Responding to a handful of liberal complainers, Monday’s NBC Nightly News basically repudiated a Friday evening story in which a NOAA meteorologist blamed the recent warmer-than-normal weather in the Northeast on an El Nino, an area of warmer than normal water in the Pacific Ocean that forms every five years or so.
After some mean-spirited comments on NBC’s “Daily Nightly” blog site, where writers attacked anchor Brian Williams as a tool of big business for not taking the opportunity to blame global warming, Nightly News flip-flopped. Monday’s newscast showcased a brand new expert, and he argued the El Nino cycle was being exacerbated “by humans using the atmosphere as a free place to dump our tailpipe wastes.” Reporter Robert Bazell suggested that “even the heavy snow in the Rockies this year might be partly caused by global warming.”
During El Nino years, the West coast usually has more frequent storms with more precipitation, while the northern U.S. has milder temperatures. On Friday’s NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams opened his newscast by asking “Why is it such a weird and warm winter?” After a pair of reports from Dawn Fratangelo in New York City and Tom Costello in Washington, D.C. (the latter reporting that it was not true that if you went outside without a hat that you’d catch a cold), Williams began a short interview with meteorologist Dennis Feltgen of the government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Feltgen, a forecaster for more than 30 years, was there to “explain once and for all” the strange weather, Williams announced. “It’s not global warming at all, Brian. It is El Nino, El Nino, El Nino,” Feltgen told him.
Well, that provoked what struck Williams as a particularly strong reaction on his blog, “The Daily Nightly.” The thread for Friday’s Nightly News topics had 39 comments, 22 of which were critical of his weather report. And many were not subtle:
“Vivienne” from Illinois chastised Williams and called him a corporate tool: “You have lost all credibility in my eyes. You are by no means an expert nor an authority on anything. You just report the news. Who do you think you are to blame the weather on El Nino AND get the most ridiculous expert to say the warm weather is blamed on El Nino?! Man's ramant use of fossil fuels in the private and industrial sector is causing global warming and thus causing these abnormal weather patterns. These weather patterns are only confirming the effects of global warming. Globally, we can stop being part of the problem and be a part of the solution. Brian you are obviously on the side of Corporate America and Big Oil companies. I do not trust you.”
“Dave” from Tennessee suggested: “Brian, looks like you've earned a spot next to President Bush in The Hague as a global warming denier. I wonder if you'll get a letter from Senators Rockefeller & Snow. Have you ever stopped at an Exxon station? Something like that can completely discredit you in some circles.”
Instead of rejecting such mean-spirited idiocy, Williams announced Monday afternoon on his vlog “Early Nightly” that he would try to soothe the ruffled feathers: “On the broadcast tonight we’re going to revisit a topic that ignited writers to our blog over the weekend and that is global warming, and dissect further its role in the strange weather so many of us have been experiencing.”
Sure enough, Williams devoted the full “In Depth” segment of Monday’s newscast to backpedaling. He began by replaying the comments from NOAA’s Feltgen that so infuriated a couple of dozen people on the Internet, and then claimed it was time for “the rest of the story:”
Brian Williams: "We're back with NBC Nightly News 'In Depth' tonight, taking a look at the strange weather around the country lately and revisiting a topic we covered Friday night that lit up interest and some protests among some of our viewers. Here in New York on Saturday afternoon it was 72 degrees in Central Park on the 6th day of January. While it's a little colder here in the East, not by much. Boston's high today was 52. It's normally 37. That's a full 15 degrees above normal. It was 57 today in Philadelphia, 21 degrees above normal. On Friday, we looked into it. We invited a 30-year veteran weather forecaster on the broadcast and we asked him about it, and here is how Dennis Feltgen of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, answered the question."
Dennis Feltgen, NOAA Meteorologist: "It's not global warming at all, Brian. It is El Nino, El Nino, El Nino. This is the same El Nino which developed late last summer and had a huge effect on the 2006 Atlantic season. Now that was in a good way. The phenomenon known as El Nino has been strengthening ever since. It's now a moderate El Nino which is producing all the wild weather that we see in the West with the big storms, all the wet weather and unsettled weather in the South, and locking up the cold air up in Canada so that the eastern half of the country, including the Northeast, has unusually warm temperatures."
Williams: "That was Dennis Feltgen of NOAA. And now, as they say, for the rest of the story. NBC News Chief Science Correspondent Robert Bazell talks to, talked to experts who say there is a relationship between this strange El Nino winter and global warning, warming, they say, and there will be a lot more where that comes from, according to them. Here is Robert Bazell's report, 'In Depth.'"
Robert Bazell: "Climate scientists say there is no question that the immediate cause of the unusually warm weather in the Northeast this winter is El Nino, a natural warming of the ocean halfway around the world."
Dr. Brian Soden, University of Miami: "El Nino is a cyclical change in the ocean temperatures in the Pacific, and it does shift the location and intensity of the jetstreams, and that acts to influence the patterns of temperature and precipitation over the U.S."
Bazell: "In most years, the upper jetstream brings Arctic air to the Northeast in the winter. In an El Nino year like this one, it does not. But what about global warming, which most scientists believe is caused by carbon dioxide and other gases produced by humans? Many experts say it too plays a part."
Stephen Schneider, Stanford University: "Whatever the natural causes are they're riding on top of the warming trend that's been induced by humans using the atmosphere as a free place to dump our tailpipe wastes."
Bazell: "From now on, scientists say, many extreme weather events will result from natural causes enhanced by global warming. That includes heat waves, droughts and hurricanes."
Schneider: "We all know that humans don't make hurricanes. Katrina was not produced by global warming. Yet Katrina was a little stronger because it went over a ocean that was half a degree warmer than it otherwise would have been."
Bazell: "So the unusual warmth in the Northeast could partly be the result of global warming. Indeed, even the heavy snow in the Rockies this year might be partly caused by global warming. El Nino brings the storm, but because the air is warmer than usual it holds far more moisture, producing much more snow. Robert Bazell, NBC News, New York."
All NBC has done, of course, is encourage liberals to keep the complaints coming, since NBC has now shown how easily they will change course. Does anyone out there think a mere 22 conservative comments would trigger NBC to “revisit” their hostile coverage of the Iraq war, or tax cuts, or embryonic stem cells?
I didn’t think so.