Heartland distorts AMS climate survey results, paper

The Heartland Institute, an organization known to have pushed a pro-tobacco, “smoking is safe” agenda in the 1990s on behalf of Phillip Morris and that now pushes climate disruption denial, released a short “news” article on February 1 titled “Meteorologists Reject U.N.’s Global Warming Claims.” The article distorts the survey it purports to be reporting on and ignores the associated Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) paper’s conclusions in favor of Heartland’s political position.

The worst distortion is that Heartland says that the survey is more widely applicable than it actually is. In different parts of the article, Heartland claims that the survey applies a) to all American Meteorological Society (AMS) broadcast meteorologists, b) to all AMS members, and c) to all scientists. Here are the three applicable quotes:

Only one in four American Meteorological Society broadcast meteorologists agrees with United Nations’ claims that humans are primarily responsible for recent global warming….

The survey of AMS meteorologists shows only a small minority of AMS members agree with the AMS bureaucracy’s position statement….

The survey results contradict the oft-repeated assertion that a consensus of scientists believes humans are causing a global warming crisis. (emphasis added)

These three claims are not only incompatible with each other, but they’re also in opposition to what the paper reporting the 2008 survey results actually says.

According to the BAMS paper, “Opportunities and Obstacles for Television Weathercasters to Report on Climate Change”, the 2008 survey actually applies only to the 121 meteorologists who responded to the online survey. As such, the survey is self-selected and isn’t statistically valid for all AMS broadcast meteorologists as Heartland claims. In addition, the survey was only sent to AMS weather forecasters who have a college degree in meteorology, and the AMS membership is over “14,000 professionals, professors, students, and weather enthusiasts”. For that reason, the survey can’t say anything about the larger AMS membership’s views on climate even though Heartland makes that claim too. Finally, 60 self-selected respondents rejecting the science behind anthropogenic climate disruption says precisely nothing about scientists – physicists, chemists, geologists, climatologists, et al – in general. The claims in the Heartland article are clearly incorrect.

In another distortion of the BAMS paper, the Heartland article fails to provide critical context for a claim it makes. Heartland points out that “a prior survey of all television weather forecasters – including ones without meteorological training – produced a heavy percentage of skeptics,” but neglects to mention that the 2002 survey in question found

widespread ignorance of and misinformation about basic climate change science is evident, and as the data describe, much of that can be connected to the values and beliefs that weathercasters hold about the topic….

The results of this survey indicate that many television weathercasters have created dissent in areas in which scientific consensus exists. Their misunderstandings of the basic principles of meteorology, which also apply to climate change, are baffling and ultimately can be explained in this sample by their own politicizing of the science.

In other words, the weather forecasters are guilty of making climate change a political issue because they ignore the actual climate science. Yet Heartland neglects to mention this context.

Heartland also interviewed one of the weather forecasters responsible for politicizing the science of climate disruption, ICECAP’s Joe D’Aleo. D’Aleo guessed incorrectly about the purpose of the recent survey and BAMS paper, saying

This survey likely was conducted in an attempt to isolate a “more scientifically trained” subset of broadcast meteorologists that could be touted as more scientifically knowledgeable than television weathercasters as a whole. The survey shows, however, that such an attempt has backfired.

If D’Aleo had actually read the BAMS paper, he’d know that his guess was not the purpose of the survey. Instead, the BAMS paper points out that these individuals were surveyed specifically because

they are the primary targets of the new online instructional course that will count toward AMS professional development credits.

And the purpose of that course is to educate weather forecasters about how climatologists have attributed climate disruption to human influences and how climate models work and differ from weather models, as well as to provide a reference list of recent information for forecasters to use on a day-to-day basis.

The BAMS paper’s conclusions are that meteorologists need more education into the differences between climatology and meteorology, between climate and weather. From the paper;

In his blog, John Coleman makes many reasonable assertions, but one in particular relates to the distinction between climate and weather (or climatology and meteorology). “Global warming is not a religion, it’s not something you believe in, it is science, the science of meteorology,” he says. While he’s absolutely correct that it’s not something to “believe” in, he’s incorrect that climate change is just the science of meteorology. It is the science of climatology, and while the two share many common foundations, the scale and scope of the two are quite different and reflect the need for further education to build on the commonalities while elucidating the distinctions.

And Heartland? They ignore this critical distinction entirely, instead quoting the meteorologist D’Aleo as saying “from my observation, the opinion of broadcast meteorologists on this is issue (sic) is similar to the opinions of all fields of practicing meteorologists.” As far as Heartland is concerned, there is no difference between climatology and meteorology, just as they maintain that there is no difference in expertise between 32,000 people with bachelor of science degrees and thousands of actual, practicing scientists.

The Heartland Institute has a long history of distorting facts to serve the economic interest of their donors, and they continue their campaign of misinformation with their ongoing denial of human-caused climate disruption.

13 replies »

  1. You know that the AGW scam is ending when the only answer to the recent revelations of how they cooked the temperature data is a screed about “big tobacco”

    ” A computer programmer named E. Michael Smith and a Certified Consulting Meteorologist named Joseph D’Aleo join the program to tell us about their breakthrough investigation into the manipulations of data at the NASA Goddard Science and Space Institute at Columbia University in New York and the NOAA National Climate Data Center in Ashville, North Carolina.

    E. Michael Smith kept a blog of his findings. See his site by clicking here.

    Joe D’Aleo has written a detailed report on the findings. It is available here .

    I have written a blog about this important climate news development. It is available by clicking here.

    D’Aleo wrote an outstanding article on Climategate. It is available here.

    You can read about the English Climategate leaked or hacked files at the Anglia University Climate Center at this newspaper site.

    And, there is a US connection with the original Climategate, as well. Professor Michael Mann, of Penn State University, is in the middle of it. Here is the latest on it.

    All five parts of the video are now online.”
    Links in original

  2. Nice straw man you got there, Mike. First off, you’re off topic. Second, as I pointed out at Care2 (thanks for visiting us here, BTW), you, Watts, D’Aleo, Coleman, et al get the science wrong. Here’s the analogy I posted at Care2, since it’s just as useful to point out the major flaw in your claim as anything else.

    It comes down to whether or nor you can use one weather station’s data as a substitute for another station’s data with respect to climate. And in many cases, the answer will be a resounding yes. Let me paint an analogy as to how this works.

    Let’s say you’ve got two trampolines, one down at the seashore and one high in the mountains. Clearly, one is much higher in elevation than the other, but does that matter for how high you can jump off the trampolines? Maybe, but maybe not.

    So you videotape yourself jumping off both trampolines and you find that, to within some small margin of error, you can jump 10 feet off each trampoline.

    What Coleman, D’Aleo, and Smith are saying is essentially that you’re jumping only 10 feet into the air off the trampoline at the seashore, but that you’re jumping thousands of feet into the air when your jumping off a trampoline in the mountains.

    Put back into terms of temperature, what matters isn’t so much the absolute temperature (equivalent to elevation for a trampoline) of the shore or the mountains, but rather the changes in temperature from one place to another. And if measurements show that changes in temperature in downtown LA are nearly 100% correlated with changes in temperature in San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Bernadino, then it’s reasonable to only use one of the four stations instead of all three.

    Check out the following link, Mike, as they debunk D’Aleo and Smith’s work rather completely: