The UnAustralian

Monday, July 14, 2003
Media And Science

I've always thought that science reporters need to know more science. This is a little bit unfair, as they are expected to cover all scientific fields, and some/many/virtually-all scientists can be a little bit hard to follow at times (sometimes I suspect that this is a defense mechanism used by academics to ward off unwarranted attention - othertimes I suspect it's just a consequence of being a geek).

However, there are many times when these excuses just don't cut it.

An example, a while back the WMO sent out a press release titled "Extreme Weather Events Might Increase" (warning: link directly downloads word doc). In a nutshell, it stated that global warming was expected to lead to an increase in the number of extreme weather events around the world, and it gave some example of regions where these events had been increasing.

Meanwhile, the worlds media reacted to this, as if it was a statement that the number of extreme weather events is rising. While this may be true - it's not in the WMO press release. This article here is just one example.

In reality, it's hard to get a good definition and methods to measure extreme weather events. Unlike temperatures which can be measured relatively easily, extreme weather events are very subjective. Additionally, there is considerable variations in the data from random effects, so determining a trend is also difficult. Hopefully, various meterological organisations will look into doing more research into this.
| 6:29 PM