Sunday, 16 October 2011

Earth's Lazy Sun (and the return of a lazy blogger)

It's often said up here in Scotland that we're one of the few countries where you can see all four seasons in one day. Today in this quiet town we've had a spell of gently warming sunshine shortly followed by traditional Autumn winds and spitting rain, making a mockery of any plans I had in place to dress sensibly for the weather.

To complicate matters further we've now had forecasts for possible snowfall over the next week or so, just in time for my carefully constructed rail travel plans. Hopefully it won't get as bad as last year's blizzards and howling gales - you must remember them, how can you forget the year Christmas was cancelled? It was in the Metro newspaper and everything.

There are certain deeply rooted traditions in the UK alongside our quaint Scottish sayings and the media creating scaremongering articles about winter weather is one of the more unpleasant ones. Normally it can be found grumbling about low salt supplies and spouting ill-informed outrage about Winterval festivals but this year the famously well-respected science journal the Daily Mail has gone a few steps further and predicted a "modern day little ice-age", even claming in another article that "a sharp decrease" in global warming might take place as a result of the solar minimum.

As usual this news can be taken with a large pinch of salt (which you'd be wise to stock up on this year just in case - you'll need it for the weather and the sheer volume of winter-themed nonsense from the tabloids in the coming months). The Daily Mail and its core readership have a strong hatred for all things bureaucratic with its arch-nemesis being the European Union and all things associated with it, including global warming. It should come as no surprise that they're taking this opportunity to crow triumphantly about their convictions, taking any decrease in temperature as evidence that global warming is some mad leftist scam rather than a phenomenon backed up by a wealth of scientific data.

This time they're trying to fight fire with fire by presenting us with fancy diagrams, charts and sciencey-sounding terms such as magnetic fields and jet stream (bread and butter stuff to physicists but can be used to try and pull the wool over the eyes of people who haven't studied science at a higher level). Bless their little cotton socks for trying, but they've forgotten the key fact that correlation does not automatically mean there is a causal link between two variables.

(Note that they conveniently miss out the term 'global' in their thinking, usually citing UK weather changes and ignoring the fact that global surface temperatures have been on the increase according to multiple sources. There's a hell of a character study to be had here if someone could only find the time to carry one out.)

In short: winter will be cold this year and it's probably because the EU was distracted by Jeremy Clarkson taking his eyes out with conkers in a fit of common-sense. Wear your scarf.

1 comment:

  1. I think I could probably find the character study you mention, as there have been a few articles published about the psychology of denialism. I remember seeing quite a good one on Mother Jones.