May 13, 2017

Seattle Times Climate Change Article is Dead Wrong

The big front page story in the Seattle Times today, both online and in print, is about how climate change has caused the death of a 72-year old pine tree in the University of Washington arboretum.  Unfortunately, the underlying premise of the story is false, representing another unfortunate example of exaggerating the impacts of global warming.

The writer of the story, Lynda Mapes, could not have been more explicit:

The cause of death was climate change: steadily warming and drier summers, that stressed the tree in its position atop a droughty knoll.

So, lets check the data and determine the truth.   My first stop was the nice website of the Office of the Washington State Climatologist (OWSC), where they have a tool for plotting climatological data.  Here is the summer (June-August) precipitation for the Seattle Urban Site, about a mile away from the tree in question.   It indicates an upward trend (increasing precipitation) over the period available (1895-2014), not the decline claimed by the article.

Or lets go to the Western Region Climate Center website and plot the precipitation for the same period, considering the entire Puget Sound lowlands (see below) using the NOAA/NWS climate division data set and for June through September.  Very similar to the Seattle Urban Site.  Not much overall trend, but there is some natural variability, with a minor peak in the 70s and 80s.

It is also important to note that summer precipitation is relatively low in our region--most our precipitation arrives in four months from late fall to midwinter. Looking at annual precipitation (see below), we find the same story:  modest upward trend in precipitation.

So the claim that summers in our region are drying is simple false.  Busted.

So what about temperature?  Let's examine the maximum temperature trend at the same Seattle Urban location for summer (June through August).  There is a slight upward trend since 1895 by .05F per decade. Virtually nothing. 

 What about the period in which the poor lived (it was planted in 1948)?  As shown below, temperatures actually COOLED during that period.

You get the message, the claim that warming summer temperatures produced by "climate change" somehow killed this pine is simply without support by the facts.

So the bottom line of all this is that the climate record disproves the Seattle Times claim that warming and drying killed that pine tree in the UW arboretum.  There is no factual evidence that climate change ended the 72-year life of that tree.  The fact that a non-native species was planted in a dry location and was not watered in the summer is a more probable explanation.

Why is an important media outlet not checking its facts before publishing such a front page story? Lynda Mapes is an excellent writer, who has done great service describing the natural environment of our region.  Why was she compelled to put a climate change spin on a story about the death of a non-native tree?

Now something personal.  Every time I correct misinformation in the media like this, I get savaged by some "environmentalists" and media.  I am accused of being a denier, a skeptic, an instrument of the oil companies, and stuff I could not repeat in this family friendly blog.  Sometimes it is really hurtful.  Charles Mudede of the Stranger is one of worst of the crowd, calling me "dangerous" and out of my mind (see example below).

A postdoc at the UW testified at the Environment Committee of  the Washington State House saying that I was a contrarian voice.  I spoke to her in person a few days later and asked where my science was wrong--she could not name one thing.  But she told me that my truth telling was "aiding" the deniers.  We agreed to disagree. 

My efforts do not go unnoticed at the UW, with my department chairman and leadership in the UW Climate Impacts Group telling me of "concerns" with my complaints about hyped stories on oyster deaths and snowpack.    One UW professor told me that although what I was saying was true, I needed to keep quiet because I was helping "the skeptics."  Probably not good for my UW career.

I believe scientists must provide society with the straight truth, without hype or exaggeration, and that we must correct false or misleading information in the media.   It is not our role to provide inaccurate information so that society will "do the right thing."   History is full of tragic examples of deceiving the public to promote the "right thing"--such as weapons of mass destruction claims and the Iraq War.

Global warming forced by increasing greenhouse gases is an extraordinarily serious challenge to our species that will require both mitigation (reducing emissions) and adaptation (preparing ourselves to deal with the inevitable changes).  Society can only make the proper decisions if they have scientists' best projections of what will happen in the future, including the uncertainties.

Addendum:  Why Do I Spend More Time Dealing with Exaggerators Rather Than Skeptics

Some folks have complained that I spend more time in the blog correcting "Exaggerators" and "Hypers" than "Deniers" and "Skeptics".   Thus, they suggest I am a closet Denier or Skeptic myself.   Let me explain.  I deal with exaggerators more for two simple reasons:

1.  I live in Seattle, WA.   The media here (e.g., the Seattle Times, The Stranger, etc.), in concert with the left-leaning, environmental sentiments of the region,  overwhelming tend towards exaggeration of the effects of global warming.   Same thing with local politicians.     If they went the other way (saying that global warming is nonsense), I would comment on it.

2.  There are LOTS of scientists that are fact-checking skeptics but extremely few that are dealing with the exaggerators.   There are a number of reasons for this, including the political leanings of many scientists.


How will Northwest Weather Change Under Global Warming?  Help Us Determine the Local Impacts of Climate Change

Society needs to know the regional impacts of climate change and several of us at the UW are trying to provide this information with state-of-the-art high resolution climate modeling.  With Federal funding unavailable, we are experimenting with a community funding to build this effort.  If you want more information or are interested in helping, please go here.  The full link is:    All contributions to the UW are tax deductible.


  1. Good for you, Cliff. Stand your ground. Truth does not have an ideology.

  2. I've supported you for years, Cliff. We need honest voices. You are not a denier - you're someone who values truth and honesty when most of society has come to believe any news that contradicts your beliefs must be fake, and any news that supports you must be true.

  3. From the article it seems like the beetles are the real culprit.

  4. The Seattle Times story specifically cites beetle infestation as the proximate cause, and there is research showing bark beetle range has expanded throughout North America due to climate change. The climate at the tree itself isn't necessarily the salient issue.

  5. 1) When effects of climate change are exaggerated, there are climate scientists that speak out about it. Good to know

    2) Reading the "personal note" makes me think that the scientists involved are terrible at politics. Any attempt at "shh" creates space and credibility for conspiracy theorists. I mean, it's a relief that scientists are bad at politics because it puts the lie to the grand conspiracies!

    3) Could it be possible that the valid part of others' criticism is that you don't pay attention to whether your articles could be taken out of context as denier propaganda? I haven't seen the articles that they were complaining about, but if this post ended before "Now something personal", then the article could be taken out of context as an example of how climate fears are overstated, and dumb/inattentive people will make the gross generalisation could be drawn that all climate fears are overstated. Even in this article, those last two sentences are crucial to put the rest of the article into context, and they are tucked away at the very end where those with short attention spans wouldn't see them.

    I applaud your insistence on pointing out mistakes even when they're inconvenient to your cause of warning people about the "extraordinarily serious challenge to our species" - I share the same vice - but there are ways to reduce your usefulness as a propaganda tool for the other side, without compromising truth or introducing lies of omission. And I think that's the best way to serve the public and share the science.

    I hope that this is the nub of the conflict between you and your colleagues; if you play up the "this journalist got it wrong, I'm a climate scientist and I'm more rigourous than that - and climate change is still a thing" angle then perhaps you can make everyone other than the denier blogs happy!

  6. Cliff, a least squares straight-line fit to the your entire dataset may not reveal what's been happening as the climate has first noticeably changed since the 1970's. I suggest a moving mean, using 5 year averages for temperature and ppt (separately as rain and snow) to examine recent trends. Have we experienced warmer and drier summers since 1970 when we first noticed the climate was changing?

    Of course there are other variables affecting this tree. Not all trees live 3,000 years or even 100 years. It's possible that this tree, native to the eastern US, normally living in dry, sandy soil, found 7 months of rain annually debilitating. So it's likely we have a number of untestable hypotheses for the demise of this tree, but "climate change" can't be ruled out.

  7. Thank you, Cliff, for standing your ground and speaking your mind truthfully. Truth and trust are extraordinarily are commodities in our contemporary world. It is very sad, alarmingly disturbing, and downright nightmarishly scary. We need more people like you and less people who criticize people like you. We should look up to people like you as heroes. I do. Thanks.

  8. It is unfortunately common for people to say things like "yes, while that statement was untrue... the fact that you pointed that out undermines our attempts to get people moving on the issue".

    The problem is that untrue or unsupported statements - such as Al Gore's claims regarding hurricanes in An Inconvenient Truth - are exactly what gives the deniers their best ammunition! So it's important that, when discussing the topic of anthropogenic global warming, we stick to facts and are honest about the points which are not yet settled science (or which turn out to be wrong).

    Untrue claims just encourage the skeptics to believe that every claim is wrong.

  9. Cliff - people lie in order to attract attention. This is especially true when money is involved, as is the case with this "journalist" and the birdcage liner she produces. End of story.

  10. Even when people accept scientifically sound theories like AGW, nevertheless they often don their magical thinking hats to tie observed effects to specious causes.

    If you're going to say that changing climate killed a tree, and that the tree wouldn't have simply died on its own (as living things do,) then you'd better have a factual basis for such a claim. As Dr. Mass demonstrated amply here, this Times writer blamed the bogeyman of our times without having the data in her favor.

  11. Cliff,

    Very few allege that you are a climate change denier; usually only those on the fringe do so.

    What people do believe, because you bear this out in your actions, is that you believe the greatest roadblock to political progress on finding climate change solutions comes from the far left, rather than the political party that denies climate change as part of its party platform and ethos.

    Take, for example, your point-by-point refutation of the Seattle Times article. You've done this with many articles from the Times, and your overriding concern is that the impacts of climate change are being overstated or misrepresented, which does harm to efforts to improve climate policy.

    You simply do not use the same rigor and passion to refute the claims that climate change is a hoax. Coincidentally, this is also a central position of the political party that has the power to effect actual changes to our climate policy.

    Some might argue that systemic, outright denialism by an entire political party might be more harmful to our planet that an exaggeration by a local newspaper article. You reliably choose to focus on the latter rather than the former.

    That might be where some of the frustrations come from.

    1. Thank you. Also, this fella Cliff is not a climate scientist, and so, I cannot endorse anything he promotes in this complicated subject. I do however believe the 98percent of climate who state that climate catastrophe is real and human-made. How catastrophic and extensive the damage will be is the only didput. That it is a catastrophe and millions will die is not in dispute if the Paris Accords are not fully excercised.

  12. Cliff,

    I follow your blog regularly, thank you for posting the facts and not being intimidated by the media that recently seems to see 'climate change' behind every tree (death). Don't misunderstand me, I realize excessive carbon emissions are bad for the environment but not every storm, flood, drought, or dead tree is the result of climate change.

    Roy Slettevold
    Renton, WA

  13. Not disagreeing with the conclusion of the post, but just out of curiosity: is a plot of the maximum summer temp an accurate proxy for the overall "warmth" of that summer? Wouldn't you want to take the overall average temp of the summer months? I can see the max temp mattering to a tree, similarly to the min temp mattering, but if you want to refute the idea that the summer was "hotter", why use the max temp? (If I've interpreted the graphs correctly.)

    Similarly, total rainfall numbers don't encompass the distribution of that rainfall... couldn't heavier but shorter rainfall equate to "drier" from the perspective of a tree?

    Again, not saying any of this matters to the conclusion; just asking out of curiosity.

  14. Re your personal note: I often rely on your analysis to provide context for claims and assertions I hear about climate change. What I've seen so far has been a willingness to call BS when you see it and an approach that could easily strike some as overly cautious. That's OK, and it is a critical perspective when considering the politically charged cacophony surrounding the subject. You offer a thoroughly defensible take on atmospheric processes and what data and analysis show us.

    I'm less sure of your technical chops when you venture into areas that intersect with atmospheric processes such as ocean acidification, so I take your arguments as a useful caution reminding us to exercise healthy skepticism regarding the subject. It seems that ocean acidification has been generally accepted to be a likely result of climate change, and I seem to recall you offering arguments to the contrary, but I forget off hand how you qualified and contextualized them. For me, that is the crux of matter, if I have an inclination to join in this aspect of the debate citing related evidence, then I know I'll need to look at it very carefully first, and understand how and where some conclusions may be less than certain.

    I've been watching this debate rage since the late '80s, it appalls me that some of the most basic data and fundamental conclusions are so readily dismissed and challenged. I see you as a guardian of these data and conclusions. While I may, at times, want you to run out and skirmish using some shiny new technique, I can't see you abandoning your post. Right now that is very reassuring.

  15. Get at 'em, Cliff. Your followers and the sciences back you up on this one. (Not to mention all the services you've provided to aid climate research in the Pacific NorthWest in the first place.)

  16. As an environmentalist I stand with you Cliff. Clearly any reasonable person would stand for free speech, academic freedom, true scientific debate - and call for journalistic integrity as well. Unfortunately, in today's world that makes you a heroic outlier. The UW had better not entertain notions of making you a martyr.

  17. Thank you for telling the truth and I despair that fact causes personal grief. I cannot help but wonder why those who criticize you haven’t figured out that not telling the truth hurts the case for action more with the folks who haven’t made up their minds than the claimed support to the skeptic arguments ever could. People are not stupid. They can sense over-hyping and if they get curious enough then it is easy, as you demonstrated, to prove the claim is wrong. The result is a skeptical opponent to the case for action.

  18. There's an equal or greater consensus among scientist that climate change is real and human caused than the fact that smoking causing lung cancer. Whether it caused the problems for this specific tree is a red herring and isn't helping the environment. It just gives fuel to science deniers.

  19. I'll just quote one of favorite scientists of all time, Dr. Richard Feynman:

    "Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.”

    This neatly encapsulates the crux of the problem - until the AGW proponents stop acting like their theories are akin to a religious cult and anyone not in 100% agreement with them are heretics and must be denounced and cast out, those among the citizenry will continue to discount their alarmist tendencies.

  20. Exactly. The mean temp is what's important, not the max

  21. You're entitled to your own opinions, but you're not entitled to your own facts.

    Thank you for respecting the value of science and keeping the two separate.

    1. Yes, Salem, Oregon is Warming
      Over a year and a half ago, there was a comment on a post of mine, "Why Very Warm Events are Exponentially More Probable in a Warmer World," about temperatures in Salem, Oregon, where I live, by Mark Albright of UW.

      He gave this graph to show that temperatures in Salem, Oregon were in fact decreasing:

      However, this graph is for the annual mean of the daily maximum temperatures. I can reproduce this trend from these data via Mark's site.

      However, what if we look at the daily average temperature, defined as the average of Tmax and Tmin for the day? The result is quite different, with a positive trend:

      The trend, since the record started in 1928, up until 2014, is +0.07 C/decade. Over the 30 years 1984-2014 the trend is +0.23 C/decade, easily positive and very worrisome. (It's equal to 0.41 F/decade.)

      Anthropogenic global warming increases nightly minima more than it does daily maxima. So just looking at the trend in daily maxima can be misleading. Better to look at the trend in the daily average.

      (note 2/13: corrected the label on the last graph.)

  22. This debate is a great example of why interdisciplinary research is so vitally important. The complex interaction between organisms and climate requires a great deal more data than average temperatures and average precipitation to understand. This involves plant physiology and soil moisture availability as well as climatology.

    Pitch pine is a non-native species that is not particularly well adapted to our mild winter, dry-summer climate. Its native habitat includes the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where the soils are characterized by poor water retention and lack of nutrients, but are also subject to periodic heavy rains throughout the summer that provide moisture to the tree’s root system. In June, July and August, the Pine Barrens typically receive 14 inches of rain, much of it in drenching thunderstorms.

    Seattle’s summer precipitation is less than a quarter of that. Worse, our infrequent summer rains tend to be light drizzle, most of which never even penetrates the soil surface, but simply dampens the grass and then evaporates. The root zone of a tree perched on a knoll, as our late champion pitch pine was, will generally be dry all summer long. A tree that is not adapted to such extended soil drought will be stressed all summer. Even small changes in maximum temperatures, soil moisture availability and soil drought duration can weaken such trees and increase the likelihood of bark beetle attack.

    How trees are stressed by climate is a field that is getting a lot of study these days. Relative humidity in the air around the crown of the tree, and soil moisture levels, tracked over time are the kind of data needed to understand the stresses involved.

  23. Unfortunately, AGW (climate change, in fact, due to any cause) has become an identity issue that rivals abortion in its polarity. With us or against us, with any arguments being a sign of faithlessness. This is true even among people who fully understand both the science and the part it now plays in the political process. While I have few doubts that the climate is going to be much changed by the end of the century, which will disrupt billions of lives, I never take any story in Seattle media about climate change at face value.

    Here in Seattle, this is a fight among those who see AGW as a major threat. This doesn't involve most conservatives and/or Republicans because they've denied it all. There is no need to discuss (here at least) the deniers arguments given they are patently anti-science. This is a battle among those who see the threat in terms of how to manage the unwashed public who don't have a foot in the science. More relevantly to this blog, it's the issue of censuring objective discussion within the AGW camp. That's one of the main reasons I read Cliff's blog every day. The stay grounded in the science and not the politics and the hype.

    The original strategy of pounding people over the head with questionable climate change stories (like this Times article) has failed. There is a core on either side of the issue that are unswayed. Articles that are not scientifically accurate should be criticized and corrected by those who do understand the science.

    This effort to influence the public started innocently enough and for noble reasons: there was an urgent need to convince a majority of the country that urgent and painful action on CO2 was required. But that effort has failed to significantly change the direction of government actions and most personal behavior. And now Trump has put a full stop to progress. Republicans and deniers are now in charge. The now dominant Republican party has made it clear that they will not bite the bullet and act on CO2 rises, and they (along with their sponsors) have convinced enough people to follow them down that path.

    So the battle is now within the out-of-power AGW camp. We could spend all our time focusing on idealogical purity, or we could figure out how to adjust to the political climate and prepare for a hopeful future when science will again drive decisions. Eating our own won't do it.

  24. Was 2015 was not included in the trend you posted, and apparently not even worth mentioning.
    "For us in Washington and the Northwest, 2015 was the warmest year in the temperature record," climate scientist Joe Casola with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington said."

  25. Bravo Cliff, truth and science. Two peas in a pod.

    Amazing the comments here shaming you for not keeping quiet where the media overstates AGW, usually just for click bait. Those people never seem to understand their shortsightedness. Only truth and science can win hearts and minds in the long haul because as Feynman noted, evidence trumps theory. No matter the claims, the facts will lead where they may. If these fervent AGW adherents truly want to persuade people to their side, they should get rid of the Bill Nyes and the Al Gores and instead support the Cliff Masses.

  26. Without seeing the site in person , I can point out that planting a tree upon a drought knoll is not a bright idea . "Right plant , right place " .

  27. One person asked why some of the plots only go through 2014. The answer--because the plotting of the state climattologist office only goes through that date. But two years will have very little impact on the long term it is not much of a real issue here...cliff mass

    1. Cliff

      A climate scientist can't find up-to-date temperature/precipitation data for his home town? I don't buy it.

      Are daily lows also unavailable?

  28. There is no need to discuss (here at least) the deniers arguments given they are patently anti-science.

    Good God, you people are arrogant!

  29. Thank you for holding your ground on this. Previous commenter "Jort Sandwich" is correct. If you're going to use this blog as a platform to advance the truth on climate change, please spend more time on the deniers and less time on the exaggerators.

  30. I suspect you're right about this tree. But regional temps seem to be changing. Data from recent years shows warmer nighttime temps especially, wouldmyou agree?

  31. As a liberal in the liberal Seattle area, I thank you for your courage in speaking the truth and letting the chips fall where they may.

  32. I really appreciate you consistently pointing out actual scientific observations and data on the realities of climate change. You are right that those of us that are so passionate about our believes in climate change and global warming are so often victim to unsubstantiated and invalidated information. We want so badly for the world to see what we/they are doing to our environment that we gravitate towards any story/sound-bite that seems to validate our concerns. I know that by doing so we are no better than others that gravitate towards their unsubstantiated 'findings' disproving climate change. I know that by gravitating towards our own unsubstantiated 'findings' that we only give the other side more fuel to mock us and find the holes in our viewpoints.

    Keep up your good work Cliff! Those of us that read your blog with an open and unbiased mind know that you believe in climate change and global warming...and that as a true scientist you use actual observations and data to relay the truths of this phenomenon. The older I get the more I realize that truth is found between the extremes.....


  33. Cliff,

    Regarding your “something personal” comments, I find it really appalling that you are being criticized for correcting factual errors. I think this tells us a lot about those who criticize such actions and their objectivity.

    Department chairs have a right to personal opinions, but they do not (and should not) have the right to let personal feelings impact their job as a chair. I am not a big fan of tenure in the modern world, but your current situation is a good justification for the concept.

  34. "Deniers."

    I don't believe the AGW hypothesis. It has failed its own predictive tests, and is based on faulty methodology from the start. But I don't deny climate change. The climate has always been changing, and it always will change.

  35. Another reason why I follow you Cliff. Although, I have a hard time believing a trace gas, essential for ALL life on earth, will be our eventual demise, I do highly respect your honest reporting of real science and the facts regardless of your political bent. Please don't ever bow to the agenda fanatics on either side.

  36. Petroleum causes extinction..Hydrogen fuel cell removes need of petrolium,coal,and nuclear them off the face of the earth once and for all...

  37. I think the problem of understanding what killed the tree is more of a problem of what the Arboretum staff believes than what the Seattle Times or its reporter believes. The staff told the reporter that the climate changed and she reported on it. Albeit she didn't collaborate the story with climate experts but that's not uncommon today when the media has cut back on reporters and reporting. Maybe Professor Mass can get together with the Arboretum staff and correct their misconceptions what what's happen (or not) to Seattle's Climate.

  38. > I believe scientists must provide society with the straight truth, without hype or exaggeration, and that we must correct false or misleading information in the media. It is not our role to provide inaccurate information so that society will "do the right thing."

    Thanks Cliff,

    and for similar views, see of course, Richard Feynman

    ...But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves—of having utter scientific integrity—is, I’m sorry to say, something that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis.

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

    I would like to add something that’s not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you’re talking as a scientist. I’m not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you’re not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We’ll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong, that you ought to do when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

    For example, I was a little surprised when I was talking to a friend who was going to go on the radio. He does work on cosmology and astronomy, and he wondered how he would explain what the applications of this work were. “Well,” I said, “there aren’t any.” He said, “Yes, but then we won’t get support for more research of this kind.” I think that’s kind of dishonest. If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you’re doing—and if they don’t want to support you under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.

    One example of the principle is this: If you’ve made up your mind to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish both kinds of result. For example—let’s take advertising again—suppose some particular cigarette has some particular property, like low nicotine. It’s published widely by the company that this means it is good for you—they don’t say, for instance, that the tars are a different proportion, or that something else is the matter with the cigarette. In other words, publication probability depends upon the answer. That should not be done.

    I say that’s also important in giving certain types of government advice. Supposing a senator asked you for advice about whether drilling a hole should be done in his state; and you decide it would he better in some other state. If you don’t publish such a result, it seems to me you’re not giving scientific advice. You’re being used. If your answer happens to come out in the direction the government or the politicians like, they can use it as an argument in their favor; if it comes out the other way, they don’t publish it at all. That’s not giving scientific advice.

  39. This stuff from the disgruntled can be a disheartening but most of us that read you know you serve your science straight up. Thanks for the blog.

  40. "Why Very Warm Events are Exponentially More Probable in a Warmer World"

    Here's an interesting aspect.

    Since 1905, global as well as US mean temperatures have, of course, increased.

    For the same period, extreme warm ( and cold ) events in the US have decreased.

    This only appears to be a paradox until one reviews the early work on global warming.

    Manabe found that increased mean temperature was associated with decreased temperature variability ( and decreased kinetic energy ). These are quite possibly two great benefits of global warming.

  41. Thanks Cliff. We don't need more "Chicken Littles" claiming the sky is falling, in this frustrating and difficult battle to get the majority of our species to understand the true impact and process of climate change.

    Good work.

  42. Professor Mass, I think you are correct. There are, unfortunately many unfounded claims on the effects of climate change. I don't know what to do. I think the problem is that there is a lack of critical thought, and too much attention to (short term) media coverage...

  43. Numerous times I have heard the argument that scientists must contend that earth's climate is warming catastrophically because if they are right then they will save the world, and if they are wrong then no harm done.

    But that is a public policy argument -- arguably a flawed one -- not a scientific one. If scientists wish to maintain their integrity they must not give into this reasoning. They must always be fearless seekers of truth no matter where it leads.

  44. rabbit....that argument fails on many levels. For example, we must ensure that our physical infrastructure is ready for global warming. To do such planning means scientists must give engineers/planners what we think is the most probable outcome...cliff

  45. All this from the death of a single non-native pine tree?

    An ecologist might think pertinent questions might include, “what is typical life span of this sp. on home grounds?” Or, what is soil moisture like at “home” versus in Seattle? Or, what is cool season photosynthesis in native habitat like compared to Seattle? Or, what pathogens and symbionts differ between habitats?

    The point is that several things will be marginal in Seattle, perhaps leading to inability to survive in Seattle. Even a simple growth requirement like maintaining sufficient root hair mass over several short summer droughts might be the issue.

    Global climate changes typically should be far down the list of potential causes for death of a single organism. Billions dying? Look for strong epidemiological correlations with large scale environments or parasitical infections, etc. Single organism death? Site specific causes seem much more likely, such as habitat stress in winter or (especially) summer, or interspecific competitive status at the site, and so forth.

    WT (Ted) Hinds UW-Seattle, MS, PhD

  46. for what it's worth, I support you in spreading truth and not lies regarding global warming. I can't fault you for that. What I do have a problem with are these posts you write on homelessness and traffic congestion where you simply get the facts wrong and propose counter intuitive solutions. There is really smart activism even just locally on these issues and I wish you'd do some research with the same respect for the material that you do for climate science and forecasting. In recent memory, urban planning and homelessness. It's foolish and reckless not to do your research when you have a somewhat influencial platform with your blog.

    There is incredible irony in the fact that you talk about the Seattle Times ruining it's credibility with nonsense and fear mongering regarding climate change, when you are literally undermining yourself with the nonsense you post on road diets and homelessness solutions.

  47. The global warming/climate change field will likely go down in history as a better study on human psychology and political influence on science than actual climate science, which to the dismay of Al Gore and others, is a very boring, undramatic scientific field.

  48. I can't believe you publish crazy nonsense like this on your blog. Next you will tell us that nuclear power doesn't generate any CO2!

  49. The global warming/climate change field will likely go down in history as a better study on human psychology and political influence on science than actual climate science, which to the dismay of Al Gore and others, is a very boring, undramatic scientific field.


    If Charles Mackay were alive today, he'd have a global warming chapter in his famous 1841 book, "Exraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds." Rught there next to the tulip bubble and the South Sea bubble.

    The AGW hypothesis has been sucking wind for quite a while now. When it collapses for all to see, the crash will take a lot of people down.

  50. First, Cliff, may I congratulate you on an interesting site. I have not visited before but I will again. You give a great account of an all-too-familiar phenomenon. The media seem to be incapable of employing people who are at least minimally competent in interpreting science for the general public.
    I have three science degrees and have also studied both the history and philosophy of science. I believe passionately that science is our main means of gaining new knowledge and thereby improving human wellbeing. Hence, whilst I certainly deny no science, my opinions on this subject are driven, as I believe those of any competent scientist should be, by evidence. Regrettably, hard evidence on this complex and largely unknown subject is thin on the ground.
    In the company of people who seem fairly certain of their views I like to add to my knowledge by asking a few questions. Usually my questions are deleted quite quickly. I hope that will not happen here. But let me try anyway.
    1. You will no doubt be aware that the IPCC DAGWH (Dangerous Anthipomorphic Global Warming Hypothesis) and, for that matter, the basic greenhouse science makes the prediction that increased greenhouse warming will cause a measurable increase in temperature in the troposphere in equatorial regions. This is often referred to as the Tropospheric Hot Spot (THS). The many Global Circulation Models also make this prediction. We launched satellites in 1979, partly to detect the THS. However, the satellites have failed to find it. If we had found it I have little doubt that it would be declared as strong proof of the AGWH. Does not its absence constitute strong evidence that increased greenhouse warming has not occurred?
    2. You will also be aware that the IPCC do not consider CO2-induced greenhouse warming to be sufficient, by itself, to be dangerous. They postulate, and the models incorporate, a secondary phase of H2O-induced warming intensified by positive feedback. My studies of the paleoclimate suggest that the conditions necessary for this secondary phase have occurred many times before but there has been no evidence of positive feedbacks. Does this not suggest that the IPCC assumption is infeasible?
    3. Thermometer measurements going back to the early 19th century and ice cores show warming trends comparable with that in the 1970-2000 period. We don’t know what caused those warmings. So, how do we know that the same phenomena did not cause the late 20th century episode?
    If anyone has answers to these questions, I would be delighted to hear them. Equally, if you think they are stupid questions, I am happy to be told, with reasons of course.
    Many thanks in anticipation.

  51. It all comes down to credibility. One who 'spins' any 'news' related story is completely unethical and calls into question the sum of their life's work. Exaggerators and deniers alike need to be keel-hauled for having lied to the public in a feeble attempt to sway and influence actions that meet their personal needs.

    Cliff, please keep up your most outstanding work that never fails to exceed expectations.

  52. We need objectivity from all areas.
    I do believe in Global Warming, spinning stories for or against is unacceptable.

    Also you provide an great example of critical thinking which is becoming a lost art.

  53. Thank you, Cliff, for posting this. In Olden Thymes, I was a journalist in New York and we were required to have links to where we got our data and if we were going out on a limb (pun intended) as Miss Mapes did, we would need three independent sources and we'd meet with an editor to review how we were certain each source did not know each other. It was exasperating to have a headline slowed down by the process ... but at least we produced a factual product.

  54. There you go again, muddying the climate change waters with facts instead of conjecture...

  55. There are many responses here where the word ‘believe’ is mentioned. This only goes to show how many people have made a religion out of AGW. This is very unfortunate, and a ‘denial’ of real science. (BTW, the climate is always changing…we are still coming out of the last major ice age.)
    At first, I was a skeptic, then neutral on AGW, before becoming a somewhat skeptic again. Why? Because of all the extreme BS coming from the left. This has only hurt their cause. They are so far removed from the reality that most Americans face every day. Most of these people live in a bubble of their own making. The unwashed masses (the deplorables) voted for Trump. Why? Because they were tired of the BS coming from the left and the doom and gloom that is constantly coming out of their collective mouths.
    To the AGW crowd: you want us to take you seriously? Get rid of your ‘celebrities’, like Al Gore, Michael Mann, and Bill Nye (who’s really an actor…remember him from KING-TV’s Almost Live?)
    I’m currently going to college, and I’m disturbed by the group think mindset in academia. The fear that is being taught in the classroom (and online) to these kids is amazing. They should all be on anti-depressants so that they can function.
    Cliff, I support what you do. Please keep up the excellent work and telling the truth on your blog.

  56. Unfortunately, Climate Change is a political issue. 25 years ago it was science, but that time is long gone. Real Scientists are honest. Politicians are willing to lie to get their way.

  57. It's hard to be a truth seeker when it goes against expectations. (And being likened to a Holocaust denier is about as punishing as it gets.)Even harder though to seek the truth when meeting expectations pays so well in funding, and publishing, and status w/in the community and--if you're Bill Nye--a chance to party w/ the elite.

  58. When I lived in Seattle, it was always a nice break to drive over to eastern Washington to experience the drier, warmer summers, and to look at the pine trees, since there were virtually no native pines on the west side of the state.

  59. I live in Spain, and i never see articles like this in the local paper. I have the sense that USA media has very low standards, or the global warming issue is a political Trojan horse used by American leftists and this makes newspapers justify an incredible amount of baloney about climate change impacts. When viewed within the broader context of the ongoing decay of USA politics this seems to be another item we can use to diagnose political decay. I'm really sad to see the coming end of the USA, something which seems inevitable.

  60. Cliff - I applaud you for pointing out the gross error in this Seattle Times article as well as others, but I find your justification for your consistent history of reserving criticisms for the climate alarmists as just a bit disingenuous. If you were a lawyer operating in a court room I might accept it but you are not a lawyer, you are a scientist. Your professional ethic, which you should also demonstrate here on your public forum, is to practice skepticism consistently not selectively. If you are willing to criticize the Lefty media for their errors you cannot then ignore the far more abundant and flamboyant errors coming from the right wing media, simply because you think the poor dears take too much of a beating already. By any weight of evidence, they deserve a more thorough beating. That is the scientific process in action is it not?

    In fact, if you are really interested in destroying fallacious memes, it is a perfect metaphor for you to destroy a rather big one - the much favoured and long persisting meme that "science is not done by consensus" which is at least as big a fallacy as "this tree died of AGW" or "climate protestors using petroleum products are hypocrites". Science may not be conducted by consensus, but it sure as hell is accepted by consensus. It is about time this foolish perspective on consensus was laid to rest in a coffin and you are in a position to do so - if you can see fit to reverse your policy on handling the climate deniers with kid gloves.

    These logical fallacies persist because you allow them to persist. Surely you and your peers don't conduct yourself professionally this way - so shouldn't that be the standard here as well? You know as well as anyone that science is not advanced by ignoring inconvenient truths or favouring the wishes of one side or the other. The appearance of this is the reason that some doubt your intentions. We are not wrong to pay attention to appearances if that is the extent of our ability. We all know Roy Spencer is skilled in climate science and we are in no position to challenge that but considering his demonstrated selective skepticism, we can certainly doubt his ethics and intentions.

    I suggest you devote one blog every week or so to selecting one common fallacious meme regarding climate, alternating from the left and the right (alarmists and deniers). Using your expert knowledge, you can illustrate why something like "Climate change happens all the time" is a worthless and deceptive statement. It takes expertise to show that because common sense, the sense that is commonly held by all of us, lacks the earned skill and insight to see beyond its inherent deception.

    At any rate, if you continue to reserve criticism for one group over the other, based entirely on who they are rather than the substance of their errors, then don't be surprised that anyone jumps to conclusions about your intentions or your professional ethic. That is a normal heuristic response of the unskilled.

  61. I think most folks would agree that a pine's life is at the mercy of stresses of much shorter duration than an entire year. That being the case, annual temperature & precipitation averages would seem too coarse of a measurement to determine if climate related conditions are, or aren’t, in fact killing them. Therefore, it would seem neither the Times' or Cliff's positions are conclusive.

    What is clearer however, is that if the statement ”since 2005, the arboretum has lost some 40 pine trees…" is correct, then they've lost approximately 20% of their pines in the past twelve years (based on the arboretum’s collection database). So, whether the mortality rate is related to climate change, or not, the pattern certainly seems concerning enough to warrant further investigation.

    Reference -

  62. Add me to a list of your supporters.

    Sane progressives who operate in the land of facts need to stand up to the radical environmentalist left and other authoritarian leftism and academic leftism. As a moderate-to-progressive on most issues, I find I get more resistance and called more bad names from the far left than I do from mainstream conservatives. To the radical left, if you're not totally 100% on board the train, you're the enemy.

    Keep bringing facts to the table! Love your blog and your segments on KNKX.

  63. Thank you for fighting the good fight based on truth and less hype.

    I appreciate the balanced view of letting the data talk.

    Fight On!

    John K. Northey
    Forester and avid weather bug
    Port Ludlow, WA

  64. Does anyone know why the pines along I-90 in the vicinity of Cle Elum are turning brown? I am aware that the mountain pine beetle is on the rise, but I think they don't attack ponderosa pines.

  65. When I read the article, I smelled the Bug Dung.

    However, I am an annual backpacker to the Pasayten Wilderness and the Eastern North Cascades Complex, in North Central Washington. I have tracked the Japanese (Pine) Beetle infestation since the 1980's. It is a real phenomenon. These critters eat trees that I have been resting my weary bones beneath for thirty-five years. Hundreds or thousands of acres are beetle infested. You can actually hear them chew the trees if you stand beneath a grove of infested conifers.

    Western Washington may be as wet as a whistle, but the Pasayten is bone dry and tinder ready. The fires I have seen in the last several decades have eaten beetle infested trees like a blast furnace eats coal. Maybe that's a good thing, but it is the lack of killing-frosts that allows these pests to thrive.

    In the 1970's, a Winthrop winter could see single digit temperatures. That means that the Pasyten would experience subzero beetle killing freezes. Not so much any more. Yeah, I know this is all anecdotal evidence. Feh...a mountain man knows when his wilderness is transforming.

  66. It sadly seems we are losing the scientific outlook that gave us the wonderful modern world we enjoy, and dangerously reverting to a primitive, pre-scientific worldview. Instead of engaging in rational, fact-based inquiry and analysis, people who are supposed to be scientists are essentially casting spells, spewing hexes, and mouthing magic words. They're about as bad as the fundamentalists who want to drag us back to the 7th century. THANK YOU Dr. Mass for being a courageous voice of reason, enlightenment, and true science.

  67. You are posting a "Weather Blog."
    Weather data points are either: within the norm or outliers so neither can be used to "prove" AGW.
    Like a frog sitting in slowly heated water, we may have "proof" of AGW in around 50 years or so.
    In the meantime, all the things that governments, industry, and we are being asked to do in regards to AGW (e.g., behave better, pollute less) they and we should be doing anyway.
    If you want to post on AGW, create a "Climate Change Blog."
    Otherwise, stick to weather.

  68. I am a skeptic. I question the age da, it the least not the real science. Be open, honest and fair and we can have a discussion. Call me a "denier" and you have just lost me. I appreciate the facts shown clearly in this article. Comments less so, but I digress. Let's have a reasonable discussion of facts. Maybe we will get somewhere.

  69. The truth is its own (if sometimes lonely) reward.

    Keep up the good fight.

  70. Calling Cliff Mass a denier is idiotic as he has stated many times climate change is real and a serious problem.

    I agree that spending some effort debunking alarmist claims re global warming is important. Fake Chicken Little stories don't help drive the action that is necessary to address GHG emissions.

    That said questions about motivation will arise when:

    - a site spends 100% of its climate change bandwidth debunking two bit media stories that exaggerate climate change and
    - the site spends 0% of its effort addressing the much more important issue that climate change denial/minimization has practically become a membership requirement for one of the country's two main political parties and is still widespread in the media
    - commenters who present evidence suggesting climate change is more immediately at hand than Cliff believes are inevitably challenged by Cliff
    - commenters who make ridiculous conspiratorial claims about how GHG is a hoax get a free pass

  71. The Seattle Times article describes a very, very specific event at a specific location. This blog post references aggregate trend data (with a BIG RED WARNING about use of aggregate data to infer localized events, right in the data!...) to "debunk" a cause of a very specific event.

    Does that sound intellectually honest to you? If I recall correctly, your previous blog posts acknowledge localized trends can be more severe than the aggregate.

    I love your posts, Prof. Mass, including this one. They are informative and is backed by data. But let's be honest here as this post absolutely panders to deniers.

  72. The puritanical and Luddite impulses of the 20th century environmental movement are running headlong in to the Age of the Anthropocene.
    Our billions in population living through the massive lever of our advanced technology have and will continue to change the planet beyond the recognition of any other human era.
    Environmentalism/Conservation will have to adapt.
    Cliff you are right to always go to the data. And you should also inform your students of the Anthropocene.
    When I graduated from the U with bio track 2 in the late '90s the Anthropocene was barely mentioned.

    �� I think I'm so educated and I'm so civilized
    'Cause I'm a strict vegetarian...��

  73. Hi Cliff, Let's change the subject a bit.
    Why do we use SeaTac's weather data for Seattle, when there's a NOAA center at Sand Point?
    And why is their data rarely shown on the WeatherUnderground Wundermap?
    The readings from several private weather stations in my neighborhood ( Magnolia) often record more precip than the one at SeaTac.

  74. Good job, Cliff. This is exactly why I love your Blog! You are a true scientist. Keep pointing out the flaws in the believers' claims and the skeptics' claims. Keep reporting on weather and climate facts. This is unfortunately such a polarizing one will ever convince deniers or believers that the opposite is true until it's glaringly obvious which way the pendulum swings. Take care of yourself, we need more scientists with your keenly functional logic.

  75. enjoy your blog! Accuracy and facts are appreciated and I admire your willingness to state your observations. Was there any reply or contact with the reporter who wrote the article? Seems like a teachable moment for her.

  76. Bravo Cliff! If you are on the side of truth and accuracy, you have to be accurate and truthful all the time. Climate change is major problem going forward, and the only way to address is to accurately look at the ramifications. It does no one any good to exaggerate anything. Thank for you for posts.

  77. Love to hear science - not 'consensual science'

  78. I love your posts, Prof. Mass, including this one. They are informative and is backed by data. But let's be honest here as this post absolutely panders to deniers.


    Denier [\di-ˈnī(-ə)r]

    Anyone who disagrees with a snotty, arrogant, smug Seattle liberal.

  79. Thank you, Prof. Mass. I am perpetually befuddled by the inability of people to navigate complex information--which your blog and your contributions on local media make exceptionally clear. It is voices like yours that make me proud to matriculate from UW.

  80. Say, Cliff, what do you think of this new Seattle Times article, which effectively blames global warming for rising rents?

  81. Cliff, I am coming a little late to this party, as I have been literally ar sea for the past few weeks. As a lifelong sailor and amateur weather buff, I follow your blog with great interest. Just wanted to add my voice in support of your point of view. Though you and I seem to start from from very different political,premises, I applaud your efforts to debunk the exaggerators. The issue of climate change is far too important to permit exaggeration of the facts in our efforts to develop practical solutions. we can't afford those those who distort the science to grind their own policy axes. Bravo! Keep,it up.

  82. Cliff: Keep up the good solid work! Pursue truth (as always) and let the chips fall as they may. Do not cave to colleagues that say you must keep quiet because you are inadvertently supporting the `deniers'. You are simply trying to test attribution claims and the data does not support it here. Why are many so afraid of being curious, even skeptical, and using the scientific method to determine an answer?

  83. For the record, I think that correcting stories that exaggerate AGW is much a much more effective strategy for bringing deniers on board. One of the reasons my BS detector goes off every time I read about climate change is that predicted effects are universally bad. Surely a complex natural phenomenon like this is going to benefit some people. Someone's climate must get nicer, even if they're outnumbered. Just once I'd like to see a headline like, "The number of pleasant summer evenings in Akron, OH likely to rise due to climate change". How can it be that the only life forms that seem to benefit from climate change are cockroaches, pine beetles and malaria? If some kid is shouting wolf all the time you need to tell him to knock it off. You don't let him keep at it so as not to give "ammunition" to the people that don't think wolves are dangerous.

  84. Cliff,

    I went looking for this article that you referred to in a recent post that generated the Stranger exchange of you with one of their writers.

    I want to support you in what you're doing and keep it up. You're doing the right thing, and I know you're not a denier. Even from your writings, I know global warming is a serious issue, and I agree with you, after reading your articles, that it is possible that exaggerating can turn off people. I know all these articles attributing current droughts fires, and oyster deaths to global warming are very upsetting to me, so I'm more upset to read they aren't even based on science.

    Diane Wills


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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