By WUWT regular “Just The Facts”
The BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, has released a report on its coverage of climate change, that is based partly on “an independent review” by Steve Jones, a Genetics Professor at University College London (UCL).
The report states that “Professor Jones describes incidents of what he calls “false balance” and suggests there may sometimes have been “an over-rigid application of the (editorial) guidelines to what is essentially a fact-based field. This can produce an adversarial attitude to science which allows minority, or even contrarian, views an undue place. The BBC has tried hard to find a suitable balance.
There will of course be occasions when a scientific story should be presented as a debate purely and simply within the scientific community. There will be others when it is appropriate to broadcast a range of views, including some from non-experts, because science cannot be divorced from the social, political and cultural environment in which it operates”
“The Trust notes the Executive’s plans for ongoing monitoring of impartiality and accuracy in science coverage. The results of the Editorial Standards Board review that the Executive plans to carry out in a year’s time should be shared with the Trust. The Trust expects this report to measure the accuracy and impartiality of BBC science coverage, using the findings from this Trust review as its benchmark. The report should include an account of:
• The effect of the new “due weight” stipulation within the editorial guideline on impartiality in relation to BBC science coverage
• The influence of the Science Editor on the quality of BBC News science journalism and content
• The impact of the Science Editor and the pan-BBC science forum on connections between BBC divisions, in-house access to science expertise and the standard of BBC-wide science coverage”
In the associated July 20, 2011 press release by the BBC it states that “the report concludes however, that in particular the BBC must take special care to continue efforts to ensure viewers are able to distinguish well-established fact from opinion on scientific issues and to communicate this distinction clearly to the audience.”
“When considering ‘due impartiality’ under the new Editorial Guidelines, the BBC needs to continue to be careful when reporting on science to make a distinction between an opinion and a fact. When there is a consensus of opinion on scientific matters, providing an opposite view without consideration of “due weight” can lead to ‘false balance’, meaning that viewers might perceive an issue to be more controversial than it actually is. This does not mean that scientists cannot be questioned or challenged, but that their contributions must be properly scrutinised. Including an opposite view may well be appropriate, but the BBC must clearly communicate the degree of credibility that the view carries.
The BBC Executive will establish a new training programme for journalists on impartiality as it applies to science and will run seminars with science journalists to debate current issues and coverage in the media.”
The BBC’s oxymoronically and euphemistically named “BBC Trust – Review of impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of science” page can be found here.
The BBC’s existing biases are apparent, for example in this 27 May 2011 BBC News article “Unlocking the secrets of the Arctic’s melting ice”, it states that “A scientist hopes that a better understanding of what is happening beneath the Arctic ice will offer an insight into why summer sea ice is melting at rate that is alarming experts. Unlocking the secrets of the Arctic’s melting ice”
“As a scientist, the reason I am prepared to come out here and be cold is because of the desire to learn and answer burning questions I have about what is going on up here, why the ice is melting as fast as it is” she told the Earth Reporters programme.
“My theory is that this organic matter absorbs the Sun’s energy, making the ice melt faster.
and this 7 April 2011 BBC News article “New warning on Arctic sea ice melt” states that “scientists who predicted a few years ago that Arctic summers could be ice-free by 2013 now say summer sea ice will probably be gone in this decade.”
“Since the spectacularly pronounced melting of 2007, a greater proportion of the Arctic Ocean has been covered by thin ice that is formed in a single season and is more vulnerable to slight temperature increases than older, thicker ice.”
This is biased reporting by the BBC, because these articles imply that the decrease is Arctic Sea Ice is mysterious, that it will continue to decline at an accelerating rate and that the decline is caused primarily by warming in the arctic. Whereas there is ample evidence that, “perennial sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean decreased by 23 percent during the past two winters as strong winds swept more Arctic ice than usual out Fram Strait near Greenland. The study relied on 50 years of data from the International Arctic Buoy Program, currently directed by Ignatius Rigor of the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory, and eight years of data from NASA’s QuikScat satellite, a review of which was led by Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.”
“The most important thing about this paper is that it foretells this summer’s record minimum ice extent in the Arctic,” Rigor, a research scientist and co-author on the paper, says. “While the total area of ice cover in recent winters has remained about the same, during the past two years an increased amount of older, thicker perennial sea ice was swept by winds out of the Arctic Ocean into the Greenland Sea. What grew in its place in the winters between 2005 and 2007 was a thin veneer of first-year sea ice, which simply has less mass to survive the summer melt.”
University of Washington September 28, 2007 fact sheet: “Perennial ice, sometimes thick enough to defy icebreakers, may be key to predicting Arctic thaw”.
In this October 01 2007 NASA article,
“Nghiem said the rapid decline in winter perennial ice the past two years was caused by unusual winds. “Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic,” he said. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters.
“The winds causing this trend in ice reduction were set up by an unusual pattern of atmospheric pressure that began at the beginning of this century,” Nghiem said.”
The 2007 paper “Rapid reduction of Arctic perennial sea ice” by Nghiem, Rigor, Perovich, Clemente-Colo, Weatherly and Neumann states that, “Perennial-ice extent loss in March within the DM domain was noticeable after the 1960s, and the loss became more rapid in the 2000s when QSCAT observations were available to verify the model results. QSCAT data also revealed mechanisms contributing to the perennial-ice extent loss: ice compression toward the western Arctic, ice loading into the Transpolar Drift (TD) together with an acceleration of the TD carrying excessive ice out of Fram Strait, and ice export to Baffin Bay.”
This 2011 paper, “Recent wind driven high sea ice export in the Fram Strait contributes to Arctic sea ice decline”, submitted to The Cryosphere by L. H. Smedsrud, et al.;
used “geostrophic winds derived from reanalysis data to calculate the Fram Strait ice area export back to 1957, finding that the sea ice area export recently is about 25 % larger than during the 1960’s.”
In 2010 the Guardian reported that, “Much of the record breaking loss of ice in the Arctic ocean in recent years is down to the region’s swirling winds and is not a direct result of global warming, a new study reveals.”
“About half of the variation in maximum ice loss each September is down to changes in wind patterns, the study says.”
Here’s the associated study, “Influence of winter and summer surface wind anomalies on summer Arctic sea ice extent” by Masayo Ogi, Koji Yamazaki and John M. Wallace, published in Geophysical Research Letters.
It found that, “based on a statistical analysis incorporating 925‐hPa wind fields from the NCEP/NCAR Reanalyses, it is shown that the combined effect of winter and summer wind forcing accounts for 50% of the variance of the change in September Arctic sea ice extent from one year to the next (DSIE) and it also explains roughly 1/3 of the downward linear trend of SIE over the past 31 years.”
“We have shown results indicating that wind‐induced, year‐to‐year differences in the rate of flow of ice toward and through Fram Strait play an important role in modulating September SIE on a year‐to‐year basis and that a trend toward an increased wind‐induced rate of flow has contributed
to the decline in the areal coverage of Arctic summer sea ice.”
This 2004 paper “Variations in the Age of Arctic Sea-ice and Summer Sea-ice Extent” by Ignatius G. Rigor & John M. Wallace, states that “The winter AO-index explains as much as 64% of the variance in summer sea-ice extent in the Eurasian sector, but the winter and summer AO-indices combined explain less than 20% of the variance along the Alaskan coast, where the age of sea-ice explains over 50% of the year-to year variability. If this interpretation is correct, low summer sea-ice extents are likely to persist for at least a few years. However, it is conceivable that, given an extended interval of low-index AO conditions, ice thickness and summertime sea-ice extent could gradually return to the levels characteristic of the 1980′s.”
This 2001 paper, “Fram Strait Ice Fluxes and Atmospheric Circulation: 1950–2000″ by Torgny Vinje published in the American Meteorological Society Journal of Climate found that “Observations reveal a strong correlation between the ice fluxes through the Fram Strait and the cross-strait air pressure difference.”
“Although the 1950s and 1990s stand out as the two decades with maximum flux variability, significant variations seem more to be the rule than the exception over the whole period considered.”
“The corresponding decadal maximum change in the Arctic Ocean ice thickness is of the order of 0.8 m. These temporal wind-induced variations may help explain observed changes in portions of the Arctic Ocean ice cover over the last decades. Due to an increasing rate in the ice drainage through the Fram Strait during the 1990s, this decade is characterized by a state of decreasing ice thickness in the Arctic Ocean.”
As such, the BBC’s reporting is currently biased, because they are not accurately informing the public that a significant portion of the recent decrease in Arctic Sea Ice is due to natural wind variations versus warming due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Furthermore, the BBC is now planning to increase the bias of its reporting to prevent “false balance”. As such, the BBC is not a trustworthy source of information on Earth’s climate system.
This BBC article offers an interesting look back at when the BBC was still capable of reporting facts, uncertainties and countervailing hypotheses about why Earth’s climate changes.