Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Newspapers wary of tying Sandy to climate change

Hurricane Sandy left massive flooding in areas that have never seen flooding, and it's now causing snowstorms in Northern Appalachia. Many media outlets dubbed the event "Frankenstorm," but "Not one major newspaper has reported the scientifically established link that carbon pollution fuels more extreme weather," reports Rebecca Leber of ThinkProgress, which has a liberal viewpoint.

ThinkProgress did a search of major national newspapers and found that Sandy was mentioned at least 94 times, but terms like climate change, global warming and extreme weather weren't mentioned at all. She suggests two possible reasons for the disconnect: The presidential candidates have been silent on climate change and left it out of the debates for the first time since 1988, and climate denial campaigns try to undermine science. "There is still a gulf between public understanding and the scientific consensus," Leber writes. Al Gore says Sandy was worse because of global warming.

Atmospheric blocking events like the one that intensified Sandy are caused by warming temperatures, melting sea ice and rising ocean levels. Blocking events also shift jet streams further from normal patterns, and climate researcher Jennifer Francis told Andrew Revkin of The New York Times that Sandy's blocking event "may have been boosted in intensity and/or duration by the record-breaking ice loss this summer." Late season hurricanes aren't unusual, she said, but Sandy started during an anomalous jet-stream pattern and an autumn with record-warm sea temperatures in the Atlantic. "It could very well be that general warming along with high sea-surface temperatures have lengthened the tropical storm season," Francis said.

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