Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Newspaper Wears Blinders on Global Warming

In eight years of stories on Lake Michigan’s water level, the Journal Sentinel has never mentioned global warming.

By - May 24th, 2013 12:10 pm
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Looking out over Lake Michigan

Looking out over Lake Michigan

For a mid-sized newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has managed to devote a lot of resources to environmental reporting. It may be the only newspaper in the nation with a full-time Great Lakes Reporter, as Dan Egan is designated. The paper’s focus on the environment makes sense for a state that is so known for its lakes and rivers and woods, but I suspect it also bespeaks the priorities of Managing Editor George Stanley, who got his start as an outdoor writer for the magazine Ducks Unlimited and outdoor writer/editor for the Wichita Eagle.

As a result, it seems the paper always has room for stories about changes in the Great Lakes. And Egan, a two-time Pulitzer finalist, has responded to this opportunity with some terrific stories about invasive species like zebra mussels and Asian Carp. His reporting has also helped lead the national discussion on a problem contributing to declining water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

As Egan has reported, the two lakes (or one, as he’s explained: they function as one body of water) have gone more than 14 years with below average lake levels. In January they were 2.5 feet below average level and 6 ft below their record high. Why? Egan has focused on a problem caused by dredging in the St. Clair River undertaken decades ago to provide access for deep-draft freighters into the upper Great Lakes. This, Egan reports, means more water can flow out of lakes Michigan and Huron, into the St. Clair and then Lake Erie, over Niagara Falls and, ultimately, out to the Atlantic Ocean.

“Army Corps hydrologists have long acknowledged that historic dredging and mining in the riverbed lowered the long-term average of Michigan and Huron,” Egan has reported.

It’s a great story, and Stanley appears to have an unlimited appetite for follow-up articles. Egan has been covering the story since at least 2005, and I count 39 stories in the paper’s online archive on the water level of lakes Michigan and Huron. But not one story on global warming as a possible cause. That’s extraordinary.

One study for International Upper Great Lakes found that climate change, not the St. Clair dredging, is the main cause of decline in water level for lakes Michigan and Huron. The study may be biased, may be exaggerated, but how is it possible that Egan has never even addressed global warming’s impact on declining water levels?

The National Wildlife Federation predicts increases in water temperature of up to 12 degrees and decreases in water level of up to 8.2 feet for the Great Lakes driven by global warming. That includes Lake Erie, which could drop 4-5 feet by the end of the century (despite getting some of that extra water flowing from lakes Michigan and Huron that Egan has reported on). This could cause massive changes in the lakes’ ecology, including less habitat for coldwater fish, increases in aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and hazardous algal blooms, dead zones lacking any oxygen and an increased impact from pollution.

The Great Lakes have lost 71% of their ice cover since 1973, according to a study by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. This past winter, the five lakes were nearly ice free with just 5 percent ice coverage, the second lowest on record. This compares to 1979 when ice coverage was as much as 94 percent.

“Ice cover was found to be a strong determinant of summer water temperature, and this in turn, can lead to changes in late-summer evaporation rates,” researcher Katherine Van Cleave told National Geographic. And that can drive declines in water levels.

By far the fastest warming is occurring in Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and third largest by volume (and a lake that borders Wisconsin, giving it added local importance). And by far the most environmental stress is occurring on lakes Erie and Ontario, as one analysis has found.  Yet the JS has concentrated all of its reporting on the two lakes that may actually face the least possible long-term damage.

I doubt that Egan, a bright and dogged reported, is unaware of all of this. My experience at the Journal Sentinel is that reporters could easily intuit what editors did not want reported. And global warming is a flash point for talk radio and conservative readers, who get outraged by any mention of the issue, and could be expected to lash out at the newspaper. So maybe it’s easier to ignore that issue, and leave readers in the dark as to the momentous changes many experts say imperil five lakes containing 20 percent of the planet’s fresh water.

A source at the newspaper tells me Egan is now working on a story looking at the impact of global warming on lakes Michigan and Huron. The story, if it is published, is about eight years overdue.

Categories: Murphy's Law

39 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Newspaper Wears Blinders on Global Warming”

  1. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Temperatures and lake levels have gone up and down over the centuries regardless of how much hot air the Left puts into the atmosphere. During the period of the Vikings conquests t was about 10% higher leaving Greenland and Iceland green. The ocean levels did not change. I stood at the sight of the first Viking settlement in Newfoundland and my feet were not wet.
    Global warming is a figment of the imagination of the left and a major attempt to control human behavior to the way that the Left wants us to live.
    Personally I would love to have it a little warmer up here again. As for the lake, it will go up again, we are draining too much off of lake Ontario.
    During the McCarthy era my father warned me of the lies that are so big that you cannot do anything to dispel them. that is the case here, the Left is using the Alinsky/McCarthy rules to try to BS all of us and I give the BSer of the year award to Bruce Murphy.

  2. George Stone says:

    12 years overdue. I attended a two-day EPA workshop in Chicago in March, 2001, on the economic impact of climate change on the Great Lakes, especially Lake Michigan-Huron. The emphasis was on global warming-induced falling lake levels. The economic impact is significant!

  3. Mr. Michael Horne says:

    Dohnal: You try so hard to make sense that I don’t understand a bit of it. Lake Michigan is 100 meters above Lake Ontario. Who could be “draining too much off of Lake Ontario”? Certainly not those of us in the Lake Michigan / Lake Ontario watershed.

  4. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Do your homework guys there is an outlet at the junction that goes into Canada that was dredged about ten year ago, I forget the name but I know that Bruce knows it that they have been arguing about for ten years. I would look it up, but am going to play golf. Time for you to check things out, I hate to ahve to teach you kids everything.

  5. Paul Berge says:

    Excellent article — although I would note that 1979 was an exceptionally harsh winter.

  6. Chris Jacobs says:

    It doesn’t look like climate change is going to account for a permanent rise in temperature or a drop in levels this time in Lake Michigan. The temperature of Lake Michigan so far in 2013 are actually on average lower by 2 degrees than that of 2012. As far as water levels, the heavy rain in March and April increased the water levels by 5.16 inches. The new prediction is that in total it will rise by 7 inches by July 1st.

    http://www.mlive.com/weather/index.ssf/2013/05/great_lake_water_levels_how_mu.html

    The reason why climate change isn’t a big story here is that there isn’t any consistent data on it being a permanent culprit, and you have a huge spike in water levels in the 80′s. If you look back at 1964, the lake levels were as low as they were this January, and obviously they rebounded while fossil fuels have been burning exponentially throughout the world. Most of the problem probably has more to do with diversion and erosion than anything else, and articles should be focusing on causes that we can actually do something about.

  7. Leslie Graham says:

    “…leaving Greenland and Iceland green…”

    Heh heh.
    Congratulations. That has to be the most stupid denialist comment I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen thousands of stupid denialist comments, believe me.
    The ice on Greenland averages over a mile thick. It has been there for 26 million years. Under teh ice is solid bare rock.
    The global temperature is 0.8C warmer than it was during the MCA – which we now know was a regional event with central Asia and the Pacific being mcuh colder at the same time.
    This is on the level of basic schoolboy knowledge these days.
    Please bare in mind that there exist a large number of fossil-fuel funded denierblogs on the webwhose sole reason for existance is to spread utter junk the like of which you have faithfully parrotted above.
    You would be even funnier if it wasn’t such a serious subject.
    The Arctic has lost 80% of it’s ice volume in the last 30 years. This is completely unprecedented in all of human history. The world does not need any more ignorant deniers at this stage of what is now completely obvious global warming.

  8. Jerold says:

    “The Arctic has lost 80% of it’s ice volume in the last 30 years. This is completely unprecedented in all of human history”

    Have a look here: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/

    05/26/2013: 12.778 million sq. km
    05/26/1979: 13.421 million sq. km

    80% Loss in the last 30 years? Really?

    Oh, and the expression is ‘bear in mind’, not ‘bare in mind’. That’s a schoolboy error.

  9. Dave Reid says:

    Volume Jerold, not area. http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/02/13/european-satellite-confirms-uw-numbers-arctic-ocean-is-on-thin-ice/.

    “Other people had argued that 75 to 80 percent ice volume loss was too aggressive,” said co-author Axel Schweiger, a polar scientist in the UW Applied Physics Laboratory. “What this new paper shows is that our ice loss estimates may have been too conservative, and that the recent decline is possibly more rapid.”

  10. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    *80% loss, if that is the case why isn’t NY under water as the Global Warming nuts claim? Hasn’t changed much Look at the real statistics and compare them to the warming trend during the Viking invasions and you find out that it was warmer then, and there wans’t any big change. Warmer is better, bring it on.

  11. Chris Jacobs says:

    Funny thing is, surface ice is actually increasing in Antarctica, claimed to be the result of global warming as well.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2302401/Global-warming-INCREASED-ice-Antarctica.html

    Climate change has been a phenomena on the planet since the dawn of time. There are benefits and risks to every climate change cycle, including global warming trends.

  12. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Fact is that the question is so huge, the history shows that the earth changes climate far beyond what the puny human races do depending on so many factors, mostly the sun, that no one knows or can prove where we will be and the effects of what happens 50 years from now.

  13. Dave Reid says:

    From that very article “The Dutch report notes that despite the increase in surface ice expansion each winter, the total mass of ice around Antarctica is continuing to shrink because of the underwater ice melt.”

  14. Bill Sweeney says:

    The larger issue in this article is why the Journal Sentinel has not had more information about climate change. It seems a little hard to believe that the editors are reluctant to publish articles on climate change because they would catch flak from talk radio and conservative readers. That already happens. And isn’t there some pressure that moves the other way, from the rank and file reporters toward the bosses? Are they really so timid that they fail to bring up one of the most important issues in the world today?

  15. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    There is so much BS about, like 80% loss of artic ice that they cannot figure it out?? Call them and ask??

  16. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Why does everyone think that the earth is going to be the same temperature all the time? It has varied greatly over the last 10,000 years and humans just had campfires.
    If it starts to get colder, like they forecast in 1975 will we all have to light campfires and breath twice as much to get the CO2 level up?

  17. We have millions of years of CO2 records, and the levels have never been higher for greenhouse gases. Dohnal’s 10,000 years is nothing compared to this.
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/mlo.html

  18. Omri says:

    “Global warming is a figment of the imagination of the left”

    Svante Arrhenius was not a figment of anyone’s imagination. He was one of the most important scientists of the 19th century; chemical engineering as a field would not exist without his work. He was the first to study quantitatively the link between CO2 concentrations and the climate, over 120 years ago. And he was not even remotely a leftist.

    In fact,because of the slow time scale of climate science, the field attracts people of a conservative temperament, and historically that meant people with conservative politics, such as Charles Keeling, the founder of the CO2 observatory in Hawaii, and Kerry Emmanuel at MIT.

    Nonsense like what you’re spouting is quite a contrast from when I was in college. Back then, it was the left that was antiscience, so much so that left leaning scientists were publishing books to complain about it and try to bring some sense into leftist politics. Now it’s the right’s turn.

  19. Chris Jacobs says:

    CO2 is what it is, generally a non-toxic gas, fundamental for all life on earth, and not necessarily a bad thing even in elevated amounts. When you have increased CO2, the proper reaction should be to increase photosynthetic plant life in areas to consume it. In other words, planting trees, preventing destruction of large forest growth will do much more good than trying to stop emissions of everything creating CO2. With higher concentrations, you have a faster rate of photosynthesis and hence faster growth.

    Trees are twice as big with double the CO2 ambient concentration:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB29Mfw-HcU

  20. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    No wonder the weds in my garden are growing faster. If all the Liberals would just quit breathing, think of what a better world this would be?? Voluntarily of course.

  21. Omri says:

    “CO2 is what it is, generally a non-toxic gas, fundamental for all life on earth, and not necessarily a bad thing even in elevated amounts.”

    Except for that whole thing about slowing down the radiation of the sun’s heat out to space, thereby elevating the earth’s atmospheric average temperature, i.e. the Greenhouse Effect, something that’s been known for over 120 years now, from which you are distracting attention with these irrelevant details.

    “When you have increased CO2, the proper reaction should be to increase photosynthetic plant life in areas to consume it.”

    Only when CO2 is the limiting factor for plant growth, and it very rarely is. The main limiting factors tend to be water and nutrients.

    “With higher concentrations, you have a faster rate of photosynthesis and hence faster growth”

    If that were true, CO2 would simply not be increasing. It has been increasing. Ergo, you are wrong.

    This is the kind of nonsense that’s made it impossible to be a scientist or engineer, and a republican at the same time.

  22. Bill Sweeney says:

    Just as with the tobacco industry when there were people who were paid to sow doubt about whether tobacco use really, really was in fact harmful so now there are people who are highly paid to sow doubt about whether climate change is really happening, and if so, whether the consequences will seriously impact mother earth. On the off chance that there are readers who, for whatever reason have not delved much into this issue, please consider this: http://nyti.ms/18JtfeG. Insurance is all about money, and the real money believes whole heartedly in climate change.

    Again, not to distract from the rigamarole that the commie red denialists are promoting, the real issue is why the major news source for southeastern Wisconsin is not doing more to educate the public about what is of paramount importance for the future of our children and grandchildren.

  23. Roger Bird says:

    Global warming and/or climate change is no longer a problem. Fossil and nuclear fuels and ALL other currently used energy sources are obsolute. LENR and Rossi’s E-Cat have been proven:

    http://phys.org/news/2013-05-rossi-e-cat-energy-density-higher.html

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3913

    One tester, Hanno Essen, was the former chairman of the Swedish Skeptics society.

    http://www.mech.kth.se/~hanno/

    http://www.e-catworld.com/2013/05/hanno-essen-on-3rd-party-tests/

    Another tester has made comments here:

    http://www.e-catworld.com/2013/05/e-cat-tester-torbjorn-hartman-commments-on-current-measurement-in-3rd-party-report/

    Elforsk (Swedish for “Electricity Research”) happily admits on their site that they paid for the tests and are happy with the results.

    And this site gives an excellent round up: http://tinyurl.com/BigPictureOfLENR1

  24. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Yes, the first place I go is to look at the NY Times.

  25. Omri says:

    The source that matters here isn’t the NYTimes, but the insurance companies. If the NYTimes misquoted them, they would raise hell and the get story corrected. The NYTimes quoted them correctly. Insurers have no doubt about global warming. They’re paying claims due to it.

  26. Tom D says:

    Dohnal (post 11 which asks why, if sea level is rising, why isn’t NY under water), average sea level at NYC is up 9 or 10 inches in the last 100 years. The flooding that hit Manhattan last fall during Superstorm Sandy was unprecedented–the seas rose to levels just never seen before in nearly 500 years of written history.

  27. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Oh Well, if we lost NY and the Times it is no big deal. I agree with Barry, saw off that section of the country and float it out to sea.

  28. Omri says:

    Your patriotism is an inspiration to us all, Dohnal.

  29. Tom D says:

    A further thought about Dohnal’s question (post 11) about how so much arctic ice could melt in the last few years without an immediate and corresponding rise in sea levels.

    Most arctic ice is NOT on land; it floats on water–there is no land near the north pole. When floating ice melts, it doesn’t increase the water level at all (basic physics). This is very different from ice sitting on land (which, when melted, DOES raise sea levels).

  30. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Congrats to Tom D someone finally said something based on physics and fact. Since ice is lighter than water, when it melts, as ice does in a glass, you actually have less volume, but the ice is not necessary leaving us but there is some change in climate as the earth changes all the time. Look at the great scientists, just 40 years ago, claiming we were going to have to bundle up, cause the next ice age was coming. Fact is that a degree or so warmer, the temp has not changed the last 20 years, is better. Bring it on. The wild eye pushers of global warming and their warnings of 9 degree changes are in the same category as Paul Ehrlich and his nutty predictions.
    Beware of people putting out lies so big that it is impossible to find out the truth.
    Over the millenia, temps have gone up nd down, with nothing to do with humans and their puny efforts. The sun is the main factor and the seas.

  31. Omri says:

    Wow, Donhal, you sure can string a lot of drivel together:

    “Congrats to Tom D someone finally said something based on physics and fact”

    Tom D did indeed say something based on physics and fact. You have done neither the entire time so far.
    You have also missed the important word MOST. Yes, most of the Arctic ice cap is floating, so it melting does not raise sea levels. MOST. There is still the pesky issue of Greenland. Where the ice is melting. Causing the sea to rise, slowly so far.

    “Look at the great scientists, just 40 years ago, claiming we were going to have to bundle up, cause the next ice age was coming”

    There weren’t any great scientists making that claim 40 years ago. There were two scientists. They were not great. They were in fact debunked by other scientists. But they did, however, get the ear of a TIME magazine reporter.

    “Fact is that a degree or so warmer, the temp has not changed the last 20 years, is better. Bring it on. ”

    So far, the sea has risen a few inches. That is enough to cause hardship to coast dwellers around the world, in particular (so far) in VA, MD, DE and NC.

    It’s also reduced the carrying capacity of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes seaways, compromising the system that makes our economy prosperous and able to coddle you in the comfort to which you are accustomed.

    But you’re either too ignorant or too stupid to notice.

    “Over the millenia, temps have gone up nd down”

    And with those temps, crops have grown, and crops have failed. People have been comfortable. People have been stricken with famine. Until you have some understanding of the systems that provide you with your daily comforts, try not to parade your stupidity so blatantly.

  32. Tom D says:

    As long as we are dusting off our high school physics, let me propose a way the earth could be still warming even if the average temperature hasn’t increased much–or at all–the last few years (I’m not saying the earth is cooling, although some on the right are).

    If there really has been a huge melt-off of polar ice in the last few years, that might explain a temporary cooling of the earth. Transforming a ton of 32 degree ice into a ton of 32 degree water consumes a huge amount of energy (which is why we chill drinks with ice cubes instead of with glass cubes or stainless steel cubes). And, of course, this is true whether the ice floats or sits on land.

    If we really are melting many, many cubic kilometers of ice the last few years, that might well account for some cooling of the entire planet. (I leave the computation of the number of joules consumed and how much that might cool the earth to others.)

    The problem is that when we run out of ice to melt, the temperature will resume its upward trek.

  33. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Silly theory, cause the more open sea, the more snow, that is what caused the glaciers.

  34. Omri says:

    “If there really has been a huge melt-off of polar ice in the last few years, that might explain a temporary cooling of the earth. Transforming a ton of 32 degree ice into a ton of 32 degree water consumes a huge amount of energy (which is why we chill drinks with ice cubes instead of with glass cubes or stainless steel cubes). And, of course, this is true whether the ice floats or sits on land.”

    That’s not merely a theory. Plan old thermodynamics tells you this. (The term is “heat of fusion”, the amount of energy it takes to transform ice at 32 degrees into liquid water at 32 degrees.)

    “Silly theory, cause the more open sea, the more snow, that is what caused the glaciers.”

    Dohnal, what you’ve just said … is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  35. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    To piss off a conservative you must lie, to pee off a Leftist, just tell the truth.
    You obviously have never skied, like in the upper peninsula where they have 300 inches of snow a year unless for some reason Lake superior freezes over. Same with Petoskey where my daughter lives, huge amount of snow from the winds across the lake, over 200 inches at Boyne, Traverse city, Petoskey. Check the snowfall at Hurley.
    You cats are in a class all by yourself. You can do a much better name calling. Alinksy rules, if you cannot defeat with logic, attack the experts.

  36. Omri says:

    What’s idiotic about your comment,. Dohnal, isn’t that it’s untrue, it’s that the comment is completely irrelevant.

    On Monday, a house on my block is at 50 degrees in most of the rooms, and there’s a cooler full of ice in the basement.

    On Tuesday, temperature is still at 50 degrees, but the ice in the cooler is all melted.

    Conclusion: the house has absorbed some heat and is now warmer.

    Atmospheric average temperatures for our planet are about the same as 10 years ago. But in the last 10 years, the Arctic ice cap has been reduced significantly, as has ice cover in Antarctica, and glaciers have retreated all over the world.

    Conclusion: the earth has warmed.

    The resulting increase in open ocean has increased evaporation, and so increased the intensity of storms including snow storms, but that does nothing to change the conclusion that the earth has warmed.

    And that you are a blithering idiot. I’ve taken the trouble to debunk your moronic drivel, assertion by assertion. You continue to parade your stupidity, and I no longer feel bound to refrain from calling attention to it.

  37. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    The biggest problems with the Left is that they actually believe their own drivel and cannot make a point without calling everyone names. that is expected, have debated many leftists in the last 50 years. Facts are had to lose and the fact is that the temperatures and climates of the world change all the time depending on the sun and the seas. If we have lost all of that ice, not true then how come NY isn’t 10 feet under water as Al gore and other predicted.
    I only wish I would be around in 50 years, to laugh some more at you clowns, cause not many people believe you any more.
    The average temps are not even close to the Middle ages warming period, plus not even remotely close to the time when the dinosaurs roved the world.
    What we do on earth has such little effect on our climate compared, to the Sun and the seas, that to spend trillions of dollars to reverse it is simply stupid.
    Oh,’ go soak your head, you can find worse names to call those of us that have a little sense.

  38. Omri says:

    “The biggest problems with the Left is that they actually believe their own drivel and cannot make a point without calling everyone names. that is expected,”

    I have addressed every single factual matter in your comments. You continue to press on and parade your stupidity, so I am calling you out directly on it. I do not have the patience of a saint.

    ” have debated many leftists in the last 50 years. Facts are had to lose and the fact is that the temperatures and climates of the world change all the time depending on the sun and the seas.”

    The sun, the seas, and the composition of the atmosphere, which we are changing.

    ” If we have lost all of that ice, not true then how come NY isn’t 10 feet under water as Al gore and other predicted.”

    Because the ice cover we lost so far has been floating ice. Mostly. So no sea level rise. YET.

    “I only wish I would be around in 50 years, to laugh some more at you clowns, cause not many people believe you any more.”

    Idiots laugh at their betters all the time. I will not deprive you that pleasure.

    “The average temps are not even close to the Middle ages warming period, plus not even remotely close to the time when the dinosaurs roved the world.”

    And a good thing too, since there are 7 billion of us around, and a climate that warmer would make it hard to feed us all.

    “What we do on earth has such little effect on our climate”

    A little effect indeed. A 2 degree Kelvin shift in a temperature of 300 Kelvin.

    Unfortunately, that’s enough to cause a great deal of hardship and render the planet unfit for 7 billion people.

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