In attempting to convince us we’ve all succumbed to heatstroke, the media are suddenly measuring temperature a whole new way. And whereas real scientists are very suspicious of changes in trends that coincide with discontinuities in data sets, most journalists are, how shall we put it, not climate scientists. And so in addition to this mysterious “heat index” where it’s suddenly 150°F instead of 100, or would be if pigs had wings and they melted like those of Icarus, we’re suddenly getting land surface temperature instead of the traditional “ambient temperature” around head level. It’s not level-headed.
Heat index, the U.S. National Weather Service explains, is “a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature.” And it might be useful in some ways though we’re always suspicious of things like “wind chill” where it turns out one mile per hour happens to translate into one degree C. Or kilometre per hour. Or Jimson saddles per foot-lambert (the ultimate inside joke, referring to John Robson’s Ottawa Citizen column of January 20, 1999, on the fatuity of adding wind speed to cold to get cold). But if you want to know whether things are worse today than in the 1930s in some American city, you’d need to know the heat index from the earlier date. Otherwise you’re just being Buffaloed. Or Phoenixed. Or something.
Of course instead of admitting that if you change your data source in order to create an apparent change in underlying reality, you’re doing very bad science, they tell us they’re doing very good science. Because another thing that stampeded the herd of independent climate minds is that, as NBC put it:
“The heat waves simultaneously broiling the southwest United States and southern Europe would have been ‘virtually impossible’ if not for climate change, according to a group of scientists who study the probability of extreme weather events.”
Because, apparently, we never used to have heatwaves. A British viewer sent us a screencap of a Microsoft UK item, originally from NationalWorld, that:
“July heatwaves ‘would have been almost impossible without climate change’ – but it’s not too late to curb warming”.
Reuters “Daily Briefing” went with:
“Climate change has played an ‘overwhelming’ role in the heatwaves this month, according to an assessment by scientists. ‘European and North American temperatures would have been virtually impossible without the effects of climate change,’ said Izidine Pinto, one of the study’s authors.”
Euronews Today’s contribution to this burst of lack of originality was:
“The fingerprints of climate change are all over the intense heat waves gripping the globe this month, an international study has found.”
And the New York Times’ “Climate Forward” reported on some reporting with:
“Some of the searing temperatures that scorched the United States, Mexico, Europe and China this month would not have happened without human-caused climate change, my colleague Delger Erdenesanaa reports.”
We could go on and on. (Arguably we already did.) For instance Scientific American emailed:
“Make no mistake, this year’s record-breaking heat waves would not be happening without climate change. Such extremes would rarely happen without the excess heat trapped by the gases released from the burning of fossil fuels.”
And the even more dogmatic story to which that teaser linked:
“This Summer’s Record-Breaking Heat Waves Would Not Have Happened without Climate Change”
And CBS had:
“Scorching current heat waves ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, researchers say”
Not that all these reporters have substituted confirmation bias for hard-boiled skepticism. The problem is, if the actual historical records without that “heat index” or surface temperature fiddling show that we did have such heat waves in the past, they’re going to look pretty silly.
Not conspiratorial. Silly. If they were conspiring, they’d do a better job.