Channel 5 News Fail on Climate Change in West Virginia
One can expect a battle over climate change in West Virginia, coal country as the state is. But when the discussion is taking place in the mainstream media, it needs to be based on a complete set of facts so the public can make an informed opinion.
Channel 5 News (WDTV) from West Virginia has an article up on the state's changing climate where the station interviews Alyson Kenward, a senior scientist and research director at Climate Central. According to the piece:
Kenward says 'Not only are temperatures getting warmer but that means precipitation patterns are also changing. Many parts of West Virginia have seen an increase in precipitation and rainfall over the past several decades.' ... 'West Virginia and across the Northeast overall the amount of heavy rainfall, the really extreme downpours have been increasing over time. Those heavy downpours as you would know in West Virginia can lead to really severe flooding' according to Kenward.
Perhaps Channel 5 would like to know that there has been no significant trend in West Virginia's average temperature since records began in 1895. Yes, the temperature has increased in recent decades, but only back up to the range it was at from the 1930s through the 1950s.
Who knows where the claim that “many parts of West Virginia have seen an increase in precipitation and rainfall over the past several decades” comes from? There is almost a perfect non-correlation in the state's annual precipitation since 1895, and also nowhere near a significant trend since 1970. Not one of the six climate divisions within the state has a significant trend in annual precipitation, either, since 1895 or 1970.
The same applies to the claim that “the really extreme downpours have been increasing over time.” There doesn't appear to be any climate sub-region in West Virginia with a significant increase in the number of days each year having more than two or three inches of precipitation during a 24-hour period (an established criterion for extreme storms among the climate activists) since 1970, and especially not during past three decades.
We are promised that “in Part 2 of this series, we’ll take a look at more of the local changes we've already seen and what may be to come here in West Virginia.” I can't wait to see what is on its way. Hopefully it will include a scientifically rigorous and holistic assessment of where the state's climate has been and where historical trends appear to be headed.