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Finally, Some Good Science Reporting!

by Bruno Van de Casteele

November 8, 2015

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Donate My last couple of posts had a theme: it was about how news gets spun or derailed (for instance by a sensational title) into something that's no longer about the actual facts. So time to point out something good this time!

This article from Futurity, for instance, does everything right, which is good, because it is about a topic that ruffles a lot of feathers (sadly) as it pertains to global warming. The article discusses a study showing that the movement of some of Greenland's ice sheets is slowing down. This is an interesting study, which in no way diminishes the real and urgent issue of global warming, but at the same time it seems to be good and solid science. So reporting on it is a really good thing; it shows the increasing advance of science and our understanding of the world.

First off, the title is not sensationalist: it mentions "some" sheets to slow down, not all. That is explained further on in the article: some sheets which end on land and not in the sea are able to efficiently drain away meltwater. This meltwater could act as a gliding accelerator, so getting the water away slows down the movement of the ice sheet. Good news for the ice sheet in question, as there will be less of an impact on sea levels.

Secondly, as always, Futurity mentions both the press article from the university in question (Sheffield) and a link to the original, scientific article (Nature). Far from websites mentioning "some" researchers or failing to mention (let alone read) the original, scientific article, this one is precise, measured, and responsible.

Thirdly, the article is illustrated with absolutely gorgeous pictures, which under the Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license I can copy here, too. The real credit goes to the amazing blue meltwater on Greenland and not the author, but still, such nice pictures really help a reader to continue browsing the article!

Finally, the author points out the bigger picture. Even though the movement of the ice sheet is slowing down, it is still melting away (a 50% increase in recent years). Even though the impact on sea level might be less, it will still rise. The author shows that science is more complex (not a surprise!) but that the overall findings are still correct—and disconcerting.

Now, to be really honest, even though there are a lot of good points in this article there are still people who will misinterpret these results and say that scientists can't even "get things right," such as this conservative one, with a model that "predicts" an upcoming Ice Age. There's probably nothing we can do about it, as long as it is counterbalanced with reporting like from Futurity, bringing real science in a correct way.

by Bruno Van de Casteele

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