USA Today Joins in the Climate ‘Fact-Checking’ of the Daily Sceptic

USA Today is the latest ‘fact checker’ trying to cast doubt on our claim in a recent article that data from weather balloons, along with the satellite record, show the rate of global warming has slowed over the last 20 years. The newspaper’s main source for saying our contention was “false” is a climate researcher who claims the rate of warming in this period is “much faster” than between 1980-2000. The researcher, Zeke Hausfather from Berkeley Earth, is at the forefront of alarmist climate claims. In 2020, he published a paper with NASA’s Senior Climate Adviser Gavin Schmidt, claiming that climate models published over the last five decades “were generally quite accurate in predicting global warming”.

As I shall shortly show, USA Today‘s fact-checking of climate stories calls to mind Dr. Johnson’s dog walking on hind legs – it is not done well, but you are surprised to see it done at all.

This is the second time that our article on the data supplied by the meteorology balloons has been ‘fact checked’. The first appeared in Climate Feedback and featured remarks from Gavin Schmidt. Regular readers might find the next couple of paragraphs familiar and prefer to skip them.

My article was published on May 19th under the heading: “New evidence shows global warming has slowed dramatically over last 20 years.” I reported that in a major re-evaluation of 40 years of telemetric data from meteorology balloons rising through the troposphere, scientists confirmed that temperatures had mostly paused since around 1998. I linked to the original research, and published the following graphs, so that readers could take a view on my statement.

The graphs show the results for the northern hemisphere up to 70°N and the tropics. Most of the warming over the last 40 years occurred up to the late 1990s. The tropics, it was noted, had warmed less than the north, and in fact at 11 km it is difficult to discern any significant warming at all. I also reported that temperature pauses from 1998-2010, and a current one lasting 91 months, had been largely wiped from all major surface temperature datasets. Over the last decade, the U.K. Met Office has added 30% heating to recent figures in its HadCRUT record and depressed earlier measurements.

Welcome back to the regulars. My suggestion that a great deal of the global warming over the last 40 years ago happened up to around the late 1990s is based on the evidence of our own eyes. Much of the warming has occurred in the northern hemisphere. I published the graphs and readers can look and make up their own minds. When Zeke Hausfather tells USA Today that the Earth warmed 56% faster in the last 20 years than in the prior two decades, he is referring to all the adjusted surface temperature datasets such NOAA.

All that human-adjusted database warming does not seem to be replicated in the satellite record.

Regular readers will also recall we published the above graph to show the increasingly haywire paths taken by climate model predictions over the last two decades, as they diverge from the thick green line showing the satellite temperature record. If one takes the temperature high point in the late 1990s, it is difficult to understand – again using our eyes – how USA Today can judge our story false by saying the ”rate of global warming has actually increased since the late 1990s”. But then it is also difficult to understand how Hausfather and Schmidt can call climate models “quite accurate” and go on to suggest their research should “resolve” public confidence around past performance.

Readers seeking detailed critical appraisal of the Hausfather/Schmidt paper can read Christopher Monkton’s work here. Monkton looked in detail at the findings and concluded that the paper plainly demonstrated precisely the opposite, “that models have exaggerated global warming – and continue to do so”.

Anyway, enough of all this green blob fact checking nonsense. Let’s conclude by looking at some of the high standards of climate science reporting that we might expect to find in USA Today. In June 2020, the newspaper reported that the South Pole had warmed at over three times the global rate for the past 30 years. A paper written by Kyle Clem from Victoria University of Wellington analysed weather stations and climate model data and concluded that the South Pole had warmed by nearly 2°C between 1989 and 2018. USA Today reported that the warming has been “intensified by human-caused climate change”.

Alas, the warming does not seem to have shown up in the accurate satellite record, where there has been no warming seen at the South Pole since 1978 and probably long before. Alas, again, a check of Google failed to find any report from the newspaper highlighting that the last six-month winter at the South Pole was the coldest recorded since records began in 1957. Of course, the newspaper was in good company – the BBC also thought the matter unworthy of wider public dissemination.

There was space, however, in March this year for the suggestion that a heatwave had hit large areas of Antarctica and it was “70 degrees warmer than average”. The story was ubiquitous across mainstream media and was often accompanied by a diagram said to show the heatwave. Clicking on a caption revealed the information that the extra heating was mostly based on a computer model called Global Forecast System. Data from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station during the same period found no evidence of a heatwave from March 17th-22nd, bar a small rise to –56°F on the morning of March 18th. A few days later, the model simulated heatwave had gone.

In December 2021, USA Today claimed that “unusual warmth” had a big impact on a spate of tornadoes that struck five American States. “The latest science indicates that we can expect more of these huge (tornado) outbreaks because of human-caused climate change,” claimed Penn State meteorologist Michael Mann. Jennifer Francis, a scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center, told the Guardian that climate change was “making some of the ingredients needed to create an outbreak like this more likely”. The USA Today Network is said to have examined years of tornado data “to determine that millions of Americans living in the South are now at an even greater risk for tornadoes than those in the Plains”.

EF3-5 are the most severe tornadoes, and in reality, far from increasing in number ‘due to climate change’, they are actually decreasing.

But again, this is mere eyesight evidence.

Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.

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June 2022
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