My new column is up, comparing coverage of this summer's heat wave to "Summer of the Shark"
Before I discuss the 2012 global warming version of this process, let's take a step back to 2001 and the "Summer of the Shark." The media hysteria began in early July, when a young boy was bitten by a shark on a beach in Florida. Subsequent attacks received breathless media coverage, up to and including near-nightly footage from TV helicopters of swimming sharks. Until the 9/11 attacks, sharks were the third biggest story of the year as measured by the time dedicated to it on the three major broadcast networks' news shows.
Through this coverage, Americans were left with a strong impression that something unusual was happening -- that an unprecedented number of shark attacks were occurring in that year, and the media dedicated endless coverage to speculation by various "experts" as to the cause of this sharp increase in attacks.
Except there was one problem -- there was no sharp increase in attacks. In the year 2001, five people died in 76 shark attacks. However, just a year earlier, 12 people had died in 85 attacks. The data showed that 2001 actually was a down year for shark attacks.
This summer we have been absolutely bombarded with stories about the summer heat wave in the United States. The constant drumbeat of this coverage is being jumped on by many as evidence of catastrophic man-made global warming....
What the Summer of the Shark needed, and what this summer’s US heatwave needs, is a little context. Specifically, if we are going to talk about supposed “trends”, then we should look at the data series in question over time. So let’s do so.
I go on to present a number of data series on temperatures, temperature maximums, droughts, and fires. Enjoy.