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Both thumbs on the scale

02 Aug 2023 | News Roundup

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.

10 comments on “Both thumbs on the scale”

  1. I'm feeling a bit insecure...I really don't think that our political masters like, or trust us at all. All we provide is an income stream, or a convenient army. Disposable.

  2. I have a sinking feeling all the hysteria on heat is setting us up for the WHO treaty due to be signed in 2024.

    Get ready for lockdowns as climate change will apparently present a existential risk to mankind!

  3. Referring to the Jimson saddles per foot-lambert, I am reliably informed that a local electricity utility in Britain once had an accounting unit of volt farthings per degree fortnight.

  4. If you drive from Calgary to Vancouver it is a distance of about 1000km’s, that’s 1,000,000 metres. If each metre represented 1 part per million in the atmosphere and CO2 is 400ppm, if you started your drive at Winsport (Canada Olympic Park), you would pass through all the CO2 before you get to the Stoney Trail overpass. Rory Mcllroy can drive a golf ball that far! There are more scientists coming out and stating that CO2 is not the control knob for global temperatures. Recently Dr. John Clauser, a 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics winner, stated that there is no climate crisis,. He stated, “I don’t believe there is a climate crisis” and expressed his belief that “key processes are exaggerated and misunderstood by approximately 200 times.”

  5. Last week I saw a headline from CTV News that declared: "Temperatures to hit 40° C in Toronto on Friday". I should have taken a screen shot and sent it to CDN, but instead I sent in a complaint -- because when you clicked on the accompanying link the actual headline for the article just said 40 and within the article it said a heat index of 40. No temperature forecast was actually quoted. So the published link (which I saw on Google News I think) was quite misleading.

    I've noticed lately a tendency by media to conflate temperature and heat index. This makes summer temperature reports seems much worse than they are, and makes historical trend difficult since many weather stations don't have that data. (Heat index isn't even uploaded to the NOAA Global Historical Climatology Network data repository.) Most people don't understand that heat index isn't even measured in degrees C -- it's a unitless index. My complaint pointed out that CTV News has been decrying misinformation, but in this case fell short themselves on scientific accuracy.

    A search of "ctv news toronto temperature to hit 40 on friday" today turned up headlines "Heat wave in Toronto: 40 degrees on Friday" and "Weather in Toronto could hit 40 C Friday". According to the temperature records from station CA006158355 (Toronto City) the maximum on Friday hit 30 C. That's a long way from 40.

    I checked the historical records for Toronto and the only times the temperature reached or exceeded 40 were in 1936, 1952-1954, 1956-1957, 1963, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1984 and 1986. Nothing over 40 C since 1986. Not in any of the 39 stations in and around Toronto.

    I grew up in Toronto in the late 50's and 60's. I remember it being beastly hot and humid. There were days we couldn't go outdoors to play. Many of my neighbours took to sleeping in their basements. I spent many a day with a fan blowing on me and consuming large quantities of ice tea. Only one family on my street had air conditioning, and it wasn't central air.

  6. While I was looking at Toronto temperatures I had a look also at heat waves -- specifically, years when there were 5 or more consecutive days at or above 30 C. The most frequent number (i.e. the modal value) is 5 days; i.e. one such heat wave per year. But there were two in 1868, 1901, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1921, 1935-1937, 1953, 1955, 1973, 1987, 1988, 2002, and 2005. In 1949 and 1959 there were three such heat waves.

    Maybe this year will see two such heat waves again, but that hasn't happened since 2005 and it would be far from unprecedented. One might even say Toronto is overdue.

    Despite all the alarming news stories, the month of July in Toronto saw just one three-day consecutive period above 30, on July 4-6, according to the Toronto City station (CA006158355). The airport records only show a two-day 30+ heatwave.

  7. "We'd still be under a couple kilometers of ice, without Climate Change". Do the hysteria parrots that work in journalism wonder why there is little sympathy for their dying business model?

  8. "...the fatuity of adding wind speed to cold to get cold..."
    This might not be as fatuous as you think. As I understand it, what is called the "wind chill" is a measure of the rate at which calories are wicked away from your body: more wind, faster wicking away of calories - given a constant temperature. What the "wind chill" number attempts to do is indicate the temperature it would have to be with zero wind to get the same calorie loss per unit of time at the given wind speed and temperature. It is a meaningful measure, when used properly.
    I suspect the same is true of the "heat index" indicator. The heat index takes humidity into account to tell you what the temperature "feels like" given that it is harder for the body to cool itself down in higher humidity. E.g., the body has to work as hard at cooling you down at 32 degrees and humidity X, as it would have to do at 40 degrees and zero humidity. If you understand what the index is supposed to reflect, it makes sense. The problem is that the equivalencies aren't explained and so few people really know what they are really being told.

  9. I live in Adelaide South Australia. Our climate in summer is very dry and , yes hot, (usually)
    I am perfectly comfortable with 36C dry heat. Start feeling it at 40C.
    So humidity is very important. Now if I go to Darwin.....33 feels hot because the humidity is 90%

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