Tuesday 25th October 2016                 Change text size:

Daily Mail and Telegraph criticised for shortsighted Arctic ice loss reporting


Two newspapers recently claimed that the world is experiencing global cooling rather than warming, as the extent of Arctic ice has increased over 2013. But scientists retorted, saying they were missing the long-term picture.

The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph reported both last week that ocean surfaces covered with ice had increased 60% compared to last year and claimed that the world was heading towards a period of cooling.

The Mail quoted the fact that the warming has slowed down since 1997 – a phenomenon that scientists have already explained to be linked to the cooling of the Pacific – and both publications pointed out the Arctic is not ice-free yet, as the BBC claimed it would be by now back in 2007.

However, from the Guardian’s, scientists John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli have pointed out that both the Mail and the Telegraph are focusing on the “short-term noise” and missing the bigger picture.

They said that it is true that there is more ice compared to 2012, but this doesn’t mean that the science behind global warming had it wrong.

There’s a principle in statistics known as ‘regression toward the mean’, which is the phenomenon that if an extreme value of a variable is observed, the next measurement will generally be less extreme”, they wrote.

In other words, we should not often expect to observe records in consecutive years. 2012 shattered the previous record low sea ice extent; hence ‘regression towards the mean’ told us that 2013 would likely have a higher minimum extent.”

The pair dismantled information presented by the Mail and Telegraph journalists in their articles, including the claim that some scientists say that there will be a global cooling. In fact, the Mail and the Telegraph only named one scientist, who said that if there will be a cooling this would only be temporary.

Abraham and Nuccitelli noted that the Arctic has lost over 75% of its summer ice volume over the past 30 years, “but in any given year the weather can act to either preserve more or melt more sea ice”.

They concluded, “Based on their history of shoddy reporting, the safest course of action when reading a climate article in the Mail on Sunday or Telegraph is to assume they’re misrepresentations or falsehoods until you can verify the facts therein for yourself.”

Further reading:

Responsible journalism tells the truth about climate change

Climate change may ‘green’ Greenland by 2100, say scientists

Arctic could be ‘ice-free’ by 2054, say scientists

‘Unprecedented’ warmth of Arctic in 2012 saw ice melt to record low

Comprehensive study shows extent of ice loss increase

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