No good deed goes unpunished in the Twitterverse

I’ve long been ambivalent about the merits of Twitter. Some may recall my “Why Twitter is Evil” post of a while back. That was written with one cheek mostly occupied by my tongue. It now seems clear that, whatever the original designs, the 140-character telegraph has become an invaluable network-building and maintenance tool, particularly for authors, activists trying to organize constituencies. This is all well and good. But the medium’s dark side recently became all too clear following this past weekend’s wonderful Science Online 2011 conference.
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A big part of the problem

From the wonderful “Overheard in a newsroom” service:

Reporter doing a phone interview: “Please slow down, professor. You’ve been researching this topic for a decade. I’ve been researching it since lunchtime.”

Fit to be tied

So, 2010 is a statistical tie for warmest year on record. This from NASA’s GISS and NOAA’s NCDC. Some AGW refuseniks might cling to the fact that the year just past was 0.018 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than 2005, but then you’d know they never bothered to take a stats class. As the GISS press release puts it:

The record temperature in 2010 is particularly noteworthy, because the last half of the year was marked by a transition to strong La Niña conditions, which bring cool sea surface temperatures to the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

We’ve also just come out of an unusually long “solar minimum,” during which sunspot activity has been next to nil, a condition that otherwise could be expected to depress temperature on Earth.

[Graphic from a New York Times story.]

The interesting thing to me is that this is just what GISS chief James Hansen and many others have been predicting for pretty much the entire year, suggesting that our understanding of the global climate system continues to improve.

The latest prognostication from the usual suspects involves the assumption that a return of the warmer, El Niño counterpart of the same cycle, and the possible return of a more active sun, will help make 2011 warmer still.

The annual report from the other side of the Atlantic isn’t out yet, although there’s a good chance it won’t put 2010 quite at the top of the list, because it excludes much of the northernmost reaches of the Arctic due to a lack of observations. NASA, by comparison extrapolates from the most northerly stations that do supply temperature data. And this year it was the Arctic’s unseasonable warmth that helped make 2010 as hot as it was. In the Southern Hemisphere, for example, 2010 was only the sixth warmest, and the global ocean temperature managed to reach third place.

Regardless with what the Brits report, it has now been 34 years in a row that the global temperature has been warmer than the 20th century average.

“If you want to tell people the truth …”

Just in case you need a refresher:

It continues here. Meanwhile, the Onion sums it up nicely:

“Climate change is real, and we are killing our planet more every day,” said climatologist Helen Marcus, who has made similar statements in interviews in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. “We need to make a serious effort to stop it, or, you know, we’ll all die. There really isn’t much else to say.”

For 2011, I am going to try to implement Oscar Wilde’s advice:

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”