Peter “weather equals climate” Hannam has been fighting the good fight with more intensity recently, with many words written bemoaning Trump’s disdain for the Paris Agreement, despite it making no logical sense to anyone who cares to examine the facts.
One of his recent pieces of work is interesting;
“Australia’s driest September on record“?
That’s quite a claim and it would certainly indicate a major problem with the environment if true.
Firstly, let’s just mention that nature doesn’t really have a concept of what a “September” is. No, really it doesn’t; think about it for a moment.
Let’s have a look at Peter’s
opinion piece kwality jernalism and see if we can find the factual basis for that headline;
Australia has notched its driest September on record, with less than a third of the usual rainfall for the month, extending the dry spell that has farmers and firefighters increasingly desperate for rain.
Yes, you’ve said that in the headline already (but thanks for confirming it wasn’t an editorial decision to make up a headline). What’s the data source?
Victoria posted its second driest September, also collecting just a third of its typical September rain.
Ok, so a large portion of the country was dry but not as dry as it has been before. That’s not supporting the headline though, is it?
Also, as with a “September“, Mother Nature doesn’t really understand the concept of “the Australian State of Victoria“.
NSW also had another dry month, with less than half the normal rain, bringing the state’s year-to-date tally lower than any year but 1902 and 1965, according to Blair Trewin, senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology.
Nope, still not hearing any data supporting the “driest ever” claim.
“Below average rainfall covered almost the entire country” last month, Dr Trewin said, adding that it pipped 1957 as the driest September, and trailed only April 1902 as the driest for any month.
Still not “driest ever” though, is it?
Melbourne posted its fifth-driest September on record, with no days recording more than 5 millimetres of rain – only the second time that’s happened for that month in records going back to 1855.
Yawn. There’s a pattern emerging here, dry but not “driest ever“.
Sydney’s rainfall was less extreme, coming in about one-quarter below average.
A lack of rain has been a standout feature of much of eastern Australia this year, drying out soils and forests. All of NSW has been declared in drought, while the fire season has started early and is forecast to be an active one.
For the rest of the year, the bureau’s outlook suggests odds particularly favour drier than average conditions in Victoria, southern South Australia and Tasmania.
Still not “driest ever” though?
“The signal in the outlook [for October to December] that’s really strong is warmth,” Dr Trewin said, noting that almost all of the country has an 80 per cent chance of warmer than usual maximum and minimum temperatures.
For September, daytime temperatures were 1.41 degrees above the average for the 1961-90 period.
The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia’s food bowl, had its driest January-September since 1902 – the end of the Federation Drought – Dr Trewin said.
Warm but not “driest ever“?
And then, almost as if these things are driven by some kind of natural cycle, the dry weather is replaced by, erm, wet weather;
Note the tagline for Cassandra’s article; “Weather“.
Peter, however, is the real Cassandra in the Greek sense with his default; “Extreme Weather“.
In addition to Occam’s Razor, there is another shaving device that is useful when analysing people’s public statements and acts; Hanlon’s Razor.
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
As much as we would like to use this principle with Peter Hannam, he makes it bloody hard to not draw the conclusion that he is acting in bad faith.
He is a veteran journalist who will have been taught the wisdom of concise, factual writing, critical thinking and use of source data.
So why, therefore, does the headline and opening paragraph make a claim that is not substantiated anywhere within the body of the article?
We suggest one of the following explanations for this discrepancy;
- After all these years to hone his craft, Peter made a genuine mistake, forgetting to add the all-important sentence or paragraph that would have corroborated his claim.
- Peter is incompetent and has been languishing in the role of serious journalist for several years without being in possession of the requisite skills and experience to perform the role.
- He knew that there was no supporting evidence for the claim of “driest ever” but went ahead with the assertion, both as a headline and in the body of the article.
Our suggestion is that, based on his extensive public record of writing, (3) is the most likely explanation.
If you accept this explanation that Peter is deliberately trying to deceive the reader, we perhaps should ask ourselves, why?
Actually, perhaps we should ask Peter that?
Hi Peter Hannam, are you a fool or a knave and, if the latter, to what purpose?
If someone on Twitter could ask him, we would be most grateful – @p_hannam
In the meantime, let’s just remind ourselves of Mencken’s quote;
The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.