Sunday, July 29, 2007

More BS Is Brewing

You can always tell when folks are selling bullshit as science because they feel the need to run everything like a public relations campaign. Which begs the question: What kind of snake oil are they selling?

First the story from Reuters: Study blames climate change for hurricanes

The number of Atlantic hurricanes in an average season has doubled in the last century due in part to warmer seas and changing wind patterns caused by global warming, according to a study released on Sunday.

Hurricane researchers have debated for years whether climate change caused by greenhouse gases from cars, factories and other human activity is resulting in more, and more intense, tropical storms and hurricanes.

The new study, published online in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, said the increased numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes in the last 100 years is closely related to a 1.3-degree Fahrenheit rise in sea surface temperatures.

The influential U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a report this year warning that humans contribute to global warming, said it was "more likely than not" that people also contribute to a trend of increasingly intense hurricanes.

In the new study, conducted by Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Peter Webster of Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers found three periods since 1900 when the average number of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes increased sharply, and then leveled off and remained steady.

From 1900 to 1930, Atlantic hurricane seasons saw six storms on average, with four hurricanes and two tropical storms. From 1930 to 1940, the annual average rose to ten, including five hurricanes.
Gee, I'd like to see a study that can do that despite all the myriad problems with comparing satellite collected data from the space age with the spotty reports of the early 20th century. (See my take here, Chris Landsea's that I blogged about here.) Not to mention that the study seemingly contradicts the latest findings in the field which predict warming decreasing the number and intensities of tropical storms. (Blogged about here.)

Of course, maybe they came up with something actually new and they did not (as I suspect) repackage the same old tired garbage that the media loves to print so much. And hey! The Reuters article said it was published online. I've looked for an hour and I cannot find it. If the article is available on the web why wouldn't Reuters have a link to it? Oh, that is because it hasn't actually been published yet. That happens tomorrow.

So what source of information is this "free and independent journalist" writing from?

Oh, I found that most important piece of present day "science"...the press release. Plus it's handy helper, the guide for idiot journalists. (So you can hold their hands when you tell them what to print.) But the actual study itself? Who needs it?!. Ah science.

Of course there is a name for all of this behavior. It is called "stealing a march." By placing sympathetic (with emphasis on the pathetic) stories in the media before anyone else can gainsay the report by doing crazy things like actually reading and studying it, you can get the message you want out in the press. And if it generates a few more press clippings that you can append to your next grant proposal, well who's to say anything against it?? That your actual work may be not worth the paper it is printed on is beside the point. You have what you want: another line on the CV, another hysterical item in the press, and another restful night because you know you will get your version of the story out and never have to deal with criticism from the other side until its too late.

It is bullshit, and unethical bullshit to boot.

No comments: