Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another warming story doesn't hold up.

I have long argued that when the mainstream media reports on global warming that they play fast and loose with their facts. And the New York Times is certainly no exception.

The Times has just reported that duck hunting in Missouri is going through changes due to a warming climate in Missouri. They claim that rising temperatures have changed the behavior of ducks though they confess that “Scientists and state wildlife officials say there is not clear-cut data to support the reports of changes in duck behavior...” But political lobbying groups like the National Wildlife Federation are quoted as saying: “This actually is happening.”

I was curious and decided to check the historical data. The Times sets their story in Rich Hill, Missouri. The closest weather station to Rich Hill is just 25 miles away in Appleton City. So I looked at the annual mean of the monthly mean temperature for that station since 1900. And the data simply doesn’t support the claims made by the Times reporter.

Here is the data as supplied by the United States Historical Climatology Network. What sticks out rather dramatically is that the most recent 50 years were considerably cooler than the previous 50 years. Missouri didn’t warm up over the last half century -- if anything it cooled.
Look at the peak years for temperatures. In recent years only one year exceeded an annual mean in excess of 57 degrees and one was almost that warm. But from the mid-1950s back to 1900 we find 13 years in excess of 57 degrees.

Similarly look at the coolest years in Missouri over the last century. The warmest mean temperature for any year was 1954, over half a century ago. The second warmest year was in the early 1920s, third was in the early 30s, fourth in the 1940s. In fact all of the ten hottest years in Missouri, since 1900, were prior to 1955.

Routinely the New York Times makes claims about rising temperatures in specific localities in recent years in stories about global warming. Not one of such stories that I’ve read bothered to check the historical data.

PS: It should be noted that the article mentioned "nearby Appleton City" yet it ignored the historical climate data from that weather station. But it did rely on anecdotal evidence provided by area hunters, few of whom would be old enough to remember back far enough to have any meaningful insight on temperature data. In addition such memories are easily distorted by media hype such as this story.