"What's Up With the Weather?"
NOVA - 04-02-2003

On April 02, 2003, I watched a 2 hour NOVA/Frontline "documentary" on Global Warming. If you used analyses of this quality to buy stocks, you would "loose your shirt".

About half the show was science and half was political. Even though they appeared to show both sides of the argument, there was a definite "the sky is falling" slant, particularly when you consider how much actual data was omitted.

It is interesting that the program shown immediately before this broadcast was another "the sky is falling" topic on seaweed where, apparently, there really is a problem. By implication, if the first program was true, then this one must also be true. However, the seaweed program had better supporting observations.

The Global Warming show purported to show 400,000 years of atmospheric CO2 levels, but did not overlay that data with temperature data (which is available via foraminifera) or ice age data. Therefore, it is not possible to draw any conclusions from the data except that CO2 levels are higher than any time in the last 400,000 years.

This is like buying a stock based on only 6 weeks of data and without comparing it to the averages or similar stocks.

We have about 20,000 years of sea level data, but there was only one mention of that and no charts. Because of this, most viewers will miss its significance. In fact the show gave the impression that sea levels should rise about 25 feet in the next 10 to 20 years. (It didn't actually say that, but it really gave that impression.)

Remember, the poles are -80 degrees F or colder. Who really thinks that these will melt if the global temperature rises 10 degrees? (Remember, they are only predicting about 2 degrees.)

Water vapor - This is the most important greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. The show even said this. However, all the talk about parts per billion never stated how much water was in the atmosphere using the same scale.

Remember the experiment where CO2 was pumped into a chamber in order to stop the transmission of heat from a guy's face. Talk about worthless. Obviously, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is having no effect - after all, there was an image. To be credible, the video must indicate the amount of CO2 in the chamber and correlate that to when we predict the same concentrations in our atmosphere. The same experiment should have been performed using water vapor. I'm pretty sure that infrared cameras won't work through clouds.

I loved the comparisons to Venus and Mars

What a bunch of bull. Venus is closer to the sun, Mars is further. But that was never mentioned. If you want to know what effect an atmosphere has, look at the moon - very hot on one side, very cold on the other.

By the way, did you know that the polar ice caps on Mars are getting smaller? I wonder how we can blame that on the humans? It is more likely that the sun is producing more heat.

Direct temperature measurements only go back a couple hundred years. And those are only in cities, which we know do not reflect the global temperature (it is always hotter in cities). Therefore, the show used diaries to get the last 1,000 years of global temperature. There was even a graph. Latter in the program, there was a point that the temperature in Europe was irrelevant because the Little Ice Age did not show up in various cores. Neither does the warming in Greenland. Yet, throughout the program, this 1,000 year "irrelevant" temperature graph was shown as the only evidence of global warming.

Actually, there may be an important feedback loop that was missed

At any rate, Nova supported its position by using "lies of omission" rather than solid scientific fact. So, basically, 3 important pieces of data were intentionally omitted

If this was a stock,

Basically, the temperature of the Earth does change, but if you think that humans are the cause, take another look at the data.


Apparently, this show was first shown April 2000. Well, that may explain why they didn't know that the Mars ice caps are melting.

When the program was re-shown (in 2003), they should have made a bigger deal about when it was made - an obscure, hard to read copyright notice really isn't enough.

When making suggestions with respect to how to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, they never mentioned that about 1/2 of household electricity is used simply to heat water. There was nothing about people replacing incandescent lights with fluorescents or LED's. Nothing about solar water heating or geothermal.

PBS also has an interview with Dr. S. Fred Singer - "a leading skeptic of the scientific consensus on global warming". To paraphrase, Dr. Singer says that the last ice age ended about 600 years BEFORE the observed increase in CO2.

PBS also has a number of graphs - these are quite interesting ... particularly because they do NOT agree with the graphs I obtained from other sources. For instance, the CDC graph of the Little Ice Age looks nothing like the PBS graph of the same period. And the 450,000 year CO2 percentage graph mixes data smoothed with a moving average of unspecified length with raw data for the last few years - it is not a valid comparison.

CO2 Blocks Heat Demo

There was one demo in the presentation that was pretty impressive Pretty impressive ... and totally bogus.

First, the gas was held in a tube that looked a lot like glass ... except that they forgot to mention that FLIR cameras do NOT work through glass. So I don't know what they used, but that is really a minor point.

As the CO2 was added, they forgot to tell us what the concentration was - was it 10 times today's value, 100 times, 1,000 times. Currently, CO2 is only 0.035% of the atmosphere. (In all fairness, perhaps they were trying to simulate 20 miles of atmosphere with a 2-foot tube ... but at least explain what you are doing and give some real data.)

How about repeating the same experiment with water vapor, or better yet steam (to simulate a cloud). (Actually, the FLIR ThermaCam used was designed to work in a frequency band where water does not absorb very much IR. In another frequency band, normal atmospheric water vapor would limit the camera's ability to form an image. But a cloud, about a 3% water concentration, would have completely blocked the image.)

This was a great demo, I am sure that it convinced an awful lot of people that the end is here ... too bad it was missing any useful data.

Note   Assuming that the chamber was actually 3 feet long and that the CO2 concentration was at 100%, my calculations indicate that this demonstration represented only about 1/3 of the actual CO2 between the surface of the Earth and the top of the atmosphere. If this is correct, then, based on this video, the atmosphere is already opaque at the CO2 absorbing frequency and, therefore, adding more CO2 to the atmosphere will have no measurable effect. Added 02-15-07

The presented science is mostly balanced (except for the charts) ... but the narrators comments definitely slant. It includes 4 quotes from Vice President Al Gore ("global warming's greatest champion"), and 12 references to him supporting his position ... so many, in fact, that this presentation could be considered as a political ad masquerading as a science presentation. Notice that the show first aired April 2000 ... just in time for the presidential campaign.

In addition, the presentation repeatedly plays the boogieman card

The presentation starts with all the political bias, then it continues with a balanced presentation of the facts. Then, about half way through, the political bias kicks in at full tilt.

Show Reference

Author: Robert Clemenzi
URL: http:// questionable-science.com / Global_Warming / tv_programs / NOVA_2002_04_02.html