An Open Letter to Andrew Alexander, Ombudsman at the Washington Post

Subject:
Please start double-checking George Will’s facts when he talks about science
Body
I don’t know if you’ve been following Carl Zimmer’s blog, “The Loom,” and if you haven’t, you may want to read today’s post  – it covers the outline of the “saga”, as Zimmer calls it.

The fact checkers FAILED. Citing a blog in lieu of contacting the original source is *NOT* good fact checking; particularly when you are reporting something as a FACT rather than an INTERPRETATION. If Will had written “The DailyTech blog interprets the data from the Illinois center as….” that would warrant fact checking to the DailyTech blog — but that’s not what he did. And his fact-checkers neglected to contact the center for the study AT ALL.

As for the issue of ice — I don’t care what you or anyone thinks about Global Warming, Climate Change, whatever the spin doctors are calling it these days — Will is misrepresenting the issue by focusing on two discrete moments in time; some would call this “cherry picking”. Consider, for a moment, that I were to compare the amount of snow in Washington D.C. on February 1st 1979 to the amount on February 1st 2009 — can I reasonably draw ANY conclusions regarding overall trends of snow? Whether the snow is less, more, or the same, it is meaningless without a swath of aggregated data across the 30 year time-span. And yet, that’s exactly what Will did.

The Center that Will cited has a couple charts up that illustrate my point, see here:
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.anom.jpg
and here:
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.anom.south.jpg

The drastic ups and downs have an overall downward trend — but if you pick *JUST*  1979, at the low point, and compare it to the high point of 2009 — they are almost the same. But this totally misrepresents the data!

George Will may want to capitalize on the mock-troversy regarding Climate Change, and he apparently feels he knows the subject matter better than folks who study this professionally, but he is not doing humanity any favors by misrepresenting an issue simply so he can seem like a rebel.

Aaron Hill