26 August 2013

Note To CBS: This is NOT News, It’s Make Believe.

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 10.39.35 PMCBS has put this AP story on the front page of its website this evening. To say It’s patently ridiculous would be a severe understatement, because there is NO evidence that “Based on planetary positions, sunspots and lunar cycles” one can forecast the winter weather in North America. NONE, Nada, Zip, and ZILCH. Have I made my point yet??

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 11.07.30 PMWe live in a world where being informed is important, and there are dozens of stories everyday that never make the front page of your daily newspaper or favorite news website. Oh sure, it’s a human interest story you say; some bright spot in the news that folks will be talking about, but there a lot of those to choose from, and what’s more they’re likely TRUE. Is this nothing more than a publicity stunt to sell copies of Farmers Almanac to scientifically illiterate Americans?? Yes it is, and the CBS and AP bought it hook line and sinker.

I wonder what piece of information could have been on the front of the CBS website this evening, but didn’t make it because of this piece of breaking news?? I can tell you why it’s there, because people will read it. The problem is that many of them will actually believe it. Don’t believe me? I can prove my point, because It’s already the second most popular news item on the site. Want to bet it reaches number one?? (Sorry, you just lost..it reached number one before I could finish typing this post).

How about a little critical thinking about your claim. Here are a few questions I have, and it would have been nice if the reporter had thought of one or two of them.

1. What exactly IS your method Farmers Almanac?? If it’s so good, why don’t you publish it?? Why not sell it and make millions?? I can assure you that an accurate method of predicting winter weather is worth many times the income of your magazine will sell in 50 years! Wall Street alone would pay multi-millions for it!

2. What exactly is your definition of a “bitterly cold winter”? Is it the same for Key West as it is for Green Bay? If not, why not?

3. Is all of the U.S. going to have a bitterly cold winter, or just part of it? If part only, why?

4. Has any independent body conducted a test to see if your method works?? How can I know precisely if your forecast was right or wrong?? Is a negative average temperature anomaly for the winter over the U.S. of three degrees enough?? How about one degree?? Is it for climatological winter or astronomical winter? Both maybe??

5. Just how exactly is it possible for the position of the planets or sunspots to affect our winter weather. When does the effect start? Does it not work in summer or fall?? If not, why not? How did you discover this effect?

There is actually a conspiracy theory type movie (that climate change skeptics adore) which claims sunspots are the cause of the Earth’s warming over the past century. You’d be surprised how many folks believe that too. It’s been awhile since I put my all time favorite science quote in a post, but this just begs for it.

 “Science is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves” Richard Feynman.

Full disclosure: I do not work for CBS or the AP, but I do work for a CBS affiliate. Not that every other news outlet in America will also post/print the AP story.