Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Affect of Future Climate Warming on Polar Lows

Brennan Hutchison
ENVS 1020

My secondary article is reporting on a recent study done by Matthias Zahn and Hans von Storch, published in the Nature journal, on arctic hurricanes commonly referred to as polar lows. This newspaper article inaccurately interprets the results from the primary source and in turn misinforms the public on the results from the study. The study was done to see the affect future climate warming would have on the frequency of polar lows in the Arctic.

The secondary source automatically makes its own conclusions of the study by claiming that these polar lows could halve in the amount per season by 2100. In the primary source, it does not make any statements about the number of polar lows per season being cut in halve by 2100 due to global warming. What the primary source does inform the reader about were the results they got on the number of polar lows observed in a series of regional climate model simulations. They used three, 30 year gap scenarios to compare to the control period from 1960-1989. These models were a downscale of known and predicted climates of the arctic. Using information about greenhouse gas concentrations, they compared the three scenarios to the control, based on the number of polar lows observed (Zahn & Storch, 2010). The researchers found that all the future scenarios, based on predicted arctic climates from 2070-2099, experienced a decrease in the number of polar lows. The control observed 36 polar lows while the three treatment scenarios experienced 22.7, 16.9 and 17.6 (Zahn & Storch, 2010). This is where the secondary source made its accusation of the polar lows being cut in half by 2100. All the author did was take the 36 polar lows observed in the control and compared it to the lowest amount of polar lows observed in one of the three treatment scenarios, which here would be 16.9. This relationship comes out to be approximately half. This is a false claim based on the data, because no one can prove that the arctic climate from 2070-2099 will be identical to the climate used in the scenario that observed 16.9 polar lows. Therefore, comparing only the treatment that produced 16.9 polar lows to the control and ignoring the other two treatments does not give an accurate conclusion.

My primary article gives a more realistic view to the results of the study and does not make inaccurate conclusions of the results. It simply gives an overview of the research done and the results the researchers observed. The secondary article takes this study and renders it more optimistic and appealing for the general reading public. This is why the author makes the statement of polar lows being cut in half by 2100. The primary article never confirmed this finding because there are so many other factors influencing the results. The secondary article does not take into account these other factors, rather just makes premature conclusions to inform the public.

The following figure came from the primary source and shows the frequency of detected polar lows in each of the four scenarios (in red- darker means higher frequency). This is clearly convincing evidence that the amount of polar lows is decreasing as a result of future climate warming. (a) is the control from 1960-1989 while (b,c, d) are the three treatment scenarios from 2070-2099.

(Zahn & Storch, 2010).

Furthermore, the secondary sources talks about these polar lows being cut in half by 2100. The primary source stated they used 30 year gap scenarios for their models. There control was from 1960-1989 and the treatments were from 2070-2099 (Zahn & Storch, 2010). The secondary source is claiming that from present day polar lows will be cut in half by 2100. I quickly saw the misconception made here by the secondary source. First, the primary source compared polar lows observed per season in the 30 year gap from 2070-2099 to the control from 1960-1989 while the secondary source is comparing polar lows in 2100 to present day. Polar lows in both the present day and in 2100 were not even included in this study. Therefore since neither 2010 nor 2100 were included in the study the secondary source cannot make any conclusions about polar lows in this time frame.

A big difference between the two sources is the reading audience, which can help explain the style of writing in each. The primary article is published in Nature journal, which publishes scientific studies and papers. The people who read this journal are people interested in science and who want to learn more about what is new in the field of science. Scientists want their studies published in this journal; therefore this being a science journal, the style can be much more in depth and more specific. The article is targeting a specific group of people (people with a knowledge of science) and can use complex words and descriptions because the audience is able to understand. The secondary source is where the limitations occur for the author. The newspaper has a very large reading audience and they do not target a specific group of people. Since so many people read the newspaper you have to make the articles appealing for many people and it has to be written in a way that many can understand. With scientific studies the author has to make the content understandable so that everyday people can understand the findings. This is why my secondary source does not go in much depth about the study, rather just informs the audience of the findings. Since the author must change the study to something everyone can understand it increases the risk of a mistake being made. During the translation from a primary to a secondary source the author may misinterpret the results or make false claims which are then relayed to the general public. This gives the public false information about the study and proves that you should not always trust the newspaper. The most accurate information will come from the original, primary source.


Barley, Shanta. (2010, September 16). Global warming could cut number of arctic hurricanes, study finds.Guardian,

Zahn, Matthias, & Storch, Hans von. (2010). Decreased frequency of north atlantic polar lows associated with future climate warming. Nature, 467, 309-312

No comments:

Post a Comment