Severe local weather misinformation within the Seattle Time headline article

From the Cliff Mass Weather Blog

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Whether you are a climate activist, a government official, or a citizen who wants to be well informed about climate issues, it is important to have accurate and reliable climate information.

Unfortunately, the Seattle Times continues to provide untrue information with screaming headlines and stories that are easily proven false.

This disappointing behavior by Seattle’s only newspaper was evident on Tuesday (see below).

A blaring, big headline announced that “DATA CONFIRM THAT WARMING WORSE FLOODS AND DROUGHT“.


As I will show below, these claims are unfounded. The study confirms nothing. And the “expected connection” subheading is very revealing of the Seattle Times’ editorial approach.

The item

The article, like so many stories in our local paper, was a reprint of a Washington Post article (by Kasha Patel): A WARMER WORLD WILL CAUSE EXTREME DROUGHT AND RAIN. Undeniable new research proves it.

When a reporter calls research “undeniable,” you know they have little understanding of the scientific process. Science is ALL about disputing and questioning the facts and interpretations of others.

The “undeniable” information in question comes from a single new research paper”Change in intensity of hydroclimate events uncovered by Grace and Grace-FO‘ by Mathew Rodell and Bailing Li of NASA Goddard and published in the journal Nature Water.

This article describes the measurement of the Grace satellites, which can measure the water content of soils from space. Importantly, they only analyzed the period 2002-2021.

Their entire claim of a global warming signal is based on two observations: the past few years have had several droughts/heavy rainy seasons, and the earth has been warming over the last few decades.

Therefore, global warming/climate change is likely to be the cause. Correlation proves causation. Bad science logic (see below).

Why these claims are false

Let me start with something that should be obvious: You can’t pinpoint a global warming/climate change signal with a 20-year record – it’s not long enough.

There are many natural sources of climate variability: El Nino/La Nina with a period of 3–7 years, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation with a period of 20–30 years (see below), and others.

So, with all these natural sources of variability in precipitation, temperature, and other variables, it’s very difficult to get a global warming signal over shorter periods of time (several decades or less), especially since the global warming signal is relatively small and slow-growing . Note: It is generally accepted that the Earth has warmed by about 1.2°C over the last 150 years.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation moves between warm and cool periods.

A closer look at the paper itself reveals several serious additional issues. Let me show you some.

Below is the release number. The extreme hydrological events recorded by satellite are represented by colored dots. The black dashed line shows the monthly “intensity” of extreme hydrological events, essentially multiplying the number of events by their intensity.

The paper (and Seattle Times/WA Post article) highlights that extreme events have increased in number and intensity.

However, the increase in intensity of extreme hydrological events was ONLY LIMITED TO THE LAST THREE YEARS. This also applies to the number of “events”.

What has global warming done in the last 15 years? On holiday?

In short, there is no longer term trend in extreme hydrological events that would lead you to believe that global warming/climate change was the cause. Virtually no change from 2002 to 2018.

This is a major problem for their hypothesis

They also record the change in global mean temperature on the bottom panel. A slight warming (about 0.2 °C) can be seen over the 20-year period, with 2016 being the warmest year.

The change in extreme hydrological events (increasing by leaps and bounds only in recent years) differs greatly from the development of global temperature (distributed over the entire period), which undermines the authors’ claim that global warming may be the cause.

You’ll notice that the warmest year, 2016, didn’t have any more extreme events. Furthermore, their depiction shows little evidence that the intensity of extreme events has increased.

Given the above, is it likely that the Washington Post is correct in its claim that research proves that global warming’s forcing of hydrological extremes is “indisputable”? Of course not.

In fact, the evidence in this paper is so thin that one weather researcher (Daniel Swain) is quoted as saying:

“I think if this just came out of the blue and this was the only evidence we had that the hydroclimate extreme is getting bigger in a warming climate, it wouldn’t be very obvious on its own.”

Finally, the Seattle Times does not allow comments on articles from outside sources (like the Washington Post). Apparently, this allows them to post questionable information without anyone being able to question or comment on it. They do the same for their cartoonist, David Horsey, who constantly makes exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims about the climate.

newspapers should not be in the advocacy business.

She should In the business of communicating facts and where there is controversy, be both sides of the debate.

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