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Sunday 18 December 2011

Booker Caught Telling Whoppers Again

One has to wonder – as George Monbiot has on a number of occasions – why the Telegraph continues to give Christopher Booker a platform for his rantings, given his inability to marshal facts in support of any proposition he advances. Today he has tried to be very clever and has quoted from the Cryosphere Today website, but appears to have misread their data.

Booker’s target, as so often, is the dastardly BBC, as he asserts “The BBC’s myth-makers serve up a double helping of propaganda”. He does not dwell long on the “polar bear cub birth” controversy – only discovered because the Beeb had put the details out there for anyone to see – but instead accuses the Corporation of misrepresenting the speed at which polar ice is melting.

He tells “as anyone can see, from satellite-based charts on the Cryosphere Today website, the extent of polar sea ice was last year 1.6 million square kilometres greater than its average over the last 30 years”. So, in order to confirm The Great Man’s analysis, I headed for that very website, where I located a chart that showed how sea ice extent has varied since 1979.

As can be seen, there are three lines on the chart: “daily sea ice area” in blue, “daily sea ice mean: 1979-2008” in grey, and “daily global sea ice anomaly” in red. The grey line can be seen peaking at around 22 million square kilometres, but for 2011-12, the blue line – showing the actual ice area – peaks at a figure more than a million square kilometres less, with the preceding trough showing an actual figure around two million square kilometres less.

So the extent of polar sea ice is actually far lower than the 30-year average. Moreover, the sea ice anomaly – the extent to which the ice is growing or shrinking – has been increasingly negative for the past decade and a half, which means that the extent of sea ice is showing a decline. The figures merely underscore the observations made in Frozen Planet.

This elementary mistake, however, cannot be pointed out by Telegraph readers, as at the foot of Booker’s piece they are told “For legal reasons, comments on this story have been disabled”. Moreover, the article does not exactly enjoy top billing on the site’s Comment page.

So embarrassment can be kept to a minimum.

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