• Climate

NBC News story accurately covers research on two millennia of climate history

Posted on:  2019-07-30

Reviewed content

Headline: "Climate scientists drive stake through heart of skeptics' argument"

Published in NBC News, by Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky, on 2019-07-24.

1.3 scientific credibility
"1.3" verdict chart image

Scientists’ Feedback


A recent study working with a global database of paleoclimate records found that no previous warm or cool period in the last 2,000 years—including the Roman Warm Period and the Medieval Warm Period (also called the Medieval Climate Anomaly)—occurred globally and synchronously. But 20th Century temperatures were the warmest of the last 2,000 years for nearly the entire surface of the Earth.

figure from study: maps showing timing of peaks of warm or cool periods for each location in the past with color scale
These maps show the timing of the warmest temperatures in named warm periods (or coldest temperatures in named cool periods) over the last 2,000 years. Only the 20th Century warming is global in extent (top right).
Source: Neukom et al (2019)1

Another study examined the later portion of a period known as the “Little Ice Age”, finding that regional patterns of cooling resulted from a series of major volcanic eruptions in the early 1800s.

Scientists who reviewed the article found that it accurately summarized these new studies, although the headline is somewhat dramatic.

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These comments are the overall assessment of scientists on the article, they are substantiated by their knowledge in the field and by the content of the analysis in the annotations on the article.

Mark Richardson member picture

Mark Richardson

Research Associate, Colorado State University/NASA JPL

This accurately describes new peer-reviewed research and asks independent scientists with relevant expertise to provide important context, such as how these results rely on limited southern hemisphere data. Simplifications help readers understand important points without misleading them.

Mark Eakin member picture

Mark Eakin

Scientist, Coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

I would ding it to a little lower than a 2 for the overly-dramatic headline (“Climate scientists drive stake through heart of skeptics’ argument”). Statements in the article are correct and provide active links to the original publications.

Peter Kalmus member picture

Peter Kalmus

Data Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

While I think we already knew the main findings of this pair of studies with confidence, these studies bump that confidence up another notch. This article does a good job with basic reporting on the studies.
However, the article misleads by framing the story (via headline and intro) as if there were previously any possibility that climate deniers—who are inaccurately referred to here as “skeptics”—were not as wrong as wrong can be.

[1] See the rating guidelines used for article evaluations.
[2] Each evaluation is independent. Scientists’ comments are all published at the same time.

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