I had to laugh reading the French reports I mention below.
A few days ago I saw the same kind of stuff in the Russian and Italian media: meteorologists and meteorological institutes forecasting a “killer 100-year 2013/14 winter“. It’s all over Europe. Where does this come from?
It seems that meteorologists Joe Bastardi’s and Dominik Jung’s preliminary, legitimate speculation of a possible colder-than-normal 2013/14 winter has been miscommunicated and morphed into a serious forecast of “a killer 100-year winter“. Everywhere in the European media I’m now seeing reports that a “really hard winter may be on the way“. Dude, fear and a rush for snow shovels is about to break out!
First the Belgium-based, French-language news site DH.be has an article titled: “On The Way To A Winter Of Death?“.
The piece cites German meteorologist Dominik Jung, who runs the site wetternet.de. Lately Jung has been analyzing European and American weather charts in order to try to get a heads up as to how the winter could shape up, which could serve as especially valuable information for a host of industries, e.g. tourism or retailing. But the DH.be writes:
Awaiting the arrival of winter, European meteorologists are already predicting an icy season, and not one that’s just run of the mill, but rather the coldest one in 100 years.
A natural phenomenon will be the source of the cold wave that is about to strike Europe head-on: the melting of Arctic ice which is cooling the oceans, which in turn leads to the formation of cold air currents that will plunge into our regions this winter.”
At this point, the reader already has the idea that it’s going to be a really harsh winter, and next thing you know he’s spreading it all over town.
DH.be later in the article does add that meteorologist Marc Vandiepenbeeck at the Royal Meteorological Institute (IRM) warns that the atmosphere is far too complex to make such predictions with any real degree of certainty, and that making such predictions is “wacky”.
DH.be writes Jung says that predictions of the most horrible winter in a 100 years must be taken with healthy dose of doubt. But then it writes:
…he maintains that the winter 2013/2014 will probably be ‘extremely bitter’.”
Where did the predictions of a bitter cold winter get started?
So we ask in this case, what is original source of this “super-winter forecast“? How did it all get started? The answer is a classic example of how normal, innocent speculation unintentionally can morph into a much huger story, eventually get accepted almost as a scientific fact, and then start to spread across the land.
Website CatNat.net here gives us good evidence of where the seed for the “100-year killer-winter” inadvertently got planted. CatNat writes:
…many European forecasters are predicting a cold one for 2013/2014. ‘Dominik Jung, German meteorologist, explains that next winter will be abnormally cold, and so does American Joe Bastardi, who works for weather giant AccuWeather, and who explains that ‘it’s going to be very cold’.”
Little of this is accurate, of course. Firstly, Joe stopped working for Accuweather a long time ago. Secondly I’m not aware of Joe ever saying: “It’s going to be a very cold winter.” I do recall him saying that NOAA was looking at the probability of a cold winter and that there were a couple of factors pointing to a cold winter. But he never predicted it to my knowledge.
Anyway, it seems that Joe’s Saturday Summary is gaining a good sized audience in Europe.
CatNat then explains that the cold winter prediction is “based on climatic indicators” which indicate that “Arctic air will plunge into Europe. The abnormal cold are also influenced by the Arctic oscillation (variation in atmospheric pressures at sea level between 20°N and the pole), one of the principal factors of influence on winter temperatures in the northern Hemisphere.”
For Americain meteorologist Joe Bastardi, low solar activity is also in play. A similar cycle was observed during the 1950s, with cold waves extending until spring.”
Near the end, CatNat does add that seasonal forecasts are weak in reliability, and that seasonal forecasts are barely better than flipping a coin. Yet, it’s doubtful that most readers ever got that far.
And now it’s too late. All of Europe it seems is now convinced that the coming winter is going to be a real tough one – maybe even the worst in a 100 years! Not because Joe Bastardi and Dominik Jung predicted so, but because their original speculation somehow got miscommunicated and morphed into a dire prediction as it passed through the media grapevine.
The two recent French reports cited above are just the latest. A few days ago I saw the same stuff in Russian and Italian media. I expect to see more such reports – maybe even soon at the Beeb.
Makes you think that maybe the same type of runaway fantasy occurred in climate science. An increase in the atmospheric concentration of a trace gas exploding into a multi-trillion dollar global panic.