Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A bob each way

It looks like the New Zealand Herald, and some of its sources, are trying to have it both ways when predicting the weather.

On Friday, the Herald headlined a story “La Nina heatwave sweeps the country”. Citing the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), the paper said, “New Zealand is in for a long, hot summer as La Nina hits our shores.” They said:
“People could expect temperatures to be several degrees Celsius above normal, taking some regions into the 30s ‘from time to time’. While good news for holiday-makers, it was not so good for Northland or Waikato farmers already concerned about dry conditions.”
Today that same newspaper headlined a story “The forecast: wettest summer in 21 years”. Citing Weather Watch, the weather prediction arm of privately-owned RadioNetwork, the paper reported: “The North Island is in for the wettest summer in 21 years—ending the recent dry spell which broke numerous heat records.”

One doesn’t have to be a weather professional to see that they can’t both be right—even about the underlying science:

“El Nino and La Nina are different stages in a cyclical pattern of climate turbulence in the Pacific. While El Nino usually brings higher rainfall, La Nina brings cooler sea temperatures, high atmospheric pressure and drier air. Strong winds blow moisture away making for cloudless skies and dry conditions in equatorial countries from the International Date Line east to South America.” [emphasis added]
“The La Nina weather pattern has been warming oceans in the Pacific and warm oceans guarantee rain.” [emphasis added]
The Herald provided no explanation for the two diametrically opposed forecasts, nor did they ask Niwa for comment on this contradiction. As a result, readers are left with a “WTF?” feeling, having absolutely no idea who or what to believe.

Personally, I tend to put more credence in Niwa, whose job it is to research and understand weather and climate issues and science. Maybe I’m not alone in that: Weather Watch’s chief analyst, Philip Duncan, told the Herald: "It looks like there will be an end to their drought early in the new year. But, I would recommend that they still prepare for a drought to be on the safe side."

This sort of thing undermines the credibility of a newspaper because it confuses readers, leaving them unsure who or what to believe. C’mon, NZ Herald: WTF?!

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Off topic, but the Podcast Awards are up. I'm pushing for Coverville in the PodSafe Music category, and I'm voting for Ramble redhead in the GLBT category.