Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hot Air

Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman, forced out at the network soon after it hit the air, was interviewed  (video below) Tuesday evening by Megyn Kelly of GOP TV.  Coleman is a long time climate change denier and his appearance gave Rush Limbaugh an opportunity to push his denialism when the latter remarked

One of my all-time favorite TV weather people is John Coleman.  John Coleman founded the Weather Channel.  John Coleman was the best weatherman Good Morning America has ever had.  I remember when I first heard of John Coleman, it was a winter in which Chicago had a week's worth or 10 days' worth of blizzards, and this would have been back in the seventies.  John Coleman didn't go home, and by day five he looked like he was asleep on that show doing the weather.  It was a yeoman job. 

They cut away to Chicago when it was time to do the weather.  He was entertaining. He was credible.

He may have been very entertaining and apparently worked hard three or four decades ago, but Coleman was not then- nor has he ever been- a meteorologist, much less a climate scientist.  When Kelly asked him about carbon dioxide, he contended

Well, there are 9,000 PhDs and 31 scientists who have signed a petition saying it is not a significant greenhouse gas.  Oh, it's a teeny, itsy-bitsy greenhouse gas. But it's not in any way significant, and we are sure of it.  It's not like something I made up or just thought of.  I've studied and studied and studied.

Media Matters swiftly debunked both this claim and Coleman himself, explaining

Moreover, Coleman's experience in weather forecasting does not make him an expert in climate science -- there is an immense difference between a scientist and a weather forecaster. For starters, they use different models and ask different questions: climate scientists observe and predict long-term trends over entire ecosystems, while meteorologists focus on weekly, daily, and hourly changes in the weather. MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel previously compared asking a meteorologist's opinion on the state of climate science to "asking a country doctor to comment on the latest developments in biomedical research." Disregarding the fact that Coleman never received a formal education in meteorology -- his degree was in journalism -- his experience predicting the weather does not make him a credible source to debunk the vast majority of scientific literature on climate change.

Coleman also claimed that "9,000 Ph.D.'s and 31 [thousand] scientists" agree with his position on climate change, referring to the widely discredited Oregon Petition Project. Its signatories are mostly engineers with master's degrees, and it once included the names of fictitious characters and a member of the Spice Girls.

Coleman thanked Fox News for giving him a platform (in contrast to "the media" he berated), and in fact, Fox News has frequently turned to Coleman to deny the scientific consensus on global warming.

For years, Coleman has been connected to the Heartland Institute, which has been funded by fossil-fuel interests, and its promotion of climate change denial. Coleman was featured at a Heartland Institute climate conference in July of this year. Previously, he hosted four paid associates of Heartland to deny climate change on the San Diego station where he worked as weathercaster for 20 years (he has since retired). As Coleman told Kelly, the Heartland Institute has been promoting his letter urging UCLA's Hammer Museum to "provide balance" to a debate it recently hosted on climate change. In the letter, Coleman wrote, "It is important to have those who attend know that there is no climate crisis."

Along with the claim that innumerable (though one number or another is invariably cited in order to appear more credible) scientists believe global warming is a hoax, conservatives love to claim the ice sheet in the Antarctic or, in the case of Coleman, in the Antarctic and the Arctic is diminishing. Coleman maintained

Well, I would like to announce tonight to people who are friends of Algore's that, whoops! He got that one wrong.  The Antarctic ice cap is at an all-time record high in both coverage and thickness, and the Arctic ice cap at the North Pole is at the highest it has been in several years.  It's in its so-called normal range since we got satellite observations that could measure it.  So not only is the ice not melting, more polar bears are alive and happy today than we've had in a hundred years! Life is good, Miss Kelly. I gotta tell you, life is good.

It was a nice touch- "satellite observations" and "in its so-called normal range."  If one didn't know who this guy Coleman is, or that his forum was Fox News, he might be half as credible as Limbaugh thinks he is.  However, summarizing a study from earlier this year in the journal The Cryosphere, The Guardian reports

German researchers have established the height of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps with greater precision than ever before. The new maps they have produced show that the ice is melting at an unprecedented rate. 

The maps, produced with a satellite-mounted instrument, have elevation accuracies to within a few metres. Since Greenland’s ice cap is more than 2,000 metres thick on average, and the Antarctic bedrock supports 61% of the planet’s fresh water, this means that scientists can make more accurate assessments of annual melting.

Dr Veit Helm and other glaciologists at the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, report in the journal The Cryosphere that, between them, the two ice sheets are now losing ice at the unprecedented rate of 500 cubic kilometres a year.

Further, September

also marked the highest departure from average for any month since records began in 1880, breaking the previous record of 0.65°C (1.17°F) set just one month earlier in August. This is the third time in 2014 this all-time monthly high temperature record has been broken. Record warmth was observed in parts of every major ocean basin, particularly notable in the northeastern and equatorial Pacific Ocean. 

And in a startling coincidence, August (temperature anomalies in degrees of Celsius, map below from NASA) and September were the 354th and 355th consecutive months in which the average global land and sea temperature was higher than the 20th century average for those months. Self-proclaimed expert John Coleman is right about one thing, though: life is good for ideological extremists like Limbaugh and himself who shoot their mouths off with little accountability.

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