Photo-Challenged Reuters Fails to Explain True Cause of Record Antarctic Temperature

On March 1, Reuters used a possibly Photoshopped photo from 2010 from the other side of the continent as it published a genuinely newsworthy story about a continental record-high temperature seen at an Antarctic base on the northern tip of that continent. The wire service's use of that not-credible or relevant photo, and the content of the posted article, attempted to tie this news to so-called global warming, but failed to explain the nonwarming-related meteorological cause of the high temperature reading.

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Alister Doyle at Reuters clearly wrote the story to give readers who only saw the headline and opening sentence — including people using computers, tablets and phones who don't click through to the full story — the impression that the news is hot off the presses:

Antarctica hits record high temperature at balmy 63.5°F

An Argentine research base near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula has set a heat record at a balmy 63.5° Fahrenheit (17.5 degrees Celsius), the U.N. weather agency said on Wednesday.

Both the headline and the opening sentence are written in the present tense. People who don't look further will figure that the record occurred in late February of this year.

In Paragraph 2, we learn that the record was set almost two years ago, and that its official status as a record is what has just been determined (bolds are mine throughout this post):

The Experanza base set the high on March 24, 2015, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said after reviewing data around Antarctica to set benchmarks to help track future global warming and natural variations.

That determination is news, but the high likelihood that conditions have reverted to predominantly normal since then at a base which is 1,840 miles from the South Pole makes Doyle's subsequent hyperventilating about the consequences of a complete Antarctic ice meltdown quite ridiculous. Here it is:

... Antarctica locks up 90 percent of the world's fresh water as ice and would raise sea levels by about 60 meters (200 ft) if it were all to melt, meaning scientists are concerned to know even about extremes around the fringes.

Instead of identifying a wildly hypothetical occurrence, Doyle could have and should have told readers what caused the record high to occur, as blogger Jim Steele at Watts Up With That (HT Powerline) did shortly after the Reuters story appeared:

... high temperatures at Esperanza tell us nothing about climate change, or if there is any threat of melting ice caps or rising sea level. Instead Esperanza presents a prime example of how temperatures can rise dramatically without any increased input of heat. Argentina’s Esperanza weather station is situated on the most extreme equatorward tip of the Antarctic peninsula and its mean monthly temperature for March is -3.6 C. But Esperanza’s location subjects it to episodic warm northwesterly winds which is why it is also infamous for its foehn wind storms that can dramatically increase temperatures by 10 to 40 C degrees in a matter of hours.

This record 17 C (63.5 F) temperature recently recorded, is 20 C above average, and as expected the record temperature is the result of foehn winds. Foehn winds warm temperatures via adiabatic heating (no heat input) as descending winds passing over the nearby mountains warm from adiabatic compression. It is meaningless weather regards penguins. But no mention of foehn winds (in Reuters report) ...

Doyle, who is Reuters' climate correspondent, could have educated his readers instead of trying to scare them by writing the following, based on a post at the Weather Channel's Weather Underground blog published two years ago when it first appeared that a record had occurred: "Jeff Masters at the Weather Channel's Weather Underground wrote in late March 2015 that the record high temperature occurred because of what are known as 'foehn winds.' In this instance, Masters wrote, there was 'an unusually extreme jet stream contortion that ... allow(ed) warm air from South America to push southwards over Antarctica.'"

It wouldn't been all that difficult for Doyle to cover the story conscientiously.

Why didn't he? Well, it's clear from the stories he links at his Twitter feed that he has little skepticism about current predictions of oceanic climate disaster, despite decades of those predictions failing to come to pass, and that he won't accept that there is "no measurable linkage" between sea-level rises and increases in worldwide carbon dioxide levels.

As to the photo, here is half of it:


The photo's caption: "FILE PHOTO: Two Adelie penguins stand atop a block of melting ice on a rocky shoreline at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in East Antarctica in this January 1, 2010 file photo."

As to its authenticity, even after getting past the questionable use of a seven year-old photo on "the opposite side of the continent from which the record temperature occurred" in 2015, Steele at WUWT wrote:

... Climbing such a structure would be a difficult technical climb for an experienced mountaineer. Furthermore when Adele penguins come ashore to breed they avoid the ice if possible, only crossing snowfields as the seek ice-free breeding territories. Lastly if you magnify the picture 500%, the penguins become extremely pixilated, the ice chunk less so, and the background rocks even less so, a fingerprint of 3 different photographs with different resolution that have been overlain.

The variances in pixilation described by Steele appeared to be present when I magnified the photo myself.

The succinct reaction of John Hinderaker at Powerline: "So the whole thing is a fake."

Despite its highly questionable nature, Reuters has kept this photo in its files for years, apparently so its environmental writers can periodically pull it out to promote deceptive sensationalism. The person credited for the photo Steele alleges has been doctored, Pauline Askin, was writing for the wire service at least as recently as August 2016.

And the establishment press wonders why people don't trust them.

Cross-posted at

Environment Global Warming Weather Bias by Omission Labeling Online Media Blogs Wire Services/Media Companies Reuters

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