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Post Fans Administration's Pre-Kyoto Fires

What a coincidence: Exactly one month before the final meeting of the global warming summit in Kyoto, the Washington Post belts out about 800(!) column inches of generally one-sided reportage in support of the Clinton Line.

The Post's slogan is "If you don't get it, you don't get it." But maybe they ought to change it to "If you get it, you get half of it."

The first of four articles leads off with the clunker that global warming will cause "even bigger" blizzards in the Northern Great Plains, according to the Administration's computer models. Too bad that they didn't check to see that there is a clear, significant, and negative relationship between winter temperature and total snowfall in the upper Mid-west. The warmer it is, the less it snows. How shocking.

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Figure 1. The relationship between total snowfall and average winter temperature in Minneapolis shows that when winters are warmer, it snows less!

What the Administration's computers failed to do, just like the Post, was to get the facts before rushing to hype. Warming does cause increased snowfall where winters are very cold and dry—poleward of 60. That's almost a thousand miles north of the Canadian border, in the upper reaches of Hudson Bay, where we doubt the few people, polar bears, and Arctic char give a hoot.

For expert verification, the Post went to Farmer Voldal, in Sandberg, N.D., who said he was convinced "it's" global warming and that the weather "sure as hell has been strange." They could have called North Dakota's State Climatologist, John W. Enz. But they were probably aware that 72 percent of state climatologists disagree that the weather has become more severe in their state, according to a recent survey. And, of the 19 percent who do agree, 78 percent said that the more extreme weather in their state was not because of global warming.

The Post reports that scientists have found a 10 percent increase in rainfall in the United States this century. Further, according to the Post, "much of it [is] coming in large doses: downpours and blizzards."

That's just plain wrong. Here's what Federal Climatologist Tom Karl wrote in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society:

"...Since about 1970 precipitation has tended to remain above the twentieth century mean, averaging about 5% higher than in the previous 70 years. Such an increase hints at a change in climate."

The average annual rain across the United States is about 30 inches. Five percent of 30 inches is 1.5 inches. Variation of that value from year-to-year just simply can't be noticed by anyone but scientists or weather hobbyists. Now, how much is "much" that comes in "large doses?"

An oft-cited paper in Nature, also by Karl, found an increase in two- to three-inch 24-hour precipitation totals in the lower 48 states over the course of this century. Karl found no increase in rains of greater than three inches.

According to Karl, Around 1910, about 9 percent of all the rain that dampened U.S. soil came from these storms. That's an average of 2.7 inches (9 percent times 30 inches). By the 1990s, it increased to 11 percent, or 3.3 inches (11 percent times 30 inches). The net increase is a mere 0.60 inches.

Since when is 0.60 inches out of three inches considered "much"? And we'll buy lunch for anyone who has ever witnessed a flood caused by six-tenths of an inch of rain!

Under "Perils of a Warming Planet," we read that "if polar ice sheets continue to melt, the oceans could claim an even bigger share of coastal real estate." We hope this type of panic statement drives down the price of beachfront property so that it becomes more affordable to stiffs like us.

But in reality, if the fact-checkers at Washington, DC 20071 (the Post has its own ZIP code) had inspected Geophysical Research Letters, they would have found that the West Greenland Ice Sheet—the largest mass of polar ice in our hemisphere—has thickened by up to seven feet since 1980.

Can't forget to run down the satellite data either! Uh-oh—satellite records show a statistically significant cooling trend over since they started in 1979. Since they don't fit the spin, the Post elects to paint the scientists who study this as a bunch of fringe-os, or in the Washington pejorative, "a small but persistent minority."

No professional accolades for the esteemed satellite guru Roy Spencer. But they call his critic, Dan Albritton, a "prominent climate expert." Albritton points out that the satellite data measure the temperature "two to five miles above the Earth's surface."

That's sort of true, but misleading, because satellite data from this air region match up perfectly with temperatures taken from one to five miles above the surface.

The "prominent expert" goes on to say that "you'd expect the result to be different," neglecting that every climate model of the greenhouse effect ever produced says that the layer one to five miles above the surface should be warming significantly.

Finally, the Post reports Albritton is "even more derisive that tiny changes in the sun's energy may account for a significant share of the temperature change in the last century." Perhaps, then, NASA scientist Judy Lean and the referees at Geophysical Research Letters were just wrong when the journal published her finding that solar radiation changes "may have contributed about half of the observed 0.55C surface warming since 1860."

Or maybe "half" isn't "significant"?

And what about the phenomenal correlations discovered by Friis-Christensen between the length of the sunspot cycle and hemispheric temperature? Maybe "half" is significant after all—because if you got the Post's series on global warming—all 800 inches' worth—you got half of the story.


Friis-Christensen, E., and K. Lassen, 1991, Length of the solar cycle: An indicator of solar activity closely associated with climate. Science, 254, 698–700.

Karl, T.R., et al., Indices of climate change for the United States, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 77, 279–292.

Karl, T.R., et al. 1995, Trends in high-frequency climate variability in the twentieth century. Nature, 337, 217–220.

Krabill, W.R., et al., 1995, Greenland ice thickness measured by laser altimetry. Geophysical Research Letters, 22, 2341–2344.

Lean, J., et al., 1995, Reconstruction of solar irradiance since 1610: Implications for climate change. Geophysical Research Letters, 22, 3195–3198.


Thumbs Down on EPA “Science”

Washingtonians and other lesser beings have long derided the Environmental Protection Agency as a club that’s quite adept at writing regulations and all thumbs when it comes to science.

Score another one for the thumbs.  There’s been an epidemic of frog deformities in Minnesota.  People first blamed the coal industry, a common reflex.  That didn’t hold up so farmers came next with their nasty chemicals.  (“I tried A…I tried B…”)  That didn’t hold up either, so now the EPA blames—what else—ozone depletion caused by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

The maximum increase in ultraviolet radiation caused by CFCs is a couple of percent averaged over the year.  This is one-third of the natural difference between Duluth and Minneapolis, owing to latitude.  How come all of the Minneapolis frogs aren’t naturally six-thumbed?