More on AP’s Seth Borenstein and the reality of Earth’s icy antipodes

Hurray for the post that Faye Flam just filed for the tracker on polar ice and polar-opposite politics. It finely dissects the difference between the sort of thing that the AP's  Seth Borenstein (and Mike Lemonick at Climate Central) writes about Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, and what the likes of Mark Morano puts up on the web on behalf of Senator James Inhofe. The senator, do we not all know, is fond of saying global warming is among the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated.

   I had also, earlier today, read Seth's story. It pretty well sets straight why adding the sea ice of the Arctic to the sea ice of Antarctica is not a formula that negates global warming as fact. I was going to write a post, which comes up shortly, but did not know about Morano's contribution to this instance of political discourse on science until reading the Flam post. Of course, Morano is not a science writer. He is more of a science writer-bar. "Bar" is what physicists append to names of regular particles when they are talking about the anti-matter versions. Written, it puts a little line over the particle's symbol. A CERN website gives this example: a proton () has an antiparticle denoted by , pronounced p-bar. That means sort of the same but with opposite spin, charge, and so on. Their up is down for most of us.

   So maybe I'd have ignored Morano's explanation why Seth's story is bonkers. Morano's bonkers means astute good sense in the regular world that Borenstein tends to reflect.

    Anyway, again, here is Borenstein's Story: Experts: Global warming means more Antarctic ice ; The topic – While the Arctic sea ice and its record low is getting attention, Antarctica's sea ice just hit a high point in the instrumented record with relatively little fanfare.

    It is timely, carefully reported science journalism, written short enough to fit in the space available at standard news outlets that use AP's stuff. Borenstein explicitly tells readers he wrote the story because "Climate change skeptics have seized on the Antarctic ice to argue that the globe isn't warming and that scientists are ignoring the southern continent because it's not convenient."

   Borenstein's story goes on to report that scientists DO in fact pay intense attention to the Antarctic, and do have studies aplenty explaining why the slight expansion of sea ice in the Antarctic is, first, in a context utterly unlike the Arctic ice plummet other than both being cold. He didn't report a second point: It's not scientists who failed recently to pay attention to the Antarctic, but media. What he did do is report what researchers specializing in Earth's crysosphere say, including at least one on board a research vessel operating in the Antarctic as winter there turns to spring.

   Fine job. A minor missed opportunity came up where Borenstein correctly reported that "since 1960, the Arctic has warmed the most of the world's regions, and Antarctica has warmed the least…" One supposed that's true if region means a really large area. A source of considerable confusion in climate science reporting is that while Antarctica's ice overall is not melting at a great pace, the Antarctic Peninsula, which is nearly 1000 miles long as it juts toward South America, is perhaps the very most warmed up place on Earth in the last 50 years. Is that too small a place to be a region? As posted here at the tracker on August 24, some outlets suggested then that discovery on the peninsula of previous warm spells there, via ice cores, actually represented climate fluctuations on Antarctic as a whole. A brief mention this week, in Borenstein's story, of the peninsula's contrary climate behavior might have helped readers who remember the August news and wonder how one place can be both warming faster than anywhere else and warming hardly at all.

   Faye already listed Lemonick's story on the Arctic-Antarctic public perception oscillation.

   Here are two more:

  • Alaska Dispatch – Ben Anderson: As Arctic winds shift, extreme weather could become new normal ;    
  • Daily Mail – David Derbyshire: Now there's more ice at South Pole than ever (So much for global warming thawing Antarctica!) ; Yes, it's the mail after all so of course the hed is cheeky but before you get your britches in a knot read it through. You'll see the usual fine parade of illus that the Mail likes to put together, and Derbyshire's sources knit together a coherent explanation for why the behavior of sea ice at both poles is fully consistent with a planet absorbing more heat from the sun that it is currently radiating (ie, it's getting warmer). The meat of this story is little different from that of Borenstein's at the AP. IN fact it has a sidebar with some sections nearly identical with what the AP had.

– Charlie Petit

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