Sunday, 17 February 2013

Boston sea-level rising at almost four times the global rate?

"Boston preparing for higher seas, more flooding from climate change", Beth Daley of the Boston Globe tells her readers.
Researchers say Boston and its densely developed shoreline are extremely vulnerable to more frequent and intense storms projected from global warming. The sea level is rising here at almost four times the global rate, adding to the urgency to protect properties soon.
Four times the global rate? Where did Beth, whose Globe profile states
Daley has covered the environment for the Globe since 2001 and has won numerous national journalism awards for reports on fishing, climate change, and environmental health, including being named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2008. She spent the 2011-2012 academic year at Stanford University on a John S. Knight fellowship. She has been with the Globe since 1994 and previously covered urban education.
.... get that startling information? Her twitter page gives us a few clues, especially this one
Beth Daley ‏@GlobeBethDaley            Oct 30 
Climate change's impact on Sandy
.... which takes us to Effects of climate change increase risk of storms’ impacts.
Climate change is probably part of Sandy’s story, scientists and environmentalists say, but there are also short-term weather forces conspiring to create the sprawling, powerful storm.
 and later
For example, rising sea levels in the Northeast, which are increasing three to four times faster than global rates, according to federal statistics, will bring more flooding and damaging storm surges that ride atop high seas. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, meaning storms could drop more precipitation.
That link is to the USGS (Salenger, et. al) paper whose abstract begins
Rates of sea level rise are increasing three-to-four times faster along portions of the U.S. Atlantic Coast than globally, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report published in Nature Climate Change. 
All is now clear; Daley, who "previously covered urban education" can't understand plain (American) english. It's not sea-levels rising "three to four times faster than global rates", it's the rates which are (claimed to be) increasing "three-to-four times faster along portions of the U.S. Atlantic Coast", the so-called "North-east hotspot", and that's nothing like so big a deal, by a long wave [not a typo]. I poked a few statistical and logical holes in their narrative in Between a Rock and a Wet Place - The USGS Creates a Hockey-stick.

When I recently updated my "Glossary of Global Warming and Climate Terms", little did I realise how close my satirical description of an environmental reporter (Reject from the fashion desk) might come to reality in just a few days. I was a bit off the mark though, she's a reject from the urban education desk. I'd have thought her year-long John S. Knight fellowship might have honed her journalistic skills more than a little, especially in reading and comprehension, as well as factual reporting, but of course it didn't cover very elementary statistical concepts. She's not alone though, many rejects from various departmental desks have been drawing the wrong (but alarmingly convenient) conclusion ever since Salenger, et al hit the webosphere last June. I just couldn't be bothered to waste blog-space on ceaseless twittering by know-nothings about nothing much to get worried about.

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