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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Double Dunce Award: WUWT gets it wrong when it claims the LA Times was wrong about Missouri streamflows

Sou | 3:23 AM Feel free to comment!

Today one of the WUWT regulars got a spot in an article at WUWT. It was about a very detailed study of streamflows in the Missouri River Watershed, which can be downloaded here.


Findings support a climatological forcing for the upward trends


The study noted significant changes over time. There was an upward trend in streamflow in some regions and a downward trend in others. The nature of the upward trend lends support for climatological forcing.  Other work identified that the downward trend is at least in part because of groundwater pumping. In the trend analysis at the end of the report, the authors wrote:
Either upward or downward significant trends in annual, monthly, and seasonal streamflow were pervasive within three watershed regions: downward trends in WR1 (upper Missouri River), upward trends in WR3 (Great Plains and Central Lowland physiographic provinces and Niobrara River), and downward trends in WR5 (Kansas River watershed). A comprehensive analysis of cause of trends is outside the scope of this report. An increase in diversions or consumptive use of water during the study period, however, could not result in upward trends in annual streamflows over broad regions, such as WR3. All seven HCDN streamgages in WR3 have upward trends, which supports a climatological forcing for the upward trends. Although not examined in this study, an increase in consumptive use because of groundwater pumping has been identified as a contributing factor to the downward trends in WR5 (Wen and Xunhong, 2006).
Downward trends in WR1, the upper Missouri River, were significant throughout this region and even on main-stem streamgages below reservoirs, such as streamgages 06177000 and 06185500 (map numbers 20 and 21, respectively) in WR1 and streamgage 06342500 (map number 53) in WR2. Two out of eight HCDN streamgages had downward trends, streamgage 06278300 (map number 32) and streamgage 06298000 (map number 40), whereas the remaining HCDN streamgages had no significant streamflow trends. Future studies could examine the forcing factors of these observed trends in streamflow, the watershed effects and potential long term consequences.

Now compare that with what was written at WUWT (archived here). To start with, Anthony wrote the article based on a comment by one of his fans, Joel O’Bryan, who has had quite a few of his comments quoted here at HotWhopper. He tends to make really dumb comments and gets very worked up about climate science.


Word search vs reading the words


Joel did something a bit unusual for a science denier, he went and checked the paper after reading a report in the Los Angeles Times. Well, he obviously didn't actually read the paper. What he did was do a search for the word "climate". I guess that's why he missed the Synthesis of Trends, which was just above the Summary at the end of the report, because it used the word "climatological", not "climate".


[As an aside, when I read a long paper that is structured in this manner, I start with the abstract and some of the introduction, then the conclusion, then the discussion and maybe the conclusion again, then go back and read the paper in full, if I've time and the paper interests me. The Joel O'Bryan's of the world apparently just do a word search to see what the research finds. I'll classify that as "denier weirdness".]

Joel was more thorough in his word search than in his comprehension. He was complaining that the LA Times reporter, Maya Srikrishnan wrote:
Climate change reflected in altered Missouri River flow, report says
Climate shifts may be causing the disparate changes in the Missouri River Basin, the USGS report says. The scientists noted that higher stream flow in the Dakotas had occurred even as water use increased. In addition, they said, lower stream flow in some areas could be related in part to groundwater pumping.

Note her use of the words - "reflected" and "may", not "caused" or "did", and therefore is consistent with the way the link was expressed in the report itself. Compare that to the words used in the report itself:
All seven HCDN streamgages in WR3 have upward trends, which supports a climatological forcing for the upward trends. Although not examined in this study, an increase in consumptive use because of groundwater pumping has been identified as a contributing factor to the downward trends in WR5 (Wen and Xunhong, 2006).

That looks to me like a fair interpretation of the report. Not so for Joel, who whined:
I find nowhere in Parker Norton’s report any mention of the term “climate shift” as claimed by the LA Times reporter.
The only instance of the term Climate Change is the above noted on in his intro. He does use the term “climate” a total of 8 times in the body of his report (not counting the references). A review of each of the context of that “climate” term usage finds no attribution of the water shed affects to Climate change and certainly not human-induced climate change.
Conclusion: The LA Times reporter confabulated a false narrative of climate change impact from a scientific report in which no such claim was made. 
Climate Change media bias clearly at work on the public opinion. I give the LA Times reporter MAYA SRIKRISHNAN Four Pinocchios on this article — Pants on Fire. 

The LA Times was correct and WUWT was wrong


Joel jumped to the wrong conclusion based solely on a word search. Thing is, he didn't read the report or he would have discovered that his word search was inadequate for what he wanted.

Joel found this sentence at the beginning of the report, which he obviously thought added weight to his complaint, Joel wrote:
Parker Norton makes the following statement in the report:
"This study did not examine forcing factors that may explain the observed streamflow trends, such as climate change, climate variability, land- and water-use changes, or groundwater pumping; however, possible causes are described in the context of the need for further research.” (Page 9, under Introduction, Purpose and Scope)

The report didn't examine the forcing factors. But that doesn't mean that they couldn't draw inferences, which they did, and which the LA Times reported. The entire study is monitoring changes in stream flows. The researchers analysed and reported the changes and then made reasonable inferences from their work.

If Joel had looked further, he'd also have found this from a press release on the USGS website itself:
Climate changes that affect how and where moisture is delivered to the continent may be causing some of these trends in the Missouri River Basin. Although the USGS scientists did not conduct a complete analysis of the causes, they noted that increased streamflow over broad regions occurred despite the increasing use of water. Decreased streamflow in some areas could also be related to climate change factors, or to groundwater pumping. 

So the reporter would have originally been alerted to the paper by the USGS press release. Not only that but she spoke to people, the scientists and local farmers.


Not a dissertation


Joel also described the paper as the "dissertation report" of the lead author, Parker A. Norton, who is a hydrologist at the USGS. Dissertations are not normally written by multiple authors. Ironically, I think Joel made that mistake because of something the LA Times journalist wrote, about whom he had just (wrongly) claimed had "confabulated a false narrative". The LA Times stated about Parker Norton and this paper: The study is part of his doctoral research, which will analyze precipitation patterns, temperatures and their effects.


Here's a video from Parker Norton, in which he describes their work:



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From the WUWT comments


JohnWho says:
August 18, 2014 at 6:14 am
I suspect if we analyzed every Main Stream Media (MSM) article that discusses “global warming/climate change” in some manner we would find a marked distortion between what the journalist says and what the scientist or science paper reports.
Remember, the media is the message, not the facts or the truth.
I wonder what would happen if JohnWho started analysing every WUWT article?


rogerknights didn't get as far as reading the paper itself, and he confuses the USGS with a university. Still his "wondering" was otherwise not bad:
August 18, 2014 at 6:35 am
Maybe there was a mention of climate change in the university’s press release, or in an interview of the author (?).

evanmjones might even be becoming less sceptical of AGW, because he says, not very enigmatically:
August 18, 2014 at 6:38 am
The more climate changes, the more it stays the same.

Doug S draws on religion and says:
August 18, 2014 at 6:50 am
It’s important for the religious believers in Global Warming to keep singing the hymnals of doom. It’s a way for them to reach out to their fellow parishioners and communicate their faith in “the cause”. It’s a curious and sad thing to observe. In many cases, desperate people with all kinds of substance abuse problems and/or depression are easy pickings for the evangelicals of “the cause”.
A person who sees the world through the eyes of their personal depression and doom will find a sense of comfort in the thought that the world is doomed also (by the power and glory of “the cause”. All hail “the cause” and may it come to power over the earth. Blessed be “the cause”)
sorry, couldn’t resist this heretical moment for which I will surely burn in a deniers HELL.

dccowboy decides that climate changing is not the same as a change in the climate and says (excerpt, rogerknights' quote removed):
August 18, 2014 at 6:58 am
I think there was a mention of ‘climate’ by one of the co-authors in an interview, but it hardly assigns blame to ‘Climate Change’ or ‘Climate Shifts’.
“What is apparent is that the climate is changing and that it is being reflected in the stream flow conditions,” said Mark Anderson, director of the USGS Water Science Center in South Dakota and another of the report’s authors.
Well, sure, the climate is changing, then again, isn’t it always?

Chez Who discovered the press release but didn't bother to read the report, because s/he says:
August 18, 2014 at 7:10 am
Unfortunately, the USGS press release was less circumspect than the report. See http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3944#.U_IHz7ySzCk

Theo Goodwin says:
August 18, 2014 at 7:11 am
“The only instance of the term Climate Change is the above noted on in his intro. He does use the term “climate” a total of 8 times in the body of his report (not counting the references). A review of each of the context of that “climate” term usage finds no attribution of the water shed affects to Climate change and certainly not human-induced climate change.”
Maya found the word ‘climate’ and launched into “climate change (aka, poetic) license” from there. What do you expect from today’s reporters? For decades, postmodern English professors have taught them that truth is what serves the interests of the writer.

Frank K. says he finds it disconcerting that no scientist will correct things. He's wrong. Many of them do or try to. In this case there was nothing to correct - or not too much that I could see in that particular article at the LA Times.  A couple of minor niggles (like a farmer growing "malted barley" instead of barley for malting or malting barley). I'm doing my bit to correct the incorrect reporting at WUWT. If only the WUWT deniers did the same. He says:
August 18, 2014 at 7:38 am
“Conclusion: The LA Times reporter confabulated a false narrative of climate change impact from a scientific report in which no such claim was made.”
This is par for the course with the MSM. What I find disconcerting is that NONE of the mainstream climate scientists who proclaim to be all about the “science” ever respond to this type of misrepresentation and try to correct it.
By the way, if you’re like me and have no faith in the veracity or objectivity of our MSM, just remove them from your life. Delete links to their sites and apps that use their sites. Don’t purchase their “news” products (papers, magazines, etc.) or watch their shows on TV. And encourage your friends and family to do the same – eventually their sponsors will begin to notice. Look at CNN, for example. They are in freefall as only airports and some sports bars are tuned to their shows anymore. 

Par for the course at WUWT


Frank K wrote about "par for the course". What's "par for the course" is that not a single commenter at WUWT bothered to check the WUWT article by going to the report itself.  Not one of them showed that the report supported the LA Times article. Not one of them read the USGS report. Or if they did, not one of them noticed that the report itself drew an inference about climate change affecting streamflows in the Missouri River watershed. Or if they did notice, not one of them said so at WUWT.


Parker A. Norton, Mark T. Anderson, and John F. Stamm, "Trends in Annual, Seasonal, and Monthly Streamflow Characteristics at 227 Streamgages in the Missouri River Watershed, Water Years 1960–2011", U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5053, 128 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20145053.

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