Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned Watch: The Post Needs a New Ombudsman
Ah. I see that Washington Post* ombudsman Andrew Alexander has finally read http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/global.sea.ice.area.pdf. Last week, Hilzoy wrote:
Obsidian Wings: I clicked the link http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/global.sea.ice.area.pdf Mr. Alexander provided, and read it. Did he? I don't know what would be worse: that he did, and takes it to support Will, or that he didn't take his job seriously enough to bother.
The answer appears to be that he did not take his job seriously enough to bother. This means, I think, that the Washington Post needs a new ombudsman who does take his job seriously enough to bother. Immediately.
Now that Andrew Alexander has read it, he writes: March 1 2009:
The editors who checked the Arctic Research Climate Center Web site believe it did not, on balance, run counter to Will's assertion that global sea ice levels "now equal those of 1979." I reviewed the same Web citation http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/global.sea.ice.area.pdf and reached a different conclusion. It said that while global sea ice areas are "near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979," sea ice area in the Northern Hemisphere is "almost one million sq. km below" the levels of late 1979. That's roughly the size of Texas and California combined. In my mind, it should have triggered a call for clarification to the center. But according to Bill Chapman, a climate scientist with the center, there was no call from Will or Post editors... until last Tuesday -- nine days after The Post began receiving demands for a correction...
But last week--before he had read it--he was singing a very different tune:
Andrew Alexander, February 19 2009:
Thank you for your e-mail. The Post’s ombudsman typically deals with issues involving the news pages. But I understand the point you and many e-mailers are making, and for that reason I sought clarification from the editorial page editors. Basically, I was told that the Post has a multi-layer editing process and checks facts to the fullest extent possible. In this instance, George Will’s column was checked by people he personally employs, as well as two editors at the Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates Will; our op-ed page editor; and two copy editors. The University of Illinois center that Will cited has now said it doesn’t agree with his conclusion, but earlier this year it put out a statement http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/global.sea.ice.area.pdf that was among several sources for this column and that notes in part that "Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979."
The relevant portions from the University of Illinois Arctic Climate Research Center, January 12 2009:
Almost all global climate models project a decrease in the Northern Hemisphere sea ice area over the next several decades under increasing greenhouse gas scenarios. But, the same model responses of the Southern Hemisphere sea ice are less certain. In fact, there have been some recent studies suggesting the amount of sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere may initially increase as a response to atmospheric warming through increased evaporation and subsequent snowfall onto the sea ice. (Details: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050630064726.htm)
Observed global sea ice area, deﬁned here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979, as noted in the Daily Tech article. However, observed N. Hemisphere sea ice area is almost one million sq. km below values seen in late 1979 and S. Hemisphere sea ice area is about 0.5 million sq. km above that seen in late 1979, partly offsetting the N. Hemisphere reduction. Global climate model projections suggest that the most signiﬁcant response of the cryosphere to increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations will be seen in Northern Hemisphere summer sea ice extent. Recent decreases of N. Hemisphere summer sea ice extent (green line at right) are consistent with such projections.
Arctic summer sea ice is only one potential indicator of climate change, however, and we urge interested parties to consider the many variables and resources available when considering observed and model-projected climate change. For example, the ice that is presently in the Arctic Ocean is younger and thinner than the ice of the 1980s and 1990s. So Arctic ice volume is now below its long-term average by an even greater amount than is ice extent or area.