March 21, 2022

The Nation & World section in yesterday’s newspaper blared the headline, “Antarctica, Artic 70 and 50 degrees above normal”.  The AP reporter went on to say what made this unique was that both the earth’s poles were hotter at the same time.  Weather stations in Antarctica shattered records Friday as the region neared autumn.  The two-mile high (3,234 meters) Concordia station was at 10F (-12.2C), which is 70 degrees warmer than average.  The even higher Vostok station was barely above 0F (-17.7C), beating its record high by 27F degrees (15 degrees Celsius).  Officials at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, were surprised as they had been monitoring the Arctic where temperatures were 50F (30C) warmer than average and areas near the North Pole were nearing or at the melting point.  These high temperatures occurred as the northern hemisphere entered spring and the southern hemisphere entered autumn.

When I looked online, I found the Earth’s tilted axis causes seasons.  During the year different parts of the Earth receive the Sun’s most direct rays.  When the North Pole tilts toward the Sun, it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and when the South Pole tilts toward the Sun, it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  There is a common (incorrect) belief that the Earth is closer to the Sun in the summer (hotter) and is farther from the Sun (cooler) in the winter.  The Earth’s orbit is lop-sided and during part of the year the Earth is closer to the Sun than other times.  In the North, we have winter when Earth is closest to the Sun and summer when it is farthest away.  This change in the Earth’s distance through the year does not have a perceptible influence our weather.  The seasons are the result of the tilt of the axis, rather than distance to the sun.  The Earth has seasons because the axis does not stand up straight.

When I read newspaper reports I try and find corroborating reports from other online sources.  When I typed in my request, I found a (nearly) identical story by the same author dated today titled, “Hot poles: Antarctica, Artic 40 and 30 degrees above normal”.  What I realized was the Sunday article was written for the Associated Press (AP) and was directed toward a US audience.  Today’ report was picked up by Connected TV (CTV) which is internet based for a global audience.  Both articles were saying the poles were getting hotter but hidden within the articles were correlations of Fahrenheit to Celsius.  The Antarctic is 70F above normal, or 40C, while the Arctic is 50F above normal, or 30C.  Either way it is not good, but the difference may affect the perceived urgency of the problem.  

THOUGHTS:  How we collect, and report information can dramatically change interpretation by the public.  Melissa and I watch local broadcast news during the evening (6 and 10 pm) and alternate between two stations.  Both reports each station are essentially the same during their early and late broadcast, but one seems to focus on Northwest Arkansas and the other on Fort Smith.  We alternate to get a broader perspective.  This difference is marked between the 24-Hour news stations and seem based on political ideology.  When we exclude any viewpoints other than our own, we can miss the urgency of the problem.  This only makes the dialogue hotter.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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