Patrick Michaels has outdone himself.
In a Tech Central Station piece earlier this week, he first completely misrepresents an AP story about a new piece of research into retreating glaciers on the Antarctic peninsula. Then, with the straw man in place, he cherry picks the science to knock it down.
(click through for more)
First, the straw man. Here’s Michaels’ explanation of the press coverage that so concerns him:
Last week on Earth Day, AP newswire led with a real scare story: “Study Shows Antarctic Glaciers Shrinking.” In doing so, the press, yet again, predictably distorted a global warming story.
By “Antarctica” they actually meant the Antarctic Peninsula, which comprises about 2% of the continent. It’s warming there and has been for decades. But every scientist (or for that matter, everyone who has read Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear”) knows that the temperature averaged over the entire continent has been declining for decades.
So did the AP story, as Michaels implies, suggest that all of Antarctica was warming? Let’s check the actual story, by Emma Ross of the AP:
The first comprehensive survey of glaciers on the Antarctic peninsula has shown that the rivers of ice are shrinking, mostly because of warming of the local climate (emphasis added)….
The Antarctic peninsula is a small segment of the Antarctic continent, located at the South Pole, and the behavior of the ice on the peninsula is not necessarily a reflection of what’s going on elsewhere in Antarctica, said another investigator, David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey.
Temperatures seem to be much warmer on the Antarctic peninsula than on the rest of the continent.
OK, so Michaels has clearly misrepresented the AP story. How’s he do on the science? Let’s reload the key quote: “But every scientist (or for that matter, everyone who has read Michael Crichton’s ‘State of Fear’) knows that the temperature averaged over the entire continent has been declining for decades.”
“Every scientist knows” sounds an awful lot like Michaels is trying to argue that there’s a scientific consensus on the question of continental-scale Antarctic temperature trends. The literature suggests anything but.
Michaels’ brief for the prosecution comes from Doran et al. in Nature in 2002, which reported “a net cooling on the Antarctic continent between 1966 and 2000.” But in citing only Doran, Michaels is engaging in a classic cherry-pick.
In a new review of Antarctic temperature data published this year in the International Journal of Climatology as part of the Reference Antarctic Data for Environmental Research project, John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey and his colleagues note other studies that have found trends opposite those published by Doran (for example Jones and Reid).
The bottom line message from Turner’s paper is that data is too sparse and uneven to get meaningful continental-scale trends. That would explain why some researchers see a warming trend in their data while others see the opposite.
Does this sound like “every scientist knows” that Antarctica is cooling?