Nov 27, 2010
The story is the narrative not the science.
Like a good cheerleader, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor is merrily reporting the news that lakes are part of the environment and will warm as Earth’s temperatures continue to drive away from those experienced during the Little Ice Age.
Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor, is reporting on news that Lake Tahoe has warmed. Let’s look at some of Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor’s article to see how he has chosen to frame his argument:
The world’s largest lakes, including Lake Tahoe, have been warming rapidly for 25 years as the global climate changes, NASA scientists report.
The above is a definitive statement that the world’s largest lakes have been warming rapidly for 25 years. It leaves little to the imagination.
And a little further down Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor, makes another definitive statement:
In a report just published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Philipp Schneider and Simon Hook of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena say the warming rate of all the major lakes observed by the satellites has averaged nearly a full degree Fahrenheit per decade.
And then a quote from one of the JPL scientists involved:
“This is just one of several lines of evidence that global warming is really taking place,” Hook said. “The evidence is striking and worldwide.”
Yes, we are all in agreement that the aforementioned Little Ice Age has ended, the evidence is indeed striking and worldwide.
Further down we get the obligatory answer to “why do we care”:
As lakes like Tahoe grow warmer, the regular mixing of water between the surface and the bottom slows, Schladow said. Dangerous chemicals like heavy metals and phosphorous, which normally are locked in bottom sediments, become soluble, so they pollute the entire lake.
“The result is to change the lake’s entire ecology,” he said.
And after a bit more dutiful discussion of temperature and effects, we have some interesting numbers introduced into Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor’s article:
For their report, Schneider and Hook selected 176 of the world’s 364 largest lakes and gathered measurements only at night and only from selected lake areas, far from surrounding land.
I believe myself to be a reasonable person, and from the tidbits of facts and theory presented by Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor, I come away from the article with the impression that 176 of the largest lakes in the world were studied and found to be warming by as much as 1 degree F per decade, and that this will have detrimental impacts on the local ecologies of these lakes, potentially allowing dangerous chemicals to mix in the waters and creating oxygen free dead zones in the waters after some undisclosed and apparently unexplored temperature tipping point is reached.
Very horrible, and very much what Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor has selected for his readers to believe.
Being a science journalist should require the journalist to have the mind of a scientist, but sadly there is no such requirement.
Not being a science journalist myself, but simply a layperson, I am left wondering how lakes around the world contend with the detrimental mixing of heavy metals and phosphorous producing dead zones mentioned in this scare piece?
Why, all the lakes in Africa must be positively poisonous and rancid as they are no doubt much warmer than Lake Tahoe. Here the United States Geologic Survey states that Lake Tahoe varies from 40-50 degrees F in winter, and 65-70 degrees F in summer (several paragraphs down). While here are the temps for Lake Victoria in Africa, which are given in degrees Celsius, and range from 55 to 104 degrees for the max and min when converted to Fahrenheit.
So, Lake Victoria is always 5 decades of warming greater than Lake Tahoe’s winter temperature, and as much as 500 years of warming greater than Lake Tahoe’s winter during each and every summer. Lake Victoria’s summers are as much as 300 years of warming above Lake Tahoe’s summers. Wherever the detrimental threshold is for Lake Tahoe, it is obviously quite a long ways off as I can confidently describe Lake Victoria as “flourishing”. 300-500 years has produced very many interesting changes in the climate as chronicled by Tony Brown at Climate Reason here.
Is Lake Victoria a particularly warm or hot lake? I have no idea, I simply thought of it first.
Perhaps during their last eco-jaunt around the world to raise awareness for why not to jaunt around the world, the JPL scientists discovered Pitch Lake on Trinidad and Tobago? Surely the IPCC has destined there? Any Douglas Adams fans in the readership? Remember the party that continuously circled the planet leaving trash and waste everywhere? That’s the IPCC.
Maybe Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor was just being lazy, after all here is NASA’s press piece on the same study. About the same information Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor supplied in his article.
Maybe Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor’s boss simply permits Dave to paraphrase NASA press releases?
What point am I driving home here? That the story is the narrative not the science. The science is not the story, only carrying water for the AGW crowd is the story.
Here is what I mean. When I first read this story I was on MSNBC who chose to include more information than Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor chose to include. MSNBC’s article is one by Seth Borenstein from the Associated Press who includes the following important information from the JPL scientest Simon Hook quoted above:
Overall, 41 lakes increased temperatures in a statistically significant way, with another 59 individually warming but not enough to be considered significant. Only four showed temperature drops, but not significantly, Hook said.
It turns out that only 41 lakes showed significant warming which is a far cry from the 176 reported by Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor. By significant we have to remember that Simon Hook is a scientist, and he is therefore referring to statistical significance, meaning a clear trend, which is why Simon Hook, actual scientist and not a chronicle science editor, states that 59 did warm but it wasn’t significant. And Simon Hook, actual scientist and not a chronicle science editor states that four lakes actually cooled.
Let’s check Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor’s math. Dave Perlman, Chronicle Scientist Editor reports that 176 lakes warmed by up to 1 degree F per decade over the last 25 years. The actual author of the paper Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor was paraphrasing states 41 lakes warmed in a statistically meaningful way and 59 others showed measurable but insignificant warming. 176 >> 41 + 59 (Dave that means 176 is “very much greater than” the sum of 41 and 59 (which by the way is only 100)). And in actuality, only 41 warmed not 176, and a far cry from the opening paragraph which hints that all of the largest 364 lakes would show statistically significant warming, but that only 176 were sampled.
Why would some not be sampled? This was conducted by satellite after all. Surely, the remaining 188 large lakes could be easily sampled? Why were these 188 large lakes not chosen for sampling? Does this hint at Simon Hook’s strange word choice when he states that “only” four lakes cooled? Were the 188 ignored based on the probability they had likely cooled, and the remaining minority of 176 were chosen because they likely warmed, and the JPL scientists were “only” wrong about four? Any actual journalists alive anymore?
And, of course, Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor fails to mention the four lakes cooled in a statistically meaningful way. That is, almost one tenth of the lakes cherry picked for this study showing a statistically measurable cooling trend.
Given the facts absent in the NASA press release, can I forgive Dave Perlman’s story (it’s now a story as it no longer can be considered an article)? Only if one or more of the following are true:
- Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor only plagiarizes or paraphrases
- Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor has no journalistic skills
- Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor has no knowledge of the scientific method
Otherwise, Dave Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor is simply carrying water for the alarmist crowd that seems to populate the comments section on so many of the San Francisco Chronicle pseudo-articles that make it to the front pages of the news aggregation sites I read.
NASA is a national embarrassment for putting out press releases that allow shills like Dave Perlman to regurgitate rhetoric, disseminating half truths wrapped in folklore to perpetuate this religion of the Cult of the Carbon Cow.
Google currently shows 73,300 results for “nasa lake tahoe warming”, most of which on the first four pages are from shills like Dave Perlman.
If this rant seems familiar to the good reader, I’ve covered ridiculous reporting such as this before during the recent Peterman ice shelf calving scare.
Returning to the Associated Press article by Seth Borenstein and reported by MSNBC, we have this passage:
“It fits with what we see with air temperature measurements,” Hook said. “We were surprised that in some places the lakes appear to be warming more than the air temperature.”
The next question to look at is why the lakes seem to be warming faster than the air or land, Hook said. One reason could be the way lakes warm — in a more gradual manner than land but also slower to cool.
None of our science reporters seem to pick up on these interesting statements by Simon Hook.
The first interesting statement is that the lakes are warming faster than the air surrounding them, thermodynamics tells us then that the air cannot be warming the lakes.
Alternatively, as suggested by the second statement, the lakes are warmer than the surrounding air due to the fact that heat capacitance of water is greater than that of air, and as the air around the lakes has cooled, the waters are slowly following the trend. But, it can’t be cooling, right? I don’t think it is, only four lakes showed statistical cooling trends, and after all these 176 100 41 lakes have shown a warming trend. Or, I assume they have.
Has anyone actually read Simon Hook’s paper yet? Oh yeah, the story is the narrative not the science.