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The Age of Hyperbole: How Normal Weather Became ‘Extreme’

A media without shame drives us towards energy poverty.

Dr. Tim Ball and Tom Harris


July 30, 2013 - 12:00 am

Said Thomas Jefferson: “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” Jefferson’s comment may be expanded to include most of today’s mass media; this is especially true of television. As American linguist Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa said: “In the age of television, image becomes more important than substance.” It is effectively visual lying, dictated by Marshall McLuhan’s observation: “The medium is the message.” For example, TV news programs often illustrate air pollution with a smoke stack emitting water vapor, implying it is pollution when it is anything but.

Distortion and deception are accentuated by hyperbole. Television news and documentaries frequently report normal weather as “extreme weather,” implying it is abnormal and caused by human activity. But while a hurricane, for example, may inflict serious damage to our structures and cause major loss of life, it is a normal event in hurricane-prone regions, where it is foolish to live without preparing for the weather patterns of the area.

The problem is accentuated when supposedly prestigious newspapers like the New York Times present provably false information. “Summer’s Beast is Loose,” published in the Times on July 16, was an obvious attempt to sensationalize warm, but normal, summer temperatures:

Humans have always been used to the normal fluctuations in weather — including the anomalies that seem to confirm the norm. But now, to the routine, cyclic variations of weather, there has been added a more or less steady, more or less linear change, the result of the way we are altering our climate.

It appears that the Times editorial board didn’t bother to look at the historic climate record — or hoped none of their readers would. Aside from a slight year-to-year increase in temperature variation, the graph of temperatures for July for New York State shows no meaningful overall trend, warming or cooling, since 1900:

Figure 1. Source NOAA National Climate Data Center


Before expressing their opinion that today’s weather is unusual, you would think that the Times’ editors would have also looked at some basic research, an example being weather expert Dr. David Ludlum’s fascinating works: Early American Tornadoes, 1586-1870 and Early American Hurricanes, 1492-1870. The Times clearly knew of Dr. Ludlum, praising him as “the nation’s foremost historian of American weather” in his obituary published by the newspaper in 1996.  But they pay no attention to what Dr. Ludlum actually wrote.

Here is a challenge for New York Times editors – identify the year from which the following statistics are derived:

In the U.S. 254 people died in tornadoes: 30 in Marquette Kansas; 87 in Snyder Oklahoma; 97 in Southwest Oklahoma; and 40 in Montague Texas. In addition, 40 people died in a November storm in Minnesota.

Globally, typhoons struck the Philippines in July, August, and September; a June typhoon in the Marshall Islands with 500 reported deaths; a storm killed 33 in the Republic of Salvador; severe storms and flooding in Ireland.

Record low temperatures occurred as follows: February 13, -33°C at Pond, Arkansas, -40°C at Lebanon, Kansas, and –40°C at Warsaw, Missouri. In Sydney, Australia lowest monthly averages in September and October joined the lowest spring minimums.

Record high temperatures: An estimated 91 people died of a July heat wave in New York City. On July 7th Parker, Arizona recorded 53°C. Rivadivia, Argentina recorded 49°C on 11th December. The heat caused an outbreak of the tropical disease Yellow Fever in New Orleans that spread north to Indiana.

Precipitation: Flooding in Ireland; Taylor Texas, received 2.4 inches in fifteen minutes on April 29th; on July 29th 11 inches of rain in southwest Connecticut resulted in extensive flooding that caused a dam to burst.

Arctic ice retreated dramatically allowing an explorer to be the first to enter waters previously inaccessible.

The year was 1905. Note that 254 people died from tornadoes, when the population density was much less than today.

Besides categorizing normal weather events as extreme, terms were created to increase the impression of abnormality. For example, the below map used by Alex Sosnowski, the so-called “expert senior meteorologist” at Accuweather, shows very high temperatures. But it is pure deception:


Most readers would naturally assume that actual air temperatures are being shown, but they are being tricked. Instead, a contrived measure called the “heat index” is displayed. Heat index, a statistic Sosnowski refers as the “RealFeel” temperature, is created by combining air temperature and relative humidity. It presumably reflects the capability of sweat to cool the body — but it ignores wind speed, which is a critical cooling agent that makes it seem less hot than it actually is. Of course, in the winter, media meteorologists always cite the “wind chill,” since that makes low temperatures seem even lower. Both heat index and wind chill are simply propaganda tools designed to make viewers think conditions are more extreme than they really are.

The following sensational and misleading illustration also appears in Sosnowski’s article:


It is completely inappropriate to title the figure “Heat is more lethal. In reality, more people die from the cold each year than do from the heat.

It may very well be true that there was a higher “percent of increase of death rates” due to heat waves than due to cold periods in whatever time period Sosnowski is speaking of (he does not define the time frame). But this has nothing to do with the actual numbers of deaths. For example, in the warming period from 1980 to 1997, the percentage of heat wave deaths would logically increase more than cold wave deaths, even though cold weather deaths still vastly exceeded deaths due to hot weather.

National energy policies based on deceptions such as this have devastating consequences. Because of President Barack Obama’s dangerously misguided “war on coal,” America’s least expensive and most important source of electric power, electricity costs are rising — making the poor less able to afford air conditioning. This is especially true of those living in poverty in inner city areas where temperatures are already higher because of the urban heat island effect. This situation will only worsen as Obama implements his plan to eliminate coal stations and power costs consequently soar.

The distortion and outright lying in the media’s coverage of weather and climate change have increased dramatically in the past year. This is because the global warming narrative has been exposed as false, making it harder to sell without resorting to hyperbole and cherry-picking data that supports the alarmist agenda. So, publications such as the New York Times are not reporting news any more when it comes to weather and climate. Instead, they are spinning a false narrative to create their version of the news, much like the state-controlled media of communist China.

Sadly, most of the public has been taken in by mainstream media’s climate propaganda. The latest Rasmussen polls show the highest level of support for global warming alarmism since 2008. We can therefore expect Obama to take advantage of the public’s misunderstanding to bring in even more draconian controls on conventional energy sources to “stop extreme weather and climate change.”

If the U.S. eventually collapses into energy poverty, broad sweeping unemployment, and bankruptcy, we will know who to blame.

Dr. Tim Ball is a Victoria, British Columbia-based environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg. Tom Harris is the Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition.

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Top Rated Comments   
And I think this happens every time science "discovers" something new. Notice how Killer Asteroids have lately become a huge threat to civilization? That's because we're better at detecting and tracking asteroids. Until recently, we didn't know there were so many and that so many passed close to Earth. Now that we know, we're freaked out.

The thing is, there are no more asteroids now than there have ever been. And NO human civilization - not even a major city, not even a small town - has EVER been wiped out by an asteroid.

But now some people want to spend billion, trillions of dollars to create an anti-asteroid system.

Unfortunately, all our money is will be tied up in the anti-AGW system.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Global Warming house was built with government grants. The State pays "scientists" to justify its further seizure of power...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Used to be a common "evil mad scientist" scenario on TV shows and some movies where one whack job figured if he could control the weather, then he could control the planet and its people.

On the school bus, among us kids it would be the subject of much ridicule and derision albeit in youthful words of expression.

But here we are now with an enormous group of people on board with a hoax.

Number of hurricanes greater than last year's=AGW
Number of hurricanes LESS than last year's=AGW
Number of tornadoes higher or lower=AGW
Severe blizzard events=AGW

My god, a 100 year old, rotted out oak tree crashed into the house two weeks ago; My landlady said, "Must be that global warming". Yes, she was serious.

As an indictment of the American education system, it's one thing but of the average human's ability to willfully believe in something that is simply not true is a testimony to something that has afflicted humans since we started walking upright.

A good myth sells. Kingdoms and nations were lost on the basis of a myth. Thousands were murdered on the same justification. Millions, even.

People can be incredibly stupid but it's especially maddening when the supposedly "educated" among us prefer nonsense to empirical evidence.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (63)
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This is a very good summary except for this sentence: "Both heat index and wind chill are simply propaganda tools designed to make viewers think conditions are more extreme than they really are." What utter nonsense! Both wind chill and heat index are extremely useful things to know when you'll be spending an extended period outdoors. People can use them in a misleading manner, but come on!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In his memoirs, Casanova writes that in his youth one of his teachers told him to avoid reading newspapers, because they basically said the same thing all the time and were filled with lies. This has essentially been the history of newspapers ever since, apart from great journalists, such as H. L. Mencken, Ernie Pyle, and the Welshman Gareth Jones, who was the first to break the news of the Ukrainian famine in the early 1930s (and was smeared in the New York Times by its Moscow apologist Walter Duranty). Around the time of the First World War, the American writer John Dos Passos wrote to a friend that the Times was responsible for half of what was wrong in America and that he would do better to read the Lady's Home Journal (or whatever its equivalent was in those days).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
History will laugh at the AGW alarmists as it laughed at those that thought the world flat or that the sun revolved around the Earth. History ALWAYS treats ignorance with utter disdain...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You're tricking people by befuddling them with factiness and logicality. What do prominent celebrities say about this topic? What are we talking about again? Is the game on yet?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
While it's certainly true that AGW is a load of bunkum, it's kind of absurd to label wind chill and heat index, both of which were around long before anyone dreamed up global warming, as propaganda tools.

As someone who has stood watch in a steam plant, I'm pretty sure heat index exists. As someone who has walked between two aircraft carriers parked pierside in December, I can assure you that wind chill is very real.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yep, pier 12 was a cold lonely place in the dead of winter, I(shudder) remember it well. The worst was the 04 to 08 brow watch...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The "Times" could have looked at their own archives going back 100 years to see example after example of false, sensationalist weather and climate reporting in . . . . The New York Times!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thinking about the discussion below re asteroid impacts. Actually, this is especially pertinent since the AGW crowd are trying to use the same risk analysis on global climate change as people used on asteroid impacts. The common argument for massive AGW actions is that "it will only cost $X, as opposed to having the planet burn up.

The problem is that while we can get pretty close estimates for the probabilities of asteroid impacts, and while moving them may be very costly, finding and tracking them to gather the required statistics is not; we do not have such assurance for the climate. Climate modeling and the calculation of the required probabilities and risk is not the exact science that the AGW crowd claims that it is, nor are they honest in their calculations of the costs involved.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Many Americans are quick to deride the gullibility of Germans for buying into the big Nazi lie that Jews were the sole/primary cause of their country's post-WWI economic problems. But a big percentage of our population, including a lot of otherwise intelligent folks, are willing to accept the equally ludicrous AGW myth, let the government spend untold sums and adopt a multitude of dubious regulations in order to FIGHT AGW. Trying to "stabilize" the weather is about as dumb and futile a quest as we could ever embark upon.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Reading the Daily Mail UK today and the headline screams:
America's first climate change refugees: Hundreds forced to flee their Alaskan village before it disappears underwater within a decade!

It's an Inuit village on Kivalina, which is a sand bar and so far no one has left. It has a population of 377 people.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I call them the 'I can see Russia from my backyard' ignorants as they sincerely and totally believe the outright lies the media have conned them with.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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