This story really gets to the heart of the Met Office’s desperation to rewrite history. As has been mentioned on several blogs elsewhere, Steve Connor writing in the Independent today, tries to hold the line against those who have circulated the now infamous article written by Charles Onians and published by the Independent in 2000 titled: ‘Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past’.
Connor has published a piece titled: ‘Don’t believe the hype over climate headlines’ and neatly sums up the story so far:
A story published 10 years ago in The Independent (ind.pn/8Xiaa8) has gone viral on the internet.
Climate contrarians have been making much of an article published on 20 March 2000 – the last day of winter – with the headline: “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.”
Self evidently, snow has not become a thing of the past, judging from the amount that fell in Britain in December. Contrarians who dismiss the scientific evidence for climate change have been busy copying the article far and wide in an attempt to expose the “hype” of global warming.
Connor focuses very carefully on the comments of Dr David Viner. Rigidly so. Amusingly Connor’s defence of Viner – and key mention of Viner’s assessment that we could really be caught out by snow, which could cause chaos in 20 years time – requires him to undermine mainstream media journalists and editors the world over by demonstrating how they sex up articles to make them saleable. In other words, Connor as a mainstream media journalist is saying we cannot take at face value anything we are told by mainstream journalists. Connor also retails the hypocritical stance of warmists who, despite repeatedly pointing to damaging or severe weather events and claiming them to be evidence of climate change caused by global warming, tell us when it suits them that:
Just as one swallow does not make a spring, one hot summer or cold winter does not prove or disprove climate change. Climate is what we expect over a long period – often too long to be retained by human memory – whereas weather is what we get from one day to the next.
The irony is staggering. Anyway, Connor then rambles on about Russia, permafrost, Arctic Ice, computer modelling and Vladimir Putin before arriving at his desired destination where he opines:
So a headline saying that “snowfalls are now just a thing of the past” is not a scientific prediction or statement. It is a newspaper headline, and should be treated as an invitation to read the entire story, which in this case clearly pointed out that snowfalls are becoming less frequent in Britain. This is still the case even with the experience of having two snowy winters on the run.
Pure semantics. Now the story gets interesting because the Met Office, via their own blog, have jumped in with both feet to heartily endorse Connor’s article in a piece titled: ‘Don’t believe all the climate headlines’. It lauds Connor for making:
… some fine points about the difficulty for scientists and science journalists to find a balance between writing interesting stories that catch the eye of the reader (the fundamental job of a good journalist) and the difficulties and conveying all the tiny caveats and nuances that go with science stories, especially those about climate science.
The case Steve refers to is about the likely chances of snowfall in the future under climate change. The headline used 10 years ago was “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”, but I can assure you that no self respecting climate scientist would ever make such a bold statement, not today or ten years ago.
The reason for this is quite simple – that kind of statement is just not true when taken out of context of the whole article that deals with all those caveats and nuances that can be so hard to understand.
Sadly for the Met Office, as we are about to see, Viner’s underlying point was not misrepresented at all. Viner did indeed say that heavy snow ‘will return occasionally’ but that is not the same as saying ‘snowfalls are becoming less frequent’. To return they would have to have departed. If asked to define ‘occasionally’ no reasonable person would suggest that three bitter, snowy winters on the trot fits the definition. What we are seeing is not an occasional return of snow, but an emerging pattern of colder winters, which runs contrary to what Viner and the Met Office have predicted over the last decade.
The only entity taking the 2000 article out of context is the Met Office, which like Connor, is also attempting to airbrush from the record the comment attributed to David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire. who said that:
… ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes – or eventually “feel” virtual cold.
That is not a newspaper sub editor’s headline. That is not a suggestion of snow becoming less frequent. That is a prediction that we will hardly ever see snow. There are no caveats and not much nuance there. So is the Met Office saying that Parker’s assertion is just not true, or that he is not a self respecting climate scientist? Either way, what is clear is that Parker’s comment does demonstrate that Viner’s comment was not taken out of context at all. The whole thrust of the article was warmer winters to come and snow become a rare – even virtual – event. Connor is actually doing what he warned us newspapers do, and sexing up his story to support the warmists. He is trying to make his story a big rebuttal piece – by spinning.
Perhaps that is why neither Connor (‘Steve’ as the Met Office blogger calls him) nor the Met Office make any reference to Parker. Crucially the Met Office and Connor both seem to have also forgotten the recent spin that colder winters and increased snow are actually by-products of global warming – which is a clear contradiction of Viner’s and Parker’s points. In trying to redefine Viner (and Parker) and suggest (wrongly) they have been taken out of context, the Met Office has actually undone itself again in its own desperation to spin, by not thinking their argument through and contradicting their own stance.
Connor (let’s call him Steve because it’s so chummy) is clearly attempting to have journalism take one for the warmist team to aid the Met Office, but all he has done is open a can of worms about how the Met Office appears to be engaged in the selective briefing of ‘on message’ journalists like himself and Roger Harrabin to write supportive puff pieces in an attempt to spin the Met Office out of trouble and play down predictions that were at no time rejected until after the weather confounded them. The concept of stopping digging when in a hole has not registered at the Ministry.
Update: Dr Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation kindly directs me to the comments of the Met Office’s Dr Peter Stott (contained within the link), who in February 2009 said:
Despite the cold winter this year, the trend to milder and wetter winters is expected to continue, with snow and frost becoming less of a feature in the future.
The famously cold winter of 1962/63 is now expected to occur about once every 1,000 years or more, compared with approximately every 100 to 200 years before 1850.
Not much by way of caveat and nuance there either. The trend in the two winters since, as mentioned above, has been for increasingly old and snowy winters – and 2010 as a whole has also be confirmed as the 12th coldest year in the UK in the 100 years since national records began.