found out if "There's more ice this year!" means anything statistically. Shame on the Daily Mail and the Telegraph for both deciding to misinform the public about current events.

hat tip to an io9 commentator who sent me the Telegraph link because it fits his wrong opinion. Thanks!

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