The original version of this article, by Michael D. Lemonick, appeared on Climate Central
Dog bites man: news or not? If you’re a journalist, you don’t even need to think about it. The phrase is our professional shorthand for an idea that hardly qualifies as news, that it’s not out of the ordinary. Man bites dog (goes the second half of the cliché), now that’s news!
It’s not an ironclad rule, though: if the dog bites the man after winning first place at the Westminster Dog Show, or if a marauding dog is biting its way through a terrified neighborhood, or if First Dog Bo bites Sasha or Malia – that’s news, too.
So when January 2012 was officially declared America’s fourth warmest January on record by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was that news or not? Here at Climate Central, we thought it was. But then, we would. Do a Google News search, and you’ll find that a whopping eight news outlets agreed with us, and one of them was the Weather Channel, so it hardly counts. (Extra points to msnbc.com, which came up with a clever angle: It feels like it must be the warmest January ever, but surprise! It’s only fourth!) But for most media, it was kind of ho-hum, because, really, haven’t we heard it all before? It’s always the warmest this, or the second-warmest that.
For scientists who think about climate, though, that’s the point. Especially in the past decade – a time when climate skeptics argue, bizarrely, that global warming has stopped – these records or near-records are being set all the time, and extreme weather events, including droughts, heat waves, and torrential storms, have been more frequent and more severe.
Continue reading on Climate Central.
Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Image Credit: “India – climate change canvas,” courtesy of Piotr Fajfer/Oxfam International.