When reporters and bloggers paraphrase science findings in the news, any misrepresentation, however slight, can turn into a “troll trap” and add fuel to conspiracy-threorist fires.
Case in point: The Verge ran a global warming impact piece last Thursday with a screaming headline reading “Global warming and sea ice loss made Hurricane Sandy worse, study says.”
The problem is that the cited study did not conclude that global warming made Sandy worse; it suggested a logic based on observations and science that would support such an idea.
You can read the uncorrected proof of a March 2013 Oceanography magazine article summarizing the study’s findings for yourself here, but let me review the particulars:
– The Ocenaography article does a good job describing how record-breaking de-icing of the arctic ocean this year allowed more cold air incursions farther south over North America.
– The arctic changes force more undulations in the jet stream, which allows “blocking highs” to suspend the westward movement of storm systems in the usual manner.
– Sandy was a storm that got re-routed towards the Atlantic coastline because of one of these unusual patterns.
All well and good, but the Oceanography article goes to great lengths to point out the following:
“Although a direct causal link has not been established between the atmospheric phenomena observed in late October and the record-breaking sea ice loss observed…all of the observations are consistent with such an interpretation.”
The Oceanography author goes on:
“…Perhaps the likelihood of greenhouse warming playing a significant role in Sandy’s evolution as an extratropical superstorm is at least as plausible as the idea that this storm was simply a freak of nature.”
With their brazen headline, Carl Franzen and the editors of The Verge decided to amp up the story with authoritarian certainty that was not present in the cited article.
Global warming deniers love this stuff: They feast on certainty, generalizations, and lapses of understanding that make it past editors – claiming each mis-statement or, in this case, overstatement, is proof of the vast eco-nazi conspiracy.
So let’s keep it tight out there, ok?