Friday, January 21, 2011

The birth of a panic.

I am betting that this story will go viral precisely because it feeds into the political ideology of people. (Actually this story is already viral, with tens of thousands of websites reporting it.)

The town of Ilulissat, Greenland got glimmers of sunlight two days earlier than normal. So it was panic time. As scientists note this was the only place that got sunlight earlier than normal so it had nothing to do with the earth tilting at a different angle and the sun isn't moving.

But there is a class of panic-mongers always ready to jump on anything and everything as proof that we need to implement their political agenda: that is the global warming hysterics. Here is how Huffington Post explains it:
But the most troublesome theory may also be the truth. Some scientists suggest that the sun rose early due to global warming, namely, Greenland's melting ice capes.
What sort of reporting uses the phrase "may also be the truth" and why did they say this. This certainly wouldn't be the most troublesome theory, the earth shifting on its axis would be a tad bit more upsetting and more obvious.

Huffington Post says there "is some debate" about this. Actually no. They warming hysterics say the sun appeared early because ice sheets melted and are lower than normal. Even if that is the case it doesn't make sense in this case. The ice sheets near this town are to the east. Given the location of the town, north of the Arctic circle, the sun rises almost due south. The ice sheets could disappear completely and it wouldn't change sunrise for this town.

There is one final, conclusive proof that lower ice sheets had nothing to do with the sunrise being earlier than usual. The first day the "sun rose" was January 11th, not January 13th. So what happened January 12th? Nothing. No sun rise whatsoever. And on the 13th the sunrise appeared to be later than normal. Apparently the ice sheets grew substantially in a 24 hour period, if they are the culprits as the hysterics are theorizing. If lower ice sheets explains the sunrise on the 11th, but there was none on the 12th and it was late on the 13th, then the same ice sheets had to have massively expanded. Of course, ice sheets have nothing to do with it.

What is interesting is the dishonest way Huffington Post reports this story. They have one sentence saying that a scientist explains "that the sun's rays may have have a stronger bend than usual, resulting in the sun appearing earlier." But then they have two paragraphs talking about global warming. They then start listing various things to blame on warming including blizzards, faster satellites, allergies, wildfires and "the potential reintroduction of smallpox" and then say: "And now, we just may have to add 'early sunrise' to the list."

Their source is LiveScience. But LiveScience offers a more realistic take than Huffington Post.

LiveScience says experts agree this is "not a sign of earlier spring around the Northern Hemisphere." The appearance of the sunlight was restricted to this one area of the world only. One scientist told LiveScience the cause was most likely "the refraction of sunlight at the horizon." LiveScience writes: "Most of the other scientists interviewed agreed this was the most likely culprit."

So, most the scientists said it was light refraction and not global warming. Yet Huffington Post spends considerable more time theorizing that warming is the culprit and briefly mentions refraction, which is the "most likely" cause. They spend more time on warming, which couldn't be involved in this situation, and hardly mention the "most likely" reason it happened. But then there is no political agenda attached to light refraction—at least not yet.

As bad as the Huffington Post report was, Time was even worse. They use a Reuters report on the incident that says: "Perhaps the most convincing explanation is Greenland's melting polar ice caps." They offer no source whatsoever for why this is the most convincing explanation given the ice sheets are in the wrong direct to be a factor.

Where did Time get their story? According to the web report "via Huffington Post." Follow how this game is played.

First, LiveScience reports the sun appeared two days early, says that there were many theories, dismisses that warming was involved and says the "most likely" cause was stronger light refraction than normal. Huffington Post rewrites the story, de-emphasizes the "most likely" cause and spend an inordinate amount of space on global warming which was dismissed in the original story as being a factor. Then the Reuters reporter, Bob Strong, uses the Huffington Post article, not the original source, to rewrite the story. In his rewrite the "most likely" cause gets NO mention whatsoever. And the theory that was dismissed in the original article becomes "the most convincing explanation" as a result.

It appears to me that Huffington Post rewrote the original story to fit their political agenda. But the Reuters reporter is guilty of sloppy journalism, or more likely, lazy-ass journalism. He read the Huffington Post distortion and simply didn't bother to go to the original source to see what it really said. And then, probably because it fit his politics, he took the HP distortion and reported it as if that is what the original article said. And the false story is spreading, a combination of the fact that most journalists are lazy and most believe warming is a threat so anything confirming that must be truth.

The Daily Mail, who were recently took on due to the bizarre reporting of Peter Hitchens, runs the story claiming that "the most likely explanation is that it is down to the lower height of melting icecaps allowing the sun's light to penetrate through earlier." There is no mention to the original article reporting that the "most likely" explanation was light refraction. Light refraction doesn't sell newspaper, fear stories about warming does.

The UK website, FirstPost runs even further with the bogus take on the story. "Scientists claim to have discovered more evidence of global warming, aster the sun rose two days early in Greenland, apparently because melting glaciers lowered the horizon." This article briefly mentions light refraction as a "possible" explanation right after mention "conspiracy theorists blaming everything from chemtrails to build-up of methane in the atmosphere or a shift in the earth's axis."

The European Union Times actually said this incident "shocked scientist the world over as this historic event leaves many wondering if, in fact, the End of Days are now truly here." Okay, clearly this is a kook site. But so is the Daily Mail.

Here we witness the birth of a panic story that is completely bogus. We witness the distortions being introducted by Huffington Post, we then see other reporters using the HP story as the basis for their own story. But they tweak the story even more. Soon the story is spreading like wildfire that warming melted the ice in Greenland, lowering the horizon, causing the sun to come up early. That, in spite of pretty convincing evidence, that such a claim is entirely false. The theory dismissed by most scientists originally is now reported as the "most likely explanation" while what scientists actually said was the likely cause goes unreported.

Welcome to the modern world of journalism.

Photo: This photo is not Greenland, it is just to illustrate the story.

Labels: ,