Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans
Global warming is not expected to end anytime soon, despite what Breitbart.com wrote in an article published last week.
Though we would prefer to focus on our usual coverage of weather and climate science, in this case we felt it important to add our two cents — especially because a video clip from weather.com (La Niña in Pacific Affects Weather in New England) was prominently featured at the top of the Breitbart article. Breitbart had the legal right to use this clip as part of a content-sharing agreement with another company, but there should be no assumption that The Weather Company endorses the article associated with it.
In fact, thousands of researchers and scientific societies are in agreement that greenhouse gases produced by human activity are warming the planet’s climate and will keep doing so.
Along with its presence on the high-profile Breitbart site, the article drew even more attention after a link to it was retweeted by the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
The Breitbart article heavily references a piece that first appeared on U.K. Daily Mail’s site.
Here’s where both articles went wrong:
CLAIM: "Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record."
TRUTH: This number comes from one satellite-based estimate of temperatures above land areas in the lower atmosphere. Data from the other two groups that regularly publish satellite-based temperature estimates show smaller drops, more typical of the decline one would expect after a strong El Niño event.
Temperatures over land give an incomplete picture of global-scale temperature. Most of the planet – about 70 percent – is covered by water, and the land surface warms and cools more quickly than the ocean. Land-plus-ocean data from the other two satellite groups, released after the Breitbart article, show that Earth’s lower atmosphere actually set a record high in November 2016.
CLAIM: "It can be argued that without the El Niño (and the so-called "Pacific Blob") 2014-2016 would not have been record warm years." (David Whitehouse, Global Warming Policy Foundation, quoted by Breitbart)
TRUTH: NOAA data show that the 2014-16 El Niño did not even begin until October 2014. It was a borderline event until mid-2015, barely above the El Niño threshold. El Niño clearly added to the strength of the record global warmth observed since late 2015. However, if the El Niño spike is removed, 2016 is still the warmest year on record and 2015 the second warmest, according to climate scientist Zeke Hausfather (Berkeley Earth).
Global surface temperature trends for the period 1966-2015 analyzed for El Niño years (red boxes), La Niña years (blue boxes), and neutral years (black boxes), along with volcanic years (gold triangles). The three trend lines show that global temperature has been rising at a fairly consistent rate of about 0.15 - 0.17°C (0.27 - 0.31°F) once La Niña and El Niño departures are factored out. (Berkeley Earth)
CLAIM: "Many think that 2017 will be cooler than previous years. Myles Allen of Oxford University says that by the time of the next big United Nations climate conference, global temperatures are likely to be no warmer than the Paris COP in 2015. This would be a strange thing to happen if, as some climate scientists have claimed, recent years would have been a record even without the El Niño." (David Rose, U.K. Daily Mail, quoted by Breitbart)
TRUTH: There is nothing unusual about a drop in global surface temperatures when going from El Niño to La Nina. These ups and downs occur on top of the long-term warming trend that remains when the El Niño and La Niña signals are removed. If there were no long-term trend, then we would see global record lows occurring during the strongest La Niña events. However, the last year to see global temperatures hit a record low was 1911, and the most recent year that fell below the 20th-century average was 1976.
For an even deeper dive on the science, we recommend the blog by our experts.
Finally, to our friends at Breitbart: The next time you write a climate change article and need fact checking help, please call. We're here for you. I'm sure we both agree this topic is too important to get wrong.