Surprise: Fox News Fails Paleoclimatology

Demonstrating how easy it is for reckless media outlets to foster confusion about climate change, Fox News again misrepresented a scientific paper last night, claiming it provides “more evidence for global cooling.” Over the past several years, Fox has repeatedly pushed the claim that “the Earth is actually cooling.”

From last night's edition of Special Report:

Here's what Special Report anchor Bret Baier neglected to mention:

  1. The study, published Sunday in Nature Climate Change, wasn't about “global” anything. It estimated temperatures going back 2,000 years by analyzing the density of tree rings taken only from northern Finland and Sweden.  Moreover, the record they produced only reflects temperatures between June and August. This is important because, as the paper states, the impact of orbital forcing, a key driver of temperature, “varies considerably over time, space and with season.” For instance, the influence should “diminish towards lower Northern Hemisphere latitudes” and show “substantial weakening ... towards the tropics,” the authors wrote. According to scientists at, “long-term cooling trends” are not seen in tropical records. The paper also noted that “Twentieth-century Scandinavian warming is relatively small compared with most other Northern Hemisphere high-latitude regions,” further underscoring that records for this region do not establish global trends. One of the scientists involved in the study told HuffPo blogger Bob Ward: “Our paper is for northern Scandinavian summer temperatures so extrapolating to large scale annual temperatures is not really correct.”
  2. The “cooling trend” Fox reported does not reflect what is happening now, but what took place prior to the industrial age. The study found “a long-term cooling trend” in northern Scandinavian summer temperatures “of -0.31 °C per 1,000years (±0.03 °C) over the 138BC-AD1900 period.” Scientists estimate historic temperatures from tree rings (and other “proxies”) because humans didn't start directly measuring temperature until the mid-1800s. Since then, our thermometers, averaged globally, have shown substantial warming, particularly in the past few decades. The paper does not call this recent warming into question but rather tries to paint a picture of what happened before it.  Cooling over this region and timescale is “theoretically expected,” said RealClimate, though the magnitude of the change in the latest study is greater than previous estimates.

Prior to Fox News' report, the right-wing website Newsbusters published a post on the study and asked if “America's global warming-obsessed media will pay any attention to this new information.” Newsbusters laughably declared that the study “thoroughly debunks global warming.”