News Brief by Kip Hansen — 10 January 2023
Yet another lesson in how to write a good-news story as a Climate Crisis story. One has to hand it to the Climate Crazies – particular in journalism. In my favorite once-a-world-class newspaper, the New York Times, this story.
The world remained firmly in warming’s grip last year, with extreme summer temperatures in Europe, China and elsewhere contributing to 2022 being the fifth-hottest year on record, European climate researchers said on Tuesday.
The eight warmest years on record have now occurred since 2014, the scientists, from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, reported, and 2016 remains the hottest year ever.”
This is the entire story in three images:
The left-hand image appeared in the New York Times article. The right-hand image is from NOAA’s Climate at a Glance Global Time Series page. Clicking the link will bring up the charted image (NB: I have reduced the horizontal size to match the Times’ image).
Compare the two images, and except for some minor differences in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 numeric values, they are quite similar.
But (always a but), the NOAA graph can show, in the upper right-hand corner, a trend line for 2015-2022, the “last 8 years” being highlighted in the NY Times piece.
Here is the blow-up of that corner, with text re-typed for clarity).
Adding this trend line is an option on the original official NOAA page – see for yourself. (repeating the link for your convenience).
The New York Times’ authors, Henry Fountain and Mira Rojanasakul, simply do not mention the positive story that the last eight years have a trend of minus 0.87°C/century.
So, the good news story that could have been written based on the same facts – the same data – is that NOAA’s calculated Global Land and Ocean January-December Temperature Anomalies have been sharply down-trending since 2015.
And that’s the brief.
# # # # #
My long-term advice is “Don’t draw trend lines on graphs.” The slope of a trend line always depends on starting and ending points. It is [almost] always more informative to look at the data itself, in many differing graphic forms than to draw lines on top of the data. The trend line is not the data – it is an “opinion” of whoever is drawing the trend (or the programmer of the graphing software) concerning start and end dates.
This is true even of data that seems to have an obvious start date or a temporally very long data set such as modern global thermometer temperature sets. Global temperature did not begin the moment it started being measured.
It should be noted that two El Niños occur in the period in question: 2014–16 and 2018–19.
Journalism, by its own standards, is meant to give a dis-interested, well-rounded, balanced view of the topic of a news story. The eight-year downtrend certainly warranted at least a mention in this story of the last eight years of “global” temperatures.
# # # # #