Climate Misinformation, Factual Errors, and Climate Censorship in the Seattle Times

Reposted from the Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Perhaps I should not read the Seattle Times anymore.  

During the past weeks, there have been several climate-related stories and opinion/cartoon pieces that are just plain wrong.  Clear factual errors, or hyping/exaggerating the impacts of global warming.

And there are dozens of additional examples of profound errors in Seattle Times climate pieces over the years, several discussed in this blog.   Newspapers should be about communicating the truth, not advocacy of a certain politized viewpoint.


The citizens of a democracy must be well informed about important issues of the day, with newspapers playing an important role.  As shown below, the Seattle Times is failing in its responsibilities.

Worse than that, the Times has suppressed information contradictory to their problematic information.

Let me provide some recent examples.

Is Climate Change Inundating the Quinault Nation on the Central Washington Coast?

It started with an article about how the Feds are providing funds to move a Quilayute Village away from the coast because of climate change:  The ST claimed that rising sea level and stronger storms resulting from global warming was the cause.


The article is quite specific about this:


And the Seattle Times doesn’t stop there.    Seattle Times editorial cartoonist David Horsey has a “Climate Carol”.   Nearly all of it is wrong.

And he makes the claim about the Quinault village.  The ocean is rising and coastlines are sinking from climate change.  And yes storms are getting bigger.


The problem?  None of this is true.  And it can be PROVEN not to be true.

Let’s start with the claims that storms on the Washington Coast have increased.  This is not true.  To illustrate below is the plot of the annual maximum sustained wind (blue color) and wind gusts (red line) on the Washington Coast for roughly the last 50 years.   No long-term trend.

The same is true of other parameters (like the lowest pressure on the coast).  Storms are not getting stronger  The UW Climate Impact Group examined regional climate models for the upcoming century (link here) and found no increase in storms in our region:

“The global model ensemble confirms the results from the regional climate models, with no consistent trend toward more extreme wind storms over western Washington in future climate projections”

What about the claims about sea level going up on the Washington Coast due to global warming?

Well, it turns out that sea level is no rising because the land is rising!  Yes, the ocean water levels are going up slowly as the earth warms up.   But if the land rises, the actual water level on the coast can stay the same or go down.

The coastal terrain of Washington is RISING, with sea level going DOWN or steady.

There are two reasons for this.   One has to do with the deep glacial ice that covered the northern Olympic Peninsula, pushing down the land.  When the glaciers melted out about 16,000 years ago, the land started to rebound upward.  And it is still rebounding.


Along the coast, another geological feature is contributing to the coastal land being pushed up:  the subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate under the North American plate (see figure). As the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate is pushed downward, coastal land is elevated.


In fact, using very sophisticated GPS-derived measurements, the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array has found the area around the Quinault coast village in question is rising around 2 mm per year (see below).


Based on satellite altimetry, sea level rise offshore has been about 2 mm per year (see results from 1993-2020 below).   Again, global warming is contributing to this.


Based on this information, you would not expect much sea level rise along our coast because the land is rising.  But let’s check the data from NOAA.

NOAA has a sea level trend website with data from three local coastal sites (Astoria, Neah Bay, and Toke Point near Westport).   Neah Bay and Astoria have the longest records (back to about 1930).


Neah Bay, on the northwest side of the Olympic Peninsula, has sea level DROPPING by 1.74 mm a year.  Small uncertainly compared to the trend (+-.27 mm/year)

Astoria has a decline in sea level as well, but much less (.16 mm a year) and the uncertainty is larger than the trend.


Toke Point near Westport, has a much shorter record (starts mid-70s).  It nominally shows a small rising trend (.38 mm a year), but the uncertainty is large (twice the trend).  The problem with such a short record is the trend would change with a slightly different start date).  For example, starting around 1980 there is essentially no trend.


The bottom line in all this is the Seattle Times’ claims of global warming causing more flooding at Quinault coastal village is clearly bogus.  Sea level is not rising much on the coast (and falling at many locations) and storms that would push water onto the coast are not increasing.

In another blog, I will describe the factual errors in another recent Seattle Times article, claiming that global warming is causing a “tipping point”.for Western Red Cedars.  You will be stunned by how sloppy the article was.

Seattle Times Censorship of Contradictory Viewpoints.

This is, perhaps the first  “Twitter files” for the Seattle Times climate coverage.  On some of their problematic articles, I have occasionally left some comments, providing information about the actual state of scientific knowledge.   I have published over 150 papers, many on Northwest weather and climate.

Imagine how surprised I was to find that the Seattle Times removed all my comments from all articles and froze my ability to leave anymore.   Below is the message.   They were accusing me of providing disinformation about climate change.


I protested this obvious ploy to silence differing viewpoints and asked for a single example of my making a scientific error.  Crickets.   I finally emailed the management of the Seattle Times and that led to them reversing the decision.

David Horsey is constantly doing editorial cartoons on climate.  The Seattle Times has been unhappy about folks’ comments about his “work” and they now forbid comments.  Here is their message:

Editor’s note: Seattle Times Opinion no longer appends comment threads on David Horsey’s cartoons. Too many comments violated our community policies and reviewing the dozens that were flagged as inappropriate required too much of our limited staff time.

You have to feel sorry for the Seattle Times.   Because it took too much time to moderate/censor the comments about the Horsey work, they kill the ability to leave comments.

I learned a lot about the Seattle Times’ censorship of conflicting views, with their Sea Change article in 2012.   They claimed that increasing CO2 was killing baby oysters in factory facilities.  It wasn’t true and the oyster business has done quite well during the last decade.  But I criticized their science in a blog at that time and they stopped talking to me after that.

The strange thing is that I used to have a very close relationship with the Seattle Times when they cared about the truth.  When they had dedicated science journalists like Hill Williams and Dedtra Henderson.  They wanted to get the facts right.   But things have changed in the newspaper.

Anyway, the decline of science coverage and the move to climate-change advocacy at the Seattle Times has not been in the best interest of anyone, particularly the Times.  They are misinforming the public.  Global warming is a serious issue that requires a fact and a science-based response.

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