The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

30 December 2006

Dispatch from the Disinformation Highway

Kissing cousin to "fake but accurate" is "correct but meaningless," and here's a splendid example of the latter, courtesy of CNN:

A giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada's Arctic, scientists said.

The mass of ice broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers (497 miles) south of the North Pole, but no one was present to see it in Canada's remote north.

The problem with this is that the comparison gives you no useful information:

Since when did football fields become a unit of measure like feet or yards? Usually when you talk about something being as big as a football field, you do it so the reader can visualize the size comparison. But who can really visualize 11,000 football fields, as opposed to 5,000 football fields. Would they say 20,000 football fields for an ice sheet twice the size of this one? And are the football fields end-to-end or just clumped together?

And are they American football fields, or, since this happened in Canadian waters, Canadian football fields?

Farther down in the CNN article we find this:

The Ayles Ice Shelf, roughly 66 square kilometers (41 square miles) in area, was one of six major ice shelves remaining in Canada's Arctic.

Now we're getting somewhere. How about "a giant ice shelf roughly the size of Evansville, Indiana"?

Posted at 4:04 PM to Dyssynergy


Charles Hill: So, what about that?
Senator Inhofe: Well, Mr. Hill, it doesn't matter how it is measured since this never happened. This is just another example of extremists using Sterno cans and Bic lighters to melt a little ice and call it something it isn't.

Posted by: Mike Swi... at 4:55 PM on 30 December 2006

I've always found it helpful to remember that an acre (43,560 sq ft) is just smaller than a football field (48,000 sq ft). Why didn't they just say 11,000 acres?

But then I grew up in rural Oklahoma. Most average folks don't have much reason to think about acres anymore, but a lot of them do think about football fields.

Posted by: Mark at 9:59 PM on 30 December 2006

Well, I can visualize ¼ acre rather easily, since that's almost exactly the size of my lot. (The county's records say 75 x 147 feet, which is 11,025 square feet, which is 0.253 acre; the lot is not exactly rectangular, but this is close enough.)

Posted by: CGHill at 10:27 PM on 30 December 2006

Within days, the floating ice shelf had drifted a few miles (kilometers) offshore.

This suggests to me that there were some powerful currents and tidal forces working on it.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at 12:25 AM on 31 December 2006

Which, according to Climate Orthodoxy, were caused by the same forces which caused the shelf to break loose in the first place.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:53 AM on 31 December 2006

The only problem with stories like this one is that only one end of the planet seems to be relevant-the extent (and thickness) of ice is/are increasing in Antartica. Somehow that fact is never mentioned by CNN. I wonder why.

All the world-is-soon-coming-to-an end scenarios need to be carefully scrutinized, whether the source is fundamentalist Christians (who don't realize that Revelation is mostly about the state of the world at the time of its writing, near the end of the first century), or secular left-wingers.

There is a curious similarity between the rantings and ravings of both groups.

Posted by: John Salmon at 2:20 PM on 31 December 2006

John, I consider myself a moderate centrist and think for myself. Reading your post, you spoke only about CNN and political persuasion. What about the one thing that matters? SCIENCE. And no, there is no controversy. Last I heard there are about four - yes, four - scientists who question global warming. Make that three - the other was caught, and admitted, to being paid large sums by the energy industry. I'd look closely at the other three (one who is at the University of Oklahoma). Science does matter here. It's a scientific problem with political implications yes, but only because it requires action that will hurt important sectors of political influence in the wallet.

Posted by: MikeSwi... at 4:08 PM on 31 December 2006

David Deming (the fellow at OU) is too contrary a cuss to take money from anybody, I suspect.

Me, I'm still waiting for that ice age and the population explosion we were threatened with in the 1970s.

Posted by: CGHill at 5:41 PM on 31 December 2006

Sure, Mike, but the the people who are pushing the global warming scare also have vested interests. Their grants depend on keeping an alarmed public, alarmed.

If it's purely about the science, why raise who people are paid by, anyway? What we need is evidence, not ad hominem.

Where is the conclusive scientific evidence that global warming, whose existence over the last last two and a half decades can't seriously be questioned (satellite records go back to late 1978), will continue, is caused solely or mostly by human activity, and is a threat to either our continued existence on the planet, or our continued prosperous and safe existence? Keep in mind that ALL record older than 1978 are dubious. You'll find dozens of older "data sets", but they are all driven by conjecture, to one "degree" (haha) or another.

We need a lot more data, and a lot less painting people, on either side of the question, as bad guys. First of all, the modeling of the climate system remains crude and incomplete. Second, we need to know more about how cloud cover, which on net is cooling, is a function of factors outside the climate system, such as cosmic rays and solar activity (the sunpsot cycle.)

The balance between water vapor, a powerful greenhouse gas, and cooling cloud cover, may well be the central issue.

CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas and cannot cause, by itself, substantial warming. So the scenario typically presnted in the media is a false one.

Posted by: John Salmon at 5:50 PM on 31 December 2006

I don't doubt that our planet is heating up. It has been for the past 20,000 years. Most of North America was covered in glacial ice if you go back far enough.

But man-made global warming is a farce. Global warming is caused by the sun (that giant ball of fire in the sky that gives the earf all its warmth). The solar output of the sun has been increasing for the past 1100 years (so say the scientists). Right now it is at an 1100 year high. Might that be the more likely cause of global warming than CO2.

Furthermore, CO2 is what plants breathe. Increased levels only increase plant life including the rain forests and plant plankton.

Posted by: Ravenwood at 9:14 AM on 4 January 2007

oy, who cares WHY the planet is heating up? (for the moment anyway)
could we all just try to agree whether or not it's a problem for humans? and then decide if we should fix it?
If it's the sun, adjust the atmosphere, seed stratospheric blocking chemicals, etc...
if it's us, fix us.
The blame part should come loooong after the "should we be fixing this?" part dontchathink?

Posted by: Sam at 2:28 PM on 6 January 2007