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Journos manufacturing the thousand year winter

Written By: - Date published: 9:49 pm, December 13th, 2010 - 32 comments
Categories: climate change, humour, making shit up, Media, science, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags:

On RealClimate.org I ran across this amusing example of the capacity of the media to inflate a science story to whatever their headlines demand – “Coldest Winter in 1000 Years Cometh – not“, which is adapted from the German original at KilmaLounge

It all starts with a journo in Poland looking at a claim by someone saying that the Gulf oilspill was slowing down the Gulf stream – which is somewhat unlikely – actually pretty damn nutty when you think about the relative volumes. Bit anyhoo…

The journo talked to Polish scientist Mikhail Kovaleski posing a hypothetical about what effect that a slowdown in the Gulf stream would mean for Europes climate. Now to anyone that follows the recent (ie last million years or so) of paleoclimate history of Europe, the answer is obvious – in fact I wrote a michevious post on it last Christmas “Those childish people of Northern European descent.”

This is what Mikhail Kovaleski had to say about the press reporting his comments.

The reports in some media are absolutely unbelievable. A journalist who interviewed me for radio had asked me about the theoretical climatic effects of a breakdown of the Gulf Stream. I answered that this purely hypothetic scenario would lead to much colder winters in Poland. A few days later I found on the internet the article of a journalist who mixed his own words with some of my quotes without their context so well that a completely new meaning came out. An absolutely absurd thesis. My quotes as such are correct, so I was not able to demand a correction.

Yep. The next journo to pick it up had the nutters parts trimmed out of the story, probably so that they could get the headline “Millennium Winter is Coming!”. So it was now that a Polish scientist was blaming the BP spill for slowing the Gulf stream.

Russian radio picked it up with Russian scientists saying it was exaggeration. That was probably a mistake as we know that journos tend to pick up those types of statements as a bit of a challenge. And yes the next headline is “The coldest winter in 1000 years”.

Ok that is enough to get one of world more renowned blogging nutters (Anthony Watts) on almost anything, but who seems to me to specialize in inflating any easy to read headline on climate into something beyond any reason – probably as a result of his media experience.. In this case he was suggesting that some kind of war was breaking out between Polish and Russian scientists. As the realclimate post kindly puts it…

The “climate sceptics” website wattsupwiththat, noted for their false reports..

Surely it’d stop there right?

Any credible journo would at least check the sources of such a story especially when it came from that source…. Ah no…. I guess that it is too good a headline so foolish journos start repeating other fools.

From then on, the story is repeated on many other European media, including serious newspapers and television.

It is staggering how one journalist just copied another, sometimes even embellishing the story, without ever bothering to check the source or ask Kowalewski himself. It took us less than ten minutes of googling to get serious doubts about whether this story was real. The familiar pattern of „Chinese whispers“ emerges here once again – the same that widely spread the false whatevergate-stories.

But the often self-righteous free western press can actually learn a lesson from its Chinese counterpart in this case. The Chinese news agency Xinhua checked the story and issued the following on October, 20.:

A forecast attributed to Polish scientists of the coldest European winter in 1,000 years has drawn plenty of media attention recently but investigations by Xinhua reporters have cast doubts on its veracity.

I haven’t bothered with half of the links, but they’re buried in the RealClimate article, including a link to a real science based blog looking at some of the science about the cold winters in Europe over the last few years and following up with a later post saying that Europe may be about to get their coldest winter since 1963.

Kind of weird that you have to rely on a Chinese  news agency and some rational bloggers to get you some real information on what is really happening in the world. Did anyone see that story appear in the media here?

I feel like having some more fun – just like the title of this post is trying to inflate the story – just like a real journalist would… You know, like that TV weather presenter and media personality Anthony Watts that all the other journos take their stories from…

32 comments on “Journos manufacturing the thousand year winter ”

    • lprent 1.1

      I read that one as well and thought about writing it up. However at heart this is a political blog. I suspect that many would get the story about a direct screwup by journos manufacturing a headline based story. The fact that there are so few journos that understand enough science in the general media to differentiate shit science from real science would tend to baffle them.

      After all many of our lurkers are probably journos political and otherwise. We all know how well they understand climate science after watching them writing for several years on the ETS. They’re almost getting up with David Farrar.

      He manages to make me cringe every time I see him treating the low range of the IPCC AR4 as some kind of book of the relevation for the certainty it brings to the future. I guess he forgot to look at the warnings in part one about the things they left out of the models because they weren’t certain enough about how bad the effect was to put in the models.

      Umm there is another satirical post there somewhere.

    • ZeeBop 1.2

      The yes camp say that more gases trap more heat, the no camp say the planet ain’t warming.
      Can both be right. Well yes. The planet would need to expell more heat, and store more
      heat, to achieve this. Just like oil, oil is sun energy, a way to store excess heat! Heat
      can be stored in water currents, what after all is the atlantic conveyor that keeps
      N.Europe warm. So we know that more heat *is* being stored in the waters of
      the oceans of the world because the North Ice Polar sea is melting! Now the
      question becomes where is this heat being expelled, from the sea? or from the land?
      Well the sea is at sealevel! Land can go up, and also push air masses, very close
      to space. So we’d expect if the planet is heating the oceans, its also releasing more
      heat when the air masses hit the northern continent masses in WINTER. Great
      cooling over the northern continents! Hotter summers, warmer seas, colder winters,
      colder N.Continents. We are already seeing a colder Antractic continent! Go figure.

      • lprent 1.2.1

        The key words are “climate change”. Trapping more energy will cause climates to change and they won’t do the same thing in all places. It is simplistic to expect a dynamic and chaotic system to conform to simplistic “black body” type effects.

  1. john 2

    Year 2010 to be the world’s hottest year
    Why is the Winter earlier and colder even more?

    The British Met Office has predicted that the year 2010 would be the world’s warmest year. The uncontrolled climate change and natural disasters will make year 2010 the world’s most hottest year. Year 1998 was the hottest year in the history of last two centuries. The predictions are year 2010 will be even warmer than 1998. Green House gases (GHG) will contribute to most of this heating. The emission of Green house gases is in rising trend and it will make the environment hotter enough to be the world’s hottest year.

    But contradictions are there. Scientists are divided into two groups, one supporting the fact and other rejecting the fact. Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said, “If 2010 turns out to be the hottest year on record, it might go some way towards exploding the myth, spread by the climate conspiracy theorists that we’re experiencing global cooling. In reality the world is getting possibly a lot hotter, and humans are causing it.”

    The British Met office has also predicted that most of the years between 2010 and 2020 will be hotter than 1998. It means the coming years are not easy for living beings. More hotter the earth will become, more natural disasters it will bring.

    I don’t know whether 2010 will be the world’s hottest year or not, I am sure of Global warming. The earth will continue to warm if we will not stop the emission of green house gases into the atmosphere. But it seems to be non realistic in today’s competitive world.

    Updates on Global Warming:

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has revealed that the first 8 months of the year 2010 and year 1998 are the hottest ever recorded in history. So the prediction by British Met official is turning true about year 2010

    Something strange is happening in Northern Europe. The World is having one of its hottest years ever,perhaps the hottest and this is confirmed by the extreme heat wave Russia suffered in the Summer with major forest fires, and yet Northern Europe is now plunged into one of its coldest Winters since the end of the mini ice age in the 19th century.Also the mediating influence of the warming Gulf Stream is apparently absent at the moment. Climate change is climate chaos and that’s what’s happening there now. The Gulf Stream has been stopped before by immense run offs of fresh water from melting land based ice. Conclusion whether or not the coldest Winter in a 1000 years,the Thames would have to freeze over, Climate Change,Chaos is causing these extremes.

    • oscar 2.1

      This is only the coldest winter since 1963. Not since the mid ice age.
      Incidentally, what year was colder than in 1963? 1938? a 25 year gap between cold years.
      1998 was hottest year beating out 1988? A 10 year gap.
      Keep going back and plotting it all and you start to see a cycle. We’re entering a cold snap.
      Not sure how the geographic poles apparently changing 20122012 is going to affect climate though, if any.

      • NickS 2.1.1


        Ye gads, it’s a fucking regional phenomena, and doesn’t apply to the whole north hemisphere, and on top of that, it may be due to a loss of sea ice, leading to greater evaporation, which basically means more heat to drive winter storm systems and more snow. And there’s this wonderful thing called “statistics” that you might want to look at, as well as looking at other climate factors and economic factors, instead of making an arse out of yourself by proclaiming cycles where there is no statistical or scientific basis for them.

        But worst of all? The 2012 bullshit. While the earth’s magnetic field is slowly weakening, all the geological evidence suggests that it’s going to take geological time spans for anything to occur, and it hasn’t been linked ton any extinction events.

        • rich

          I’ve been trying to find a hippy to take a $1000 bet on the world ending in 2012, but have failed to find any takers.

          • lprent

            Try the revelationists, you’ll find more takers

          • NickS

            Sadly due to them being hippies, $1000 is rather hard to come by especially if they don’t grow their own weed. You’re much better aiming at the New Age yuppies, though the credit crunch probably ate their woo budget.

            Oh, and remember to get it in writing.

        • Oscar

          Yegads, you’re just as climatic as the rest of them.

          Englands always first off the bat for extreme weather events. The rest of the European continent takes longer as the warm air off the land slows down the speed of the winter storms.
          England has no such ability to do so, given the large natural thing called the ocean which carries the air straight from the arctic. Sweden is going through much the same, yet not so much attention is paid to them as they are able to ADAPT to the changing weather patterns.

          There is scientific basis for the cycles. I bet you believe Al Gores statistical bollocks of the hockey stick graph as well? Look at that in full. It clearly shows cycles where hot peaks and cold troughs occur on a fairly regular short term (40 years or less) basis.

          I love your last sentence. Geological time spans. Now apply that to climate change.
          This theory that we’re going to experience a sudden shift is nothing more than bullshit. It’s not like Earth is going to be suddenly blanketed with ice and desert as linked to in another post. Geological time spans. Plenty of time for us to adapt to the next 40 years before another upswing in the cycle.

          As for 2012? Perhaps you need to read more about that. It’s absolutely nothing to do with that terrible John Cusack movie which is probably right up there with ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ so you’re hardly likely to find hippies that believe in the doomsday scenario. It’s the dawning of the age of Aquarius, and it’s true that for the first time in 26,000 years, ALL the planets will be in one straight line sandwiched between black holes at either end.
          Perhaps you should stop breathing if you believe so much in climate change. Stop producing CO2 with your waffle Nick.

          • lprent

            Have a look at this post over at RealClimate where the author is having a look at relative atmospheric residency durations of various climate affecting compounds in the atmosphere.

            The problem with your viewpoint is that releasing extra CO2 doesn’t have just short-term effects, it continues for very long time spans. The second problem is that it not be a nice linear process that is so beloved of the simplistic, it will be spikey as various tipping effects happen. When they happen the effect will most likely be in less than 10 years because they are mostly either ice-melt collapses which are usually quite fast (look at the Antarctic peninsula or what is happening to the Arctic sea ice mass, or what rapid mass diminution of glaciers in Greenland), or something like a methane release from methyl hydrates when a warm current moves which are of short duration but extremely rapid effect.

            As for the cyclic effects, even a back of the envelope calculation using the ultra-conservative IPCC projections will tell you that the longer cycles effects (ie over a decade) have already been pretty well completely swamped by the on-going effects of trying to double the atmosphere CO2.

            So frankly it appears to me that you simply don’t understand the issues.

            • Oscar

              200 years ago if one didn’t believe in God, you were called a heretic and burnt at the stake.

              In 2010, if you don’t believe in CC, you’re called a denier and lynchmobbed. Better than being burnt at the stake.

              Of course CO2 continues for a long time span. Evolutionary cycles mean nothing in terms of CO2 in the atmosphere.
              Carbon Sinks? They’re called trees. Hopefully you’re aware Lynn, that coal is nothing more than compressed trees (I ask as another believer didn’t know this and thought coal was compressed rock??)

              Renewable energy – trees. Burn the trees, replant them. They end up soaking up the CO2 that exists, but of course it’s pretty backward to plant trees at the same time as trying to reduce CO2. Using simplistic figures, How would you feel trying to breath just 5% oxygen, when we need at least 21 – 22%? Why would you expect trees to try to survive with just 5% CO2 as opposed to the 70% concentration they breathe in?

              As for the ice caps melting – they’ve melted before. What we’re seeing now is the snowball effect getting closer to the bottom of the hill – it gets bigger, and goes faster. Much like we’re seeing now.

              IPCC projections are simplistic in themselves, so any BOTE calculations done using those are a fallacy perpetuated in this global con. Longer cycles over a decade? Com’on Lynn, you can’t seriously expect me to believe that two high points in a decade cancels out two high points a decade previously. That’s what your sentence appears to be saying.

              The wave is already in motion. Try to be King Canute if you like, but geologically speaking, Greenland’s glaciers will melt, but new glaciers will simply form elsewhere. England is looking like the most likely contender to be the next glacial country, which frees up Greenland to be habitated once again. After all, the Vikings got to Greenland shortly before the glaciers there started their rapid advance.

              So, if you want to kill off plantlife, deprive humans of oxygen, believe that hell on earth will happen within a matter of years, then keep believing your conspiracy that less CO2 is beneficial for humans.

              I’ll keep believing mine because neither your “facts” or my “facts” will convince either one of us, thus dividing the population into those that believe, and those that deny.

              And I understand your issue perfectly well – it’s one that involves being ignorant of nature and trying to modify. Unfortunately, truth will never out given the vast sums of money spent on perpetuating this myth.

  2. nzfp 3

    While we are discussing the “amusing example of the capacity of the media to inflate a science story to whatever their headlines demand” lets not forget that on Monday, 20 March 2000 the UK News Paper “The Independent” reported that for the United Kingdom, Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”.

    The Independent quoted Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (originally funded by BP and Shell Oil among others) who stated that within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

    David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes – or eventually “feel” virtual cold.

    However, Dr vinter was correct in one prediction when he stated that heavy snow will return occasionally, but when it does we will be unprepared. “We’re really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time,” he said.

    The Independent further reported that:

    Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

    Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

    Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters – which scientists are attributing to global climate change – produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.


    Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. Average temperatures in Britain were nearly 0.6°C higher in the Nineties than in 1960-90, and it is estimated that they will increase by 0.2C every decade over the coming century. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the Nineties.

    However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers

    • NickS 3.2

      You still suck at understanding science, but by all means, show us the peer-reviewed evidence, or quotes from the IPCC that back up the above. Especially since climate science has continually grown and gained new data and methodologies since 2000, and thus better understandings of the impacts of polar ice loss on Northern hemisphere weather. And nor does this cold snap make the heat waves Europe’s had the last couple of years disappear.

      But then again, what can we expect when you’re already well known to be incapable of basic statistical thinking, let alone contextualising and understanding basic climate science?

      Which reminds me, since you’re back, I need to get around to cluebatting you over claiming vaccines cause autism, particularly as you used the Hannah-Poling case with out bothering to think about basic fucking context issues.

  3. higherstandard 4

    Is this similar to the bombastic journos manufacturing the end of life as we know it ?

    As per the last paragraph in this piece.

    Cancun another non event

    Arghhhh my eyes !!

    • lprent 4.1

      Ummm – that is exactly what the post was about. Journos making crap up out of literally nothing.

      But in the linked post

      Copenhagen wasn’t enough. Cancun wasn’t enough. We’re never going to agree to do enough. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

      Hard to see what is wrong with that last paragraph. What did you read?

      • NickS 4.1.1

        Oh yeah, can please you fix the stuffed up bold tag in nzfp’s first post? Teh bold is making my eye’s bleed and my brain thirst for cider…

      • higherstandard 4.1.2

        I was thinking more of the scare tactics.

        “Such a rise which would be much higher nearer the poles would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the Earth, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable and threatening the basis of human civilisation. …

        [science writer Mark Lynas] said: “It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles.”

        • Oscar

          It’s obvious Mark Lynas has failed to grasp the basic concept of the Earth having a bulge in the centre. Any sea level rises would start at the equator (where the crust is thickest) and spread outwards from there, thanks to the gravitational pull of our satellite.

          More land would be available at the poles, but the temperature would certainly be far more mild, suitable only for growing root crops.
          It’s unfortunate really, that when the Antarctic glaciers melt away, NZ’s territory is largely sea water with a thin strip of beach.

          The other thing Lynas says is that the transition would be abrupt. Erm, the transistion is happening now.
          We should be discussing how to help the countries that will be affected. Mankind should be adapting, not trying to stop nature. Only one of us will win that battle, and it won’t be us.

          • NickS

            We should be discussing how to help the countries that will be affected. Mankind should be adapting, not trying to stop nature. Only one of us will win that battle, and it won’t be us.

            Definition fail detected.

            Humans evolved.
            Evolution is natural.
            Therefore all human actions are natural.
            Therefore how can we fight nature?

            And since it’s a deductive statement, you can’t apply the genetic fallacy to it.


            Though it does require a rigorous, science grounded definition of nature, that excludes “un” and “super” categories on the basis of historical natural explanations of what were called supernatural (all teh way down to teh quantum), and the moral loading of “unnatural”. Mind thee, that’s the short argument, the long one requires venn diagrams and an essay that involved philosophy of science related to epistemology, and goes into depth on the inductive argument(s).

            Something I’ve been meaning to write for 3 years now… *ahem*

            As for the bulge, it only affects a part of the ocean, and if you knew your tidal physics, you’d know why. Thermal expansion on the other hand explains it far better, and at present is thought to be the main driver of sea level increases in the tropics at present.

            • oscar

              You’d also find that at the bulge, land is generally a lot lower than the towering cliffs you find on land masses closer to the poles.
              So any sea level rise would be far more pronounced at the equator, due to the lower land levels, we’re already seeing it with tokelau. Close to the equator, lower land level.
              Any melt water spreads across the ocean as a whole, not just in one geographic place. Does the bath only fill up near the tap? No, it fills up evenly!
              So again, more land becomes available as the glaciers run off, and land starts pushing it’s way back up. Continental Rise I think it is.
              And this is all taking place over thousands of years. If we want to start getting more land to house humanity, then lets get the land available by melting the caps a bit quicker.
              While we’re doing this, the poles are shifting (faster than we realise it too) so lets make the poles frozen. We couldn’t live at the poles if the land there was like NZ anyway!
              Lets let England freeze. Greenlands 3x bigger than England, so plenty of room to house people, with new pasture, fresh water and snowcapped mountains.
              Sounds a lot like NZ, but bigger. A second chance to put all that we’ve learned into practice and keep the water clean, keep sustainable businesses, and enjoy a new period of prosperity.
              Londinium has had a good run. Let it join the ranks of Rome, Babylon, Byzantine, Atlantis and other great cities.

            • lprent

              You’re wasting your time with this one. For a starter I don’t think that Oscar understands what the thermal expansion effect of water means. From reading his comment, he seems to have some idea that climate change moves the orbital path of the moon (I think).

              Also you notice his bath analog? Obviously doesn’t use them often enough. When I do and when I add hot water, it tends to cook my feet while my butt is still cold. The same in reverse if I add cold water. I have to stir the water to get an even distribution of heat. Water mixes slowly.

              But Oscar clearly expects godlike superpowers to be readily available. I can just see those big hands come in from the sky to speed the centuries long movements of ocean currents redistributing heat and salinity differences in a human timescale.

              He himself expects his own superpowers to be active in the bath. A thermal expansion effect in water is relational to the height of the water column. So to be able to see a effect of a lot less than a millimetre in a bath that is centimeters deep, he’d need super vision. Of course on an atoll with the surrounding water column being kilometer deep in most cases, it is possible to see the effects of centimeter level rises in the coast without super vision.

              Generally oscar has problems of scale. He certainly doesn’t understand the time scale required for glacial rebound effects and how they operate. Because if he did and rebounds did operate in his timescales then he’d be talking about the tourism opportunities of experiencing rapid earthquakes in Greenland as well. Rock is a lot less elastic than water – an effect that Oscar can find out for himself by banging a hard structure like monolithic structure on top of his shoulders against a rock face. Glacial overburden rebounds tend to be small numbers of millimeters per year because of that lack of elasticity.

              To get the effect he is talking about in a human time scale you’d need movements of centrimetres per year. That would release a lot of stored energy in the deformations required and you’d get a *lot* of smallish shallow earthquakes.

              I could go on about Oscars inability to understand scale. But I think that it suffices it to say that the ladies would never be satisfied with his claimed 18″

              • NickS

                Awww, but I wanted to gnaw on him…

                Meh, too tired anyhow, and I can’t have coffee this late in the day if I want to sleep.

                And that comment on Greenland is really fucking funny, since I doubt there’s tons of good top soil under the ice that our main crops need and is required for productive pasture.

                • lprent

                  Missed that one. Soil formation from bare rock from weathering is a centuries long process in warm climates and even longer in cold climates. There would be a reasonably rapid build up of raw silt in the valley areas but that is pretty sterile until the lichens and bacteria get a good hold and start to break it down. A century maybe before it gets even a little fertile.

                  That can be accelerated by actively forcing soil formation. I mean what he is talking about is a terraforming exercise that we neither have the equipment (Heinlen’s rock crushers) or the experience of doing. But it certainly a long and arduous process, that is unlikely to be economic compared to making existing poor soils more fertile with known methods (and they aren’t particularly economic either)

                  • NickS

                    Actually, raw silt can be used, but it needs a large amount of organic carbon added to it to plus inoculation of various microbes and microfauna to make it much more fertile 😛

                    Helps though if your plants are adapted to poor, slow draining soils

                    Main problem though would be a short as hell growing season and the lack of geothermal energy sources for greenhouse growing.

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