Fox & Friends hosted meteorologist and climate skeptic Joe Bastardi to cast doubt on global warming by making several dubious claims, including that El Niño is responsible for warming during the past 30 years. Moreover, Bastardi is not a climate scientist, and previous claims by Bastardi have been criticized by climate experts.
Bastardi Claims El Niño Caused Warming Over Past 30 Years
Bastardi Attributes Rising Temperatures To El Niño. On February 2, Fox & Friends hosted Bastardi, who claimed that "there's been a general trend upward here [in temperatures] over the last 30 years ... because the Pacific has been warm," referring to the phenomenon known as El Niño. From Fox & Friends:
BASTARDI: Now, if we go to 30-year satellite temperatures, you can see there's been a general trend upward here over the last 30 years. That's because the Pacific has been warm, there's been high sunspot activity. That's turning around now. And the global temperature has crashed from that peak in the middle of 2010 all the way down to January, we're well below normal and I believe 2011 will be near normal. What's very interesting about this, folks, is usually after a La Niña winter, the following winters are colder. [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 2/2/11]
In Fact, Climate Scientists Say El Niño Can't Explain Long-Term Global Warming
Scientists Say El Niño Can't Explain Long-Term Warming Trend. David Pierce, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography responded to the question, "How do climate scientists know that the warming in the past 30 years is not due to El Niños?" by writing that "the main way we know that El Niño is not responsible for the 'global warming' in recent decades is that the up-and-down temperature sequence of the El Niños and La Niñas does not match the long-term, secular rise in temperatures":
This question reminds me of when I was young, and my grandfather took me and my 5-year old cousin on an elevator ride. My grandfather told her that if she jumped up and down, she could jump to the top of the building. So she energetically jumped up and down, and after a minute the elevator doors opened, and there we were at the top of the building! My cousin was mighty impressed.
Of course, she was only 5, so we can forgive her for not understanding that it's perfectly possible for two things to be happening at the same time. She was jumping up and down, but the elevator car was going up at the same time. El Niño and the warming we have seen over the last 30 years are like that. We have had El Niños (warm events) and La Niñas (cold events), which push the Earth up and down in temperature. (By the National Center for Environmental Predictions's [sic] count -- they are part of NOAA, who also runs the National Weather Service -- we have had about 11 El Niño (warm) events since 1970, and about 10 La Niña (cold) events). At the same time, there has been a long-term, systematic warming of the planet. So the main way we know that El Niño is not responsible for the "global warming" in recent decades is that the up-and-down temperature sequence of the El Niños and La Niñas does not match the long-term, secular rise in temperatures.
Another way you can check if El Niño/La Niña are responsible for [t]he planetary warming is by examining the regions that they tend to influence, and see if there is a match. The planetary warming can be seen across broad swaths of the globe, but is concentrated in the polar regions. El Niño warming is concentrated in the tropics. So the spatial signature of El Niño warming does not match the spatial pattern of global warming either. [Email to Media Matters, 1/26/11]
Kevin Trenberth Of NCAR Called Bastardi's Previous El Niño Claim "Utter Nonsense." Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), told Media Matters via email:
The heat has to come from somewhere. In El Niño: or really the ENSO cycle of El Niño and then La Niña, the heat builds up during La Niña, and then is redistributed and comes out of the ocean during and following El Niño.
This is well documented (I can point you to papers). So there is a mini global warming (increase in temperature) in the latter part of El Niño.
The heat has to come from somewhere and so if the climate is warming because of a warm cycle in the Pacific, where did the heat come from? If it just comes from the ocean then the ocean must be cooling down. It isn't. Of course it is global warming from increased greenhouse gases that warms the ocean!
The statements are utter nonsense. [Email to Media Matters, 1/26/11]
RealClimate: Scientists Have "Known For Decades" That El Niño Correlates With Global Temperatures. From a July 2009 post on Real Climate, a science blog written by working climate scientists:
First, there is an atrocious paper that has just been published in JGR by McLean, de Freitas and Carter that is doing the rounds of the denialosphere. These authors make the completely unsurprising point that that there is a correlation between ENSO indices and global mean temperature - something that has been well known for decades - and then go on to claim that that all trends are explained by this correlation as well. This is somewhat surprising since their method of analysis (which involves taking the first derivative of any changes) eliminates the influence of any trends in the correlation. [RealClimate.org, 7/24/09]
Scientists Seek To Account For El Niño Effects When Evaluating Climate Change. Physicist John Cook wrote on his website that "[t]here have been various attempts to filter out the ENSO signal from the temperature record," adding that analyses have confirmed that El Niños have a "strong short term effect on global temperature but cannot explain the long term trend." From the post:
An examination of the temperature record from 1880 to 2007 finds internal variability such as El Niño has relatively small impact on the long term trend (Hoerling 2008). Instead, they find long term trends in sea surface temperatures are driven predominantly by the planet's energy imbalance.
There have been various attempts to filter out the ENSO signal from the temperature record. We've examined one such paper by Fawcett 2007 when addressing the global warming stopped in 1998 argument. Similarly, Thompson 2008 filters out the ENSO signal from the temperature record. What remains is a warming trend with less variability. [SkepticalScience.com, 9/3/10]
Bastardi Claims Gore Is "Not Right" That Increased Snowfall Is Consistent With Global Warming
Bastardi Says That Gore's Claim That Increased Snowfall Is Consistent With Global Warming Is "Not Right." From the February 2 Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: You know, Al Gore came out within the last 48 hours on his website and he said that scientists have said that the -- you know, all these storms are indicative of the Earth getting warmer. You got evaporation up there and more precipitation and hence, what's going on here. You say that's not right.
BASTARDI: What it is is the atmosphere is beginning to cool, that creates more clashes. You know what this is like with those folks? I don't mean to demean you, but Dooce, you used to wrestle. It's like the more your opponent scores, the more points you get. The fact of the matter is these guys are sitting here -- is there any answer they don't own? Four, five years ago, we're hearing no winters, lots of hurricanes, everything else. When the opposite happens, they say well, we're right about that. [Fox & Friends, 2/2/11]
Gore: Scientists Have Said That "Increased Heavy Snowfalls Are Completely Consistent" With Man-Made Global Warming. In a February 1 blog post - to which Doocy was referring -- Al Gore wrote:
Last week on his show Bill O'Reilly asked, "Why has southern New York turned into the tundra?" and then said he had a call into me. I appreciate the question.
As it turns out, the scientific community has been addressing this particular question for some time now and they say that increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming. [AlGore.com, 2/1/11]
But As Gore Noted, Climate Experts Indeed Have Explained Link Between Increased Snow, Warming
UCS: Rising Temperatures Can Lead To "More Extreme Precipitation -- Including Heavy Snowfall When Conditions Are Below Freezing." In a February 1 release, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) explained how global warming could contribute to increased heavy snowfall (emphasis in original):
Backgrounder: It's Cold and My Car is Buried in Snow. How Can Global Warming be Happening?
On a global scale, the most recent decade (2000-2009) has been declared the warmest decade on record since the 1880's, when temperatures were first recorded. But the recent snow storms have led to considerable confusion about how record snow relates to our changing climate.
Warming Climate and Ocean Evaporation
Snowfall is a combination of the moisture in the atmosphere and air temperature. As the Earth's temperature warms, the oceans evaporate more water to the atmosphere which produces more precipitation--notably more extreme precipitation--including heavy snowfall when conditions are below freezing. [UCS, 2/1/11]
NCAR's Trenberth: Predicted "Consequence" Of Warming Is An Increase Of Snowfall In Some Areas. Trenberth was quoted in a February 2010 NPR article explaining that a predicted "consequence" of global warming is an increase of snowfall in some areas. From the article:
Most don't see a contradiction between a warming world and lots of snow. That includes Kevin Trenberth, a prominent climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.
"The fact that the oceans are warmer now than they were, say, 30 years ago means there's about on average 4 percent more water vapor lurking around over the oceans than there was, say, in the 1970s," he says.
Warmer water means more water vapor rises up into the air, and what goes up must come down.
"So one of the consequences of a warming ocean near a coastline like the East Coast and Washington, D.C., for instance, is that you can get dumped on with more snow partly as a consequence of global warming," he says. [NPR, 2/15/10]
NYT: Most Climate Scientists Agree That Record Snows "Are Consistent With Forecasts That A Heating Planet Will Produce More Frequent And More Intense Weather Events." From a February 2010 New York Times article:
As millions of people along the East Coast hole up in their snowbound homes, the two sides in the climate-change debate are seizing on the mounting drifts to bolster their arguments.
Skeptics of global warming are using the record-setting snows to mock those who warn of dangerous human-driven climate change -- this looks more like global cooling, they taunt.
Most climate scientists respond that the ferocious storms are consistent with forecasts that a heating planet will produce more frequent and more intense weather events.
Climate scientists say that no individual episode of severe weather can be attributed to global climate trends, though there is evidence that such events will probably become more frequent as global temperatures rise.
Jeff Masters, a meteorologist who writes on the Weather Underground blog, said that the recent snows do not, by themselves, demonstrate anything about the long-term trajectory of the planet. Climate is, by definition, a measure of decades and centuries, not months or years.
But Dr. Masters also said that government and academic studies had consistently predicted an increasing frequency of just these kinds of record-setting storms, because warmer air carries more moisture.
"Of course," he wrote on his blog Wednesday as new snows produced white-out conditions in much of the Eastern half of the country, "both climate-change contrarians and climate-change scientists agree that no single weather event can be blamed on climate change.
"However," he continued, "one can 'load the dice' in favor of events that used to be rare -- or unheard of -- if the climate is changing to a new state." [The New York Times, 2/10/10]
Climate Experts Have Previously Criticized Bastardi's Claims
UCS Spokesman: Bastardi Doesn't Have "Expertise In What's Happening With Our Climate From A Long-Range Perspective." From a September 23, 2010, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article:
Which brings us to a slightly sticky subject: Dr. Gray, like Mr. Bastardi, firmly believes that human-generated global warming isn't happening but is just part of a natural phenomenon of long-term warming and cooling trends.
Both have received considerable flak for this -- New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert called Mr. Bastardi's position "ridiculous" in a column -- but Mr. Bastardi loves a good argument, so he appeared on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News program last year to debate the issue with Bill Nye, "The Science Guy." Then, in April, he faced off on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" against Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"He's among a minority of meteorologists, mostly on television, who say these things and who don't have expertise in what's happening with our climate from a long-range perspective," said Aaron Huertas, a spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It's about as valid as a climate scientist criticizing Mr. Bastardi's annual hurricane predictions." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/10]
UCS Fact-Checks Bastardi's Dubious Claims Following Discussion On Global Warming With UCS Climate Scientist. In April 2010, Bastardi appeared on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report to debate global warming science with UCS climate scientist Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel. Following the show, UCS debunked several of the dubious claims made by Bastardi that were, as UCS noted, "at odds with mainstream climate science." From the UCS release:
Bastardi claimed: "The drivers that have been pushing this [global warming], the Pacific Ocean being warm, the Atlantic Ocean being warm, they're all going to come off. So if CO2 continues to rise and temperatures continue to flatten out, which they've done over the past five or 10 years starts falling, we'll know.... I think we're going to find out that global warming is basically natural."
It is true that natural cycles, such as the Arctic Oscillation, El Niño and La Niña will continue to play a significant role in affecting the climate over the course of years and decades. But global warming is raising the temperature baseline on which they all operate. Since 1880, the Earth has significantly warmed as carbon dioxide levels have continued to rise. Changes to natural climate drivers, including the sun, volcanic activity and the cycles Bastardi cites are not significant enough to explain the jump in global temperatures over the past several decades. In fact, climate scientists would be shocked if the increase in carbon dioxide levels--which have increased more than 40 percent since the pre-Industrial era--were not raising global temperatures.
Global temperatures have not "flattened out" over the past five or 10 years. Such claims focus on short-term climate shifts and use particularly hot years, such as 1998, as their starting point. In reality, the past 10 years have been the hottest decade on record.
Bastardi claimed that the "[Arctic sea] ice has just returned to normal.... If you look at today's Arctic ice sheet, it's back to where it was two, three, four, five years ago...."
Bastardi's statement is based on a short-term look at Arctic sea ice extent, a measure of the area encompassed by the furthest edges of ice coverage. This year's maximum winter sea ice extent was particularly late, thanks to a cold spring. But over the last six years or more, the maximum extent of sea ice has remained well below the 1979 to 2000 average extent, both in the winter and summer. This past winter was no exception. Sea ice extent is still below average.
In any case, a better measure of the stability of Arctic sea is sea ice thickness and its persistence over time. The new 2010 melt season is about to begin with more thin ice than usual. Thin ice likely will melt quickly in the summer. [UCS, 4/7/10]
Romm Criticizes Bastardi And Right-Wing Disinformation Campaign Against Global Warming Science. Citing a Think Progress post, climate expert Joe Romm criticized Fox News and host Bill O'Reilly for promoting Bastardi's claim that the "globe is cooling." [Climate Progress, 9/15/09; Think Progress, 9/14/09]
Climate Scientists Overwhelmingly Agree That Global Warming Is Happening
Recent Warming Trend Is Established By Temperature Measurements, Other Observations. The National Climatic Data Center explains that the "warming trend that is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change is also confirmed by other independent observations":
Thousands of land and ocean temperature measurements are recorded each day around the globe. This includes measurements from climate reference stations, weather stations, ships, buoys and autonomous gliders in the oceans. These surface measurements are also supplemented with satellite measurements. These measurements are processed, examined for random and systematic errors, and then finally combined to produce a time series of global average temperature change. A number of agencies around the world have produced datasets of global-scale changes in surface temperature using different techniques to process the data and remove measurement errors that could lead to false interpretations of temperature trends. The warming trend that is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change is also confirmed by other independent observations, such as the melting of mountain glaciers on every continent, reductions in the extent of snow cover, earlier blooming of plants in spring, a shorter ice season on lakes and rivers, ocean heat content, reduced arctic sea ice, and rising sea levels. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Climatic Data Center, accessed 1/14/11]
From the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change:
[Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change, accessed 1/14/11]
IPCC: Most Of Recent Warming Is Very Likely Due To Increase In Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change -- a scientific body compiling research from thousands of scientists -- concluded in 2007 that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level" and that "most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [defined in the report as a '>90%' chance] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [human-caused] GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations." [Pages 8 and 17, Synthesis Report, Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, 2007]
29 Prominent Scientists In The U.S.: "The Body Of Evidence That Human Activity Is The Dominant Cause Of Global Warming Is Overwhelming." In a December 4, 2009, letter to Congress, 29 prominent scientists, including 11 members of the National Academy of Sciences, stated: "The body of evidence that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming is overwhelming. The content of the stolen emails has no impact whatsoever on our overall understanding that human activity is driving dangerous levels of global warming." [UCS, 12/04/09]
1,700 Scientists In The United Kingdom: Global Warming "Is Due Primarily To Human Activities." More than 1,700 scientists from the United Kingdom signed a statement responding "to the ongoing questioning of core climate science and methods." The statement said: "We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities." [U.K. Met Office, 12/10/09 accessed from Climate Progress]
American Association For The Advancement Of Science: "[S]cientific Evidence" Shows "That Global Climate Change [Is] Caused By Human Activities." On December 4, 2009, the American Association for the Advancement of Science stated that it "has reaffirmed the position of its Board of Directors and the leaders of 18 respected organizations, who concluded based on multiple lines of scientific evidence that global climate change caused by human activities is now underway, and it is a growing threat to society." The statement also said that "the illegal release of private emails stolen from the University of East Anglia should not cause policy-makers and the public to become confused about the scientific basis of global climate change." [AAAS, 12/04/09]
Bastardi Is A Global Warming Skeptic And Has Repeatedly Cast Doubt On Global Warming Science
Bastardi Believes Man Made Global Warming Isn't Happening. A September 23, 2010, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profile of Bastardi reported:
Which brings us to a slightly sticky subject: Dr. Gray, like Mr. Bastardi, firmly believes that human-generated global warming isn't happening but is just part of a natural phenomenon of long-term warming and cooling trends. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 09/23/10]
O'Reilly Hosts Bastardi To Claim That "The Globe Is Actually Cooling." During the September 9, 2009 edition of Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, Bastardi cast doubt on global warming and claimed that "global cooling is the cause of draught in California.. at least over the past ten years." [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 09/09/2009]
Fox Has Recently Hosted Meteorologist, Climate Skeptic Sussman To Attack Global Warming Science
Fox Has Recently Hosted Meteorologist, Right-Wing Radio Host Sussman To Attack Global Warming Science. On January 27, Fox & Friends hosted Brian Sussman, a right-wing radio host and meteorologist, to cast doubt on global warming science by, in part, misrepresenting Arctic sea ice and temperature data. Fox & Friends portrayed Sussman as a credible expert on climate change despite his history of using misinformation to attack global warming science. Sussman further made false claims to attack climate science on the January 31 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money. [Media Matters, 1/28/11, 2/1/11]
CJR: Meteorologists Do Not Have Same Expertise As Climate Scientists
CJR: Meteorologists Do Not Have Same Expertise As Climate Scientists To Analyze Climate Change. A Columbia Journalism Review article explored "why so many meteorologists have disregarded the mountain of evidence of global warming that has already occurred." CJR noted that "[m]eteorology has a deceptively close relationship with climatology: both disciplines study the same general subject, the behavior of the atmosphere, but they ask very different questions about it." From the CJR article:
But the disagreement, then as now, also came down to the weathercasters themselves, and what they knew--or believed they knew. Meteorology has a deceptively close relationship with climatology: both disciplines study the same general subject, the behavior of the atmosphere, but they ask very different questions about it. Meteorologists live in the short term, the day-to-day forecast. It's an incredibly hard thing to predict accurately, even with the best models and data; tiny discrepancies matter enormously, and can pile up quickly into giant errors. Given this level of uncertainty in their own work, meteorologist looking at long-range climate questions are predisposed to see a system doomed to terminal unpredictability. But in fact, the basic question of whether rising greenhouse gas emissions will lead to climate change hinges on mostly simple, and predictable, matters of physics. The short-term variations that throw the weathercasters' forecasts out of whack barely register at all.
This is the one explanation that everyone who has mulled the question seems to agree on--and indeed, when I spoke with meteorologists who were skeptical of or uncertain about the scientific consensus, it was the one thing they all brought up. "Meteorologists know our models," Brian Neudorff, a meteorologist at WROC in Rochester, New York, told me. "There's a lot of error and bias. We'll use five different models and come back with five different things. So when we hear that climatological models are saying this, how accurate are they?"
But that hardly explains why so many meteorologists have disregarded the mountain of evidence of global warming that has already occurred--or why, in the case of the hard-line skeptics, they are so fixated on proving a few data sets' worth of tree-ring and ice core measurements wrong. "I think a lot of people have theories," Robert Henson says, "but nobody knows for sure." [Columbia Journalism Review, January/February 2010, subscription required]