Reporters exploit ordinary weather to spook fans about climate – Is it up for it?

By Vijay Jayaraj

Exaggerating weather events to sell the climate crisis is nothing new. In the case of Sky News’s account of flooding in an Indian city, my own observations – backed up by independent data – stand in stark contrast to the news.

Chennai – the capital of my home state, formerly known as Madras – is prone to flooding, the severity of which I have witnessed. In fact, the last time Chennai was flooded, I narrowly escaped by running out of the city at the last hour. For me, though, that trauma doesn’t make the media whine about the role climate plays in flooding.

The city is vulnerable every year from the strong northeast monsoon system during the months of October to January. This, coupled with poor planning and destruction of natural waterways, has led to the scourge. Urban dreams of flooding as a common event.

However, Sky News’ international Twitter reporting didn’t let the facts get in the way of its climate reporting. Stand in knee-high water, the reporter said, “We know that as our planet warms, we will see more frequent and radical changes in extreme weather – from high temperatures to extreme rain. degree.”

With the exception of the great flood in 2015, Chennai – located on the southeastern coast of India – has had a relatively steady rainfall since 1969. For example, the annual variation in precipitation (in the image) below) shows that the years have heavy rainfall and light rainfall. common to the city.

Data source: Climatic Data Service Portal, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). Image credit: IMD & Vijay Jayaraj

The city’s monthly data also shows the sporadic nature of rainfall in the city with several months of high rainfall since 1969. This means that downpours are not uncommon in the city.

Change in monthly rainfall since 1969 in Chennai
Data source: Climatic Data Service Portal, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).

Speaking to Hindustan Times, a meteorologist speak, “These extreme rains have also occurred several times in the past. It is not due to any climate change. The record for the heaviest rainfall in Chennai on a single day in November remains 1976.”

The main cause of flooding is the unplanned expansion of the city, which has led to encroachment of natural reservoirs and the blockage of major natural storm drains. This is a well-founded fact backed up by satellite imagery.

A 2020 report from Government of India, titled Climate Change Assessment for the Region of India, gives a comprehensive analysis of the various factors affecting climate in the country. According to the report, a mid-range analysis of cyclone frequency in the North Indian Ocean basin showed a decrease in the frequency of severe cyclones between 1951 and 2018.

The data may surprise readers as the mainstream media – such as Sky News journalists – frequently attribute the increase in extreme weather events during this period to carbon dioxide emissions. created by humans. But reality is completely different.

“Long-term observations (1891–2018) show that the annual frequency of tropical cyclones in the North Indian Ocean basin has decreased significantly.”

Figure: Annual frequency of cyclones (CS) and severe cyclones (SCS) from 1891 to 2016. Linear trend lines indicated by dashed lines — black (1891–2018), blue blue (1951–2018), red (2000–2018 ). In addition, the 10-year operating average is shown with a solid green line. The source: Super strong storm, Meteorological Department of India, Govt. of India. Published June 13, 2020

In addition, there has been no significant warming in the city since 2004. In fact, satellite measurements show a global pause in warming from 2000 to 2020, a trend like was observed in Chennai.

So rainfall, landfall and temperatures do not indicate a dangerous increase in the city of Chennai. Sky News’ case of weaving climate crisis theory into an ordinary weather event is typical of mainstream media. Sky News claims that its international viewers are not able to research the real reason behind the floods, or that the news channel is unaware of the truth.

We recommend applying a healthy dose of skepticism to claims about climate-induced weather phenomena. You may also want to follow up with more responsible providers of your data, such as the CO2 Coalition.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at CO2 Alliance, Arlington, Va., and holds a Master’s degree in environmental science from the University of East Anglia, UK. He lives in Bengaluru, India

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