Official Climate Data Expose NWF Lies in West Virginia Report

Published November 12, 2008

To what lengths will global warming alarmists go to pull the wool over people’s eyes? Prior to giving a talk recently in West Virginia, I did a Google search of the terms “West Virginia” and “global warming” to see what the state’s residents had been told.

At the top of the search results was a link to a March 2008 National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report titled, “Global Warming and West Virginia.” According to the two-page NWF report, “Duck hunters are already seeing a direct relationship between warmer winters and decreased duck numbers.” Also, “Higher temperatures in West Virginia’s Ice Mountain Preserve already have caused ice to melt earlier in the year.” Still further, “West Virginia’s agriculture industry experienced losses of more than $80 million in 1999, the driest growing season on record in the eastern United States. Continued warmer, drier conditions projected with global warming could increase such droughts.”

It is easy to get people to panic by crying, “The sky is falling!” But do the facts back up NWF’s Chicken Little impersonation? Let’s examine NWF’s claims.

Are West Virginia duck hunters, as NWF claims, seeing warmer winters cutting into duck season? The answer is quite clearly “no.” The following graph was produced by the National Climatic Data Center’s online temperature calculator, charting winter temperatures in West Virginia from the beginning of the twentieth century. According to NCDC, the temperature trend for West Virginia winters got slightly colder since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Figure 1

Next, let’s examine NWF’s claim that ice melt is occurring earlier in the year. The chart below is also from NCDC, this time tracking springtime temperatures since the beginning of the twentieth century. According to NCDC official temperature data, springtime temperatures also have decreased since the beginning of the twentieth century. So much for NWF’s claims of earlier ice melt.

Figure 2

What about drought? NCDC tracks precipitation as well as temperatures. As the NCDC chart below shows, precipitation in West Virginia has been increasing rather than decreasing since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Figure 3

To fully understand the intellectual dishonesty of the NWF report, remember that although the report was published in 2008, it prominently highlights the 1999 drought, asserts global warming was to blame, and leads readers to believe the 1999 drought is par for the course now. Look again at the NCDC precipitation chart above, and you will quickly see why the 2008 NWF report highlights 1999 yet fails to mention any years since.

Figure 4

The lesson to be learned is that all sorts of unsupported claims are made about global warming, but these must be taken with a grain of salt whenever the raw data are not presented alongside the alarmist claims.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.