The latest alarmist “gotcha” was supposedly the unprecedented heat of summer 2023 afflicting the United States. Except it didn’t happen, as shown by this map of temperatures compared to seasonal norms for the 60 days leading up to August 7 (h/t Joe Bastardi).
Yes, it’s been colder than normal across most of the country. Which didn’t stop journalists from shrieking about the heat, and wondering where their audience went.
Endless stories implausibly nudging the audience about heat and climate have appeared this summer. For instance a mountain biker who got lost in Carrizo Gorge while rescuing some hikers who had no water with them and died of heatstroke became a news story. But the fact that the Gorge is located south of Death Valley did not. Then there were the passengers who felt ill after being stuck in a plane for nearly three hours on a Las Vegas tarmac in mid-July. Which would have been just as much of a nightmare 30 years ago.
Even the once-sober Times hollered in an email that “Charon ‘heat storm’ continues to sweep across southern Europe, sparking power cuts and threatening record high temperatures”. One day you’re naming heatwaves. The next you’re renaming them “heat storms”. And also hyping record temperatures that didn’t happen yet, based on novel ways of measuring heat designed to produce new records even if it’s not actually hotter. (Like the suddenly ubiquitous “heat index”.)
NBC also reported that “Heat has killed at least 18 people in Arizona’s Maricopa County this year”, adding that “The county is one of the few that has revamped its reporting to ensure heat deaths are accounted for” which means such deaths were probably undercounted in the past which is something to keep in mind when they start yelling “unprecedented!” every summer from now on. In fact current numbers might be fairly normal, especially since “Maricopa County” contains Phoenix, an infamous heat island, and moreover “Data from years past shows heat deaths are intertwined with the opioid and housing crises in the Phoenix area.”
Indeed Statista, in an unguarded moment, tells us that “Heat Islands Have City Dwellers Swelter in a Concrete Jungle” because:
“According to a new study by NGO Climate Central, 41 million Americans in 44 major cities – the equivalent of around half of these cities’ populations – habitually see outside temperatures in their Census tracts rise by an average of more than 8° Fahrenheit above those in surrounding areas.”
It’s a serious issue, to be sure. But here’s the thing: Does it occur to any of the people who do notice this factor to say gosh, if we want to know if there’s “global warming” we really better be sure we’re measuring temperatures outside those local hotspots?
Heck no. Instead the New York Times “Climate Forward” chipped in a tale of “How extreme heat affects workers and the economy” that featured a cleaner who “works the overnight shift inside planes where the air conditioning is off and nighttime temperatures regularly approach 100 degrees.”
Yeah? And how was that job back in 1987? The piece eventually gets around to “Experts say airport workers, like those in Phoenix, are some of the most at risk from heat, because of the heat-intensifying effects of asphalt and the need to wear bulky protective gear.” But not before telling us it’s also hot in New Delhi in July, as though it would startle anyone who’d fled the place for the cool Himalayan foothill country during the Raj to hear of this development.
“In Europe, where cities in Spain, France and Italy broke records for high temperatures this week, the extreme heat is also expected to continue into the weekend. On Sunday, temperatures in Athens, Greece, are forecast to reach 108 F, and Antalya, Turkey, is expected to reach 111 F. Climate scientists studying heat waves report that their frequency and duration has increased since the 1960s. In its most recent assessment, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found with virtual certainty that the changing patterns of extreme heat are driven mainly by excess greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere — a phenomenon that has caused recent anthropogenic global warming.”
Except if you measure it in places that were rural in the 1960s and still are, instead of urban agglomerations of over 2.5 million people (Antalya) or 3 million (Athens) you find that the heat-trapping properties of asphalt and cement are hugely important. News stories ponder why Antalya is setting records… but don’t mention that, as so often, they measure it at the airport. Seriously, if you were assigned to find a place that would distort readings upward anywhere in the city, could you find a better spot?
Also, as Alex Epstein wrote, the Earth has been warming slowly for a long time, with colder places warming faster than hotter ones, so why would Phoenix, Arizona be setting records rather than, say, Pierce County, Wisconsin or Pickle Crow, Ontario? Which on August 11, 2023 set a high almost 7°F below average and whose all-time high of 104°F was set in, yes, 1933, the hottest decade in the modern instrumental record. At, in fact, the airport, code YPL. Over in Estevan, Saskatchewan, the all-time record was set in 1937. Even though they didn’t move the monitoring station to the airport until 1944. Code YEN.
NBC also did something more subtly misleading, reporting on July 26 that:
“Sweltering heat that has dogged some parts of the U.S. for more than a month is beginning to hit the Midwest and Northeast, with more than 100 million people now under heat alerts that will remain through Friday.”
What’s misleading here is that they had not, to that point, been telling you most parts of the U.S. were not unusually hot. Indeed, as Joe Bastardi noted, in the 60 days leading up to August 7, most of the United States was cooler than usual. But NBC doesn’t mention it until it threatens to reverse, and when they do, they don’t admit that it has any relevance to their hysterical coverage of a supposed national heatwave.