Boston Herald as cog in the vast right-wing anti-global-warming conspiracy

By | February 16, 2010

In a February 10 column printed in the Boston Herald, Jonah Goldberg repeats the anti-global-warming canard that severe snowstorms are evidence against global warming.  In response, I sent the following letter to the editor:

To the editor:

Jonah Goldberg’s recent suggestion that severe winter weather disproves global warning shows an alarming ignorance of basic science. In particular:

  • When the air is warmer, more water evaporates into it.
  • When there is more water in the air, it snows more.
  • Once you get below freezing, colder temperatures actually decrease snowfall.

In short, the simple truth is that global warming causes more snow, not less.

Of course, ideologues like Goldberg rarely let something as inconvenient as the truth stand in the way of their agenda.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens
Brighton

Not only did the Herald not print my letter or any other letter or opinion piece making a similar point, they have run at least two idiotic editorial cartoons mocking the idea that more snow supports global warming theories.  Here’s one of them (I couldn’t find on-line the other one I know about; maybe Holbert decided it wasn’t his best work and took it down):

It’s so nice to see the Herald pandering to the segment of the American public that is too stupid to think through the basic science enough to realize that this argument is bunk.

Perhaps the reason why the Herald‘s editorial staff continues to promulgate this theory is because they fall into that segment of the American public themselves.

Interestingly, the very same day Jonah Goldberg’s column was printed in the Herald, Time magazine ran an article explaining in detail, with quotes and citations from experts in the field, exactly what I explained in my letter to the editor.

Print Friendly

11 thoughts on “Boston Herald as cog in the vast right-wing anti-global-warming conspiracy

  1. jik Post author

    It is significant when you are dealing with climates that are around the freezing point during the winter.

    But most climates are not “around the freezing point during the winter.” The freezing point is one precise point along a large temperature spectrum, and while climates like ours cross back and forth across it all winter long, they don’t hover there, any more than they hover on one temperature in a single day.

    There may be some strength to some of the arguments you’ve made, but this one is just foolish.

    So who gets to make the decisions? Some elite academics?

    Yes, exactly. Since I am not a Ph.D. or a scientist, I have no choice but to trust the people who are Ph.D.’s and scientists. And although you may be able to drum up “scientists” who don’t believe in global warming, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of scientists who are actually in a position to have an authoritative opinion about it do

    These 31,000 American scientists, who are also highly educated, might want some input

    Apparently, if I were inclined to do so, I could sign the petition you linked to, because I am an “engineer,” despite the fact that my degree is in electrical engineering and I am hardly qualified to have an authoritative opinion about global warming, so please forgive me for not lending that petition much credence. Notice that although the authors of the petition demand that signers submit their “credentials,” they don’t publish those credentials, so skepticism is reasonable. Indeed, on such a politically charged issue, lack of skepticism would be foolish.

    I will not address here the IPCC or East Anglia incidents, as they have been fully addressed elsewhere (factcheck.org is a good place to start). All I will say is that the entire body of research and evidence supporting the theory of global warming is huge, and those are small, isolated incidents within it, and if you don’t think I could pick out similar distortions of the data on the other side, (e.g., Singer’s cutting off all his graphs at 1985 in his book since the data after 1985 doesn’t support his theory), you’re deluding yourself.

    By the way, please do me a favor and refrain from engaging in Republican propaganda on my blog. Decrying “elite academics,” implying that global-warning supporters are in it for the money, “I’m not prepared to sacrifice our standard of living,” “It’s insane to sacrifice our economy,” these are all just stupid, baseless fear-mongering which have no place in scientific debate, which is what you purport to be engaging in. I’m all done letting you post that sort of malarkey here, so if that’s all you’ve got, please don’t bother to continue this discussion.

    Reply
  2. mh

    “The very nature of the “margin” is that it is not where things are most of the time, and therefore it is not statistically significant. what happens “at the margin.”

    It is significant when you are dealing with climates that are around the freezing point during the winter. The key factor is how much time is spent above freezing vs. below freezing, because that determines if precip falls as rain or snow.

    Examine the bottom chart of vapor density vs. temp: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/HBASE/Kinetic/relhum.html

    I calculated the intermediate water vapor density values at 1 degree intervals.
    At -1 degree C the vapor pressure is 4.7 g/m3
    At 0 C it is 5 and at +1 it is 5.3

    The density value difference between -1 C and 0 C, and between 0 C and +1 C is only 6%, for a total difference of 12%. So, yes, the slightly warmer air has 12% more water vapor.

    But, at the margin, almost 100% of the precip will be snow at -1 C and almost 100% will be rain at +1 C.

    You have to get much warmer than this to have a meaningful increase in vapor density, but it will all be rain.

    And yes, colder air has a lower vapor density, but it’s still going to snow at -10 C compared to -5 C.

    So for our climate region in the US and southern Canada, just a few more days spent just below freezing can mean a lot more snow. Colder = more snow for us. Colder = less snow for the Inuit because their climate hovers around -20 C and the don’t transition across the freezing point.
    —————-
    “It’s cyclical, roughly every 5 years”? – That was referring to El Nino / La Nina cycles. There are other cycles, like the 1500 year solar cycle mentioned in that book you disparaged.
    —————-
    “The best scientific models currently in existence concerning global warming predict temperature extremes in both directions.”

    The best GW climate models failed to predict the current cooling trend since 2000!
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/12/november-2009-uah-global-temperature-update-0-50-deg-c/
    Note the El Nino in 1998 and note the current rise due to this year’s El Nino. Oh, you can read Dr. Spencer’s GW opinion here: http://www.drroyspencer.com/global-warming-natural-or-manmade/

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/17/spencer-on-his-agu-presentation-yesterday/#more-14258

    The University of East Anglia emails even mention how their models couldn’t account for the current cooling.

    You can’t have it both ways – that warming AND cooling are both due to GW.
    —————-
    The links you gave disparaging Fred Singer – hardly impartial. Littlemore was “trained” by Al Gore (as he stated on his own web site). The second one includes Michael Mann, whose algorithm (Al-Gore-ithm?) that generated the “hockey stick” chart was shown, by two Canadians, to produce a hockey stick no matter what data were used.

    Read the book, you might learn some real science.
    —————-
    “The problem with Democracy is that the people vote.” The reason why it’s a problem is because “the people” are, to a frighteningly large degree, stupid and gullible.

    So who gets to make the decisions? Some elite academics?

    I have a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry. These 31,000 American scientists, who are also highly educated, might want some input: http://www.oism.org/pproject/

    Are we all stupid and gullible?
    —————-
    On one side:

    Al Gore – politician with heavy investments in “green” technologies, who will make oodles of cash if Cap and Trade is enacted.

    The “hockey stick” – generated using faulty math and used as the basis by many GW advocates.

    The U of East Anglia emails that discuss how to fudge data to eliminate the Medieval Warming, how to prevent “deniers” from publishing and how their own models failed to account for the current cooling.

    The IPCC, having to retract several major publications that furthered GW because the science behind them was incomplete or based on non-scientific sources.

    On the other side:

    A cooling trend while CO2 emissions are increasing.

    Many thousands of scientists whose research contradicts the GW theory.

    The theory that a small change in the levels of a minor atmospheric constituent (less than 1%) of a minor green house gas could cause catastrophic climate changes.

    The theory that climate change is driven by this minor atmospheric constituent as compared to volcanic, solar and oceanic activity.

    The verdict:

    I’m not prepared to sacrifice our standard of living in order to gratify and enrich the politically well-connected when there is now ample evidence to suspect that GW theory is highly suspect.

    It’s also insane to sacrifice our economy while the Chinese are pumping out more pollution in a day than we do in a month.

    Having said that – I’m all for clean energy. That means more nuclear power, because we won’t be able to power electric cars cleanly with coal-fired power plants. Solar is improving, but it’s not yet cost effective. Hybrid cars require more energy to mine and produce the battery components than they save. Windmills are OK, but realize how much environmentally damaging mining and construction will be needed to build them and how much energy that requires.

    Reply
  3. jik Post author

    I don’t necessarily agree with the concept of increased snowfall during warmer weather.

    It really isn’t up for debate. Both the science and the data are conclusive: once you get below freezing, the colder it gets, the less snow falls.

    Back in the late 60s – mid 70s, we used to have much more snowfall than we did in the late 90s

    Didn’t you yourself just say several comments ago, “It’s cyclical, roughly everry 5 years”? Meaningful analysis of weather patterns can only be done over multiple decades.

    We also had record snowfall in some states this year while we have had declining temperatures over the past few years.

    Declining temperatures “over the past few years” is pretty much irrelevant. See above re meaningful analysis of weather patterns.

    Besides, no matter what the rhetoric on TV or in DC, water still freezes at 32 degrees Farenheit. That means that, at the margin, increasing temperatures result in rain, while decreasing temperatures result in snow.

    And this is relevant why exactly? The very nature of the “margin” is that it is not where things are most of the time, and therefore it is not statistically significant. what happens “at the margin.” As noted above, both the science and data are conclusive that once you get below freezing,” which is a much larger range both temperature-wise and temporally, the colder it gets, the less snow there is.

    Another thing to examine is the number of cold temperature records that have been set the past 2 – 3 years in North America.

    The best scientific models currently in existence concerning global warming predict temperature extremes in both directions. Claiming that cold temperature records disprove global warming is as nonsensical as claiming that heavy snowfall disproves it.

    Check out this book by a climate scientist that discusses the cyclical nature of global temperatures

    http://www.desmogblog.com/dr-s-fred-singer-denier-for-hire
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/11/avery-and-singer-unstoppable-hot-air/

    In any case, frankly, I hardly think that New York Times bestsellers written by members of conservative think tanks are the right forum for meaningful scientific debate. As some pundit once observed, “The problem with Democracy is that the people vote.” The reason why it’s a problem is because “the people” are, to a frighteningly large degree, stupid and gullible.

    Reply
  4. mh

    I don’t necessarily agree with the concept of increased snowfall during warmer weather.
    Back in the late 60s – mid 70s, we used to have much more snowfall than we did in the late 90s and we know that it was colder 40 years ago than it was in 1998 – remember the Newsweek cover in 1975 proclaiming the coming ice age? I remember my high school history text discussing how the explorers arrived in North America in the 1500s – 1600s when it was brutally cold and there were feet of snow on the ground.
    We also had record snowfall in some states this year while we have had declining temperatures over the past few years.
    Besides, no matter what the rhetoric on TV or in DC, water still freezes at 32 degrees Farenheit. That means that, at the margin, increasing temperatures result in rain, while decreasing temperatures result in snow.
    Another thing to examine is the number of cold temperature records that have been set the past 2 – 3 years in North America.
    Finally, you have to ask if there is anything unusual or unprecedented about this type of weather. We have been in a general warming trend since the end of the “Little Ice Age” of 1500 – 1800. But this followed the “Medievel Warming Period” when, even Phil Jones of East Anglia acknowledges, it may have been warmer than today.
    http://www.theresilientearth.com/?q=content/medieval-warm-period-rediscovered

    So our current temperatures, even prior to their current decline, are not unprecedented. I am much more concerned with the amount of NO2 and SO2 than CO2, because the former produce strong acids that are damaging, while the latter produces a weak acid that has been in our water for millions of years.

    Check out this book by a climate scientist that discusses the cyclical nature of global temperatures: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d.html/ref=redir_mdp_mobile/179-7171897-0611031?a=0742551172

    Reply
  5. mh

    It’s cyclical, roughly everry 5 years, alternating with La Niña, a cooling phase.
    http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/07/09/el-nino-hurricanes.html

    We’ve had them before and we’ll have them again.

    There are two main factors driving climate – energy input and energy retention.

    Input – changes in solar activity affect the amount of energy reaching us. We are currently in a period of extremely low solar activity (after a period of high activity), so it’s no surprise that global temps have fallen over the past decade.
    http://www.dailytech.com/Temperature+Monitors+Report+Widescale+Global+Cooling/article10866.htm

    Retention – we all know that arid climates have low humidity, resulting in a large change in temperature between daytime, when there is minimal cloud cover blocking the sun, and nightime, when there is minimal humidity retaining heat. Contrast that with humid environments that have smaller differences between day and night temperatures due to greater cloud cover and greater nightime retention.

    Since water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, it is the driving force behind climate, along with solar fluctuations.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Yes, it’s cyclical, but it is reasonable to ask whether the cycles are becoming more extreme.

      In any case, I agree with you that individual winters with heavy snowfall neither prove or disprove global warming. However, if annual snowfall increases measurably over a prolonged period of time, then that would in fact be evidence that global warming is real. Therefore, while individual winters with heavy snowfall could potentially be part of a larger body of evidence supporting global warming, they can’t possibly be part of a larger body of evidence disproving global warming, and assertions to that effect by conservative pundits are therefore patently absurd.

      Reply
  6. mh

    Actually, this winter’s weather can neither prove nor disprove anthropogenic global warming (AGW). It is a result of a large El Niño off the Pacific coast. Joe Bastardi of accuweather.com forecasted this weather pattern several months ago.

    You can also google “joe bastardi bill nye o’reilly debate” to see a lively AGW debate.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      What do you think caused the “large El Niño off the Pacific coast”?

      Reply
  7. Nate

    This is why I don’t read the Herald, and in general consider it to be slightly less useful than toilet paper. Usually, just a glance at the cover headline is enough to send me into fits of rage. God forbid I ever actually read the thing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.