Fact checking, National Post style: Lorne Gunter on global cooling (part 1)

In the wake of the kerfuffle concerning George Will’s column on sea ice in the Washington Post, Lorne Gunter has upped the ante in the Canadian daily newspaper National Post with a particularly error-ridden and nonsensical column on a favourite theme – the supposed “intellectual dishonesty” of climate scientists who refuse to accept the “fact” of “global cooling”.

A key issue in the Will case was the apparent failure of fact checkers and editors to catch what should have been obvious errors. Like Will, Gunter appears to lean on tidbits from such reliable sources as U.S. senator James Inhofe’s climate disinformation clearing house (run by aide Marc Morano), or blogs like Stephen Mcintyre’s Climateaudit.org or Anthony Watt’s Wattsupwiththat.com. Gunter then proceeds to somehow mangle even those dubious assertions.

Judging by this latest column, any checking appears designed to ensure that no actual facts actually appear. If so, the fact checkers have done a particularly outstanding job.

Gunter gets right to the point:

The Earth has been cooling for a decade. While it may be true 1998 was the second-warmest year on record … and that seven or eight of the years since were in the top 10, no year since has been warmer than 1998 and nearly every one has been cooler than the one before it.

Hmmm … according to Gunter, 1998 is the second-warmest year, but supposedly there have been no warmer years since then. So which is the warmest year of all in Gunter’s fevered imagination? Perhaps he has 1934 in mind. And sure enough, back in 2007, Gunter wrote about Steve McIntyre’s discovery of a small Y2K error in the NASA data set and claimed: “The hottest year since 1880 becomes 1934 instead of 1998, which is now just second; 1921 is third.”

Earth to Gunter: The Y2K error was only in the continental U.S. temperature record, not the global one. (Even there, the correction was very small; 1934 and 1998 remained in a statistical tie). Incredibly, the National Post has yet to post a correction or retraction of the earlier column, which was entirely based on this utterly mistaken premise.

According to NASA, the ten warmest years “all occur within the 12-year period 1997-2008″. The other two surface data sets (HadCrut and NOAA/NCDC) show exactly the same thing. So precisely eight (not “seven or eight”) of the top ten warmest years have occurred since 1998. And the other two are 1998 itself, of course, along with the previous year, 1997. Moreover, both NASA and NOAA have 2005 warmer than 1998, belying Gunter’s satement that “no year since has been warmer than 1998″.

Finally, a check of the NASA year-to-year variations shows that only five of the last ten years have been cooler than the previous one (including 2003, in a statistical tie with 2002). That’s not “nearly all” – it’s exactly half, as would be expected.

No facts yet, but it’s only the first paragraph. I’ll keep looking – more to come in part 2 in a few days.

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2 responses to “Fact checking, National Post style: Lorne Gunter on global cooling (part 1)

  1. Pingback: Ian Plimer and the lie that won’t go away « Deep Climate

  2. Pingback: Anatomy of a lie: How Marc Morano and Lorne Gunter spun Mojab Latif’s remarks out of control « Deep Climate