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Climate change extremism and the tendency to alarm first and analyse later is destroying clear and thoughtful environmental reporting.

A good example of this is the European heatwave hysteria which was started by journalists confusing ground and air temperature. It began with a report by the European Space Agency that referred to measured air temperatures above Europe. The point of the press release was that it was very hot. It said, “…and it’s only just begun…with air temperatures expected to climb to 48°C on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia – potentially the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.” You will note the words, “expected,” and “potentially.” To be fair the report did refer to surface temperature later on, but we all know journalists rarely read beyond the first paragraph of a press release.

There is a big difference between temperatures recorded at the surface and that of the air at a standard height of 1.2 – 1.5 m which is measured in shielded weather cabinets and is used in daily weather reports. Surface temperature is much hotter. At one stage the BBC was reporting 45°C in Rome when the maximum recorded air temperature was 40°C. The air temperature in Sicily was 32°C a long way from the predicted surface temperature of 48°C. What a difference 2 m makes!

Everybody knows that the bonnet of their car can get too hot to touch, or that a sandy beach can be too hot to walk on even though one can feel hot but not in distress. It is the air at 2 m that we experience. Air is heated only very slightly by sunlight. The rays mostly pass right through. A person will feel hotter in the sun than in the shade, but this is not because the air is hotter, it’s because the person is being heated by the sun, just like the ground.

Although recorded by satellites, local surface temperature is challenging to extract from the scientific data. Surface temperatures are far more extreme than air temperatures. Most global analysis of temperature is obtained from weather stations.

Given that, it was still provisionally the hottest week globally in the instrumental record. Many predicted more records would later fall but they didn’t. Death Valley, possibly the hottest place on Earth, came close but didn’t break its 1913 record. Incidentally, that record is under suspicion as none of the nearby weather stations recorded extraordinarily hot weather for that day. Most American states set their individual heat records almost a century ago.

So far the El Nino of 2023 is looking like that of 2016. According to Dr Melissa Lazenby of the University of Sussex the current European heatwave is not being affected by the burgeoning El Nino but is a result of stable atmospheric conditions from a stationary atmospheric feature set against the background of global elevated temperatures. It’s also warm globally because of the marine heat wave in the North Atlantic which is as far as we know a natural event that according to the IPCC bears no imprint of global warming. This means that the El Nino will very probably elevate the Earth’s global annual temperature to record levels for this year and possibly the next.

And then global temperatures come back down again.