A Study in Fake News

A friend and former colleague sent me a link to the following brief article: A Strong Start to Sierra Snowpack. It purports to be a factual report of the water situation in California. Such stories are always interesting for the things they leave out: the dog that didn’t bark.

Start with the title. Since the snowpack is already above the normal peak, which is referenced to April (seasonal peak), it would be more accurate to say that the snowpack is already well above average for the whole season though it’s still only February. That’s more than a strong start. Furthermore, though the 2017-2018 year was below average, the prior year was well above average. Together, they were about average.It is in the nature of snowfall to fluctuate from year to year.

Next, the article states that “…most of the reservoirs are already more than half-full, and several have water levels that are above the historical average for the middle of February.” It would be more accurate to write that all the reservoirs but one are at or above the historical average for February. The exception is Oroville, which is low because of a major structural failure two years ago. Furthermore, all of the reservoirs are more than half full, which is also misleading because it’s not normal for them to ever be full. Should they ever be almost full, the headline would be “Reservoirs Nearly Full: Flooding Crisis Looms” since they would need to release large amounts of water, which could raise downstream rivers to flood stage.

This 300-word article manages to pack in a tremendous amount of misinformation, brought to you by NASA. This brings to mind the Gell-Mann amnesia effect, or in more modern parlance, fake news. Also relevant is Mencken’s observation  that

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

I would only change the last half to read “…the whole aim of practical media is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

Snow is forecast for tomorrow and Thursday in the Sierra.

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Author: drlorentz

photon whisperer & quantum mechanic

9 thoughts on “A Study in Fake News”

  1. It is a shame that California is wasting its money on high speed trains instead of investing in better water management infrastructure to allow them to even out the variations in rainfall.

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  2. WillowSpring:
    It is a shame that California is wasting its money on high speed trains instead of investing in better water management infrastructure to allow them to even out the variations in rainfall.

    Indeed. It’s not just about the money, though. The Greenies hate dams. The problem may solve itself in the sense that California may start losing population if they keep going down the road they’re on. Well, perhaps they will lose American population, to be replaced by illegals. Either way, it’s a downward spiral.

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  3. drlorentz:

    WillowSpring:
    It is a shame that California is wasting its money on high speed trains instead of investing in better water management infrastructure to allow them to even out the variations in rainfall.

    Indeed. It’s not just about the money, though. The Greenies hate dams. The problem may solve itself in the sense that California may start losing population if they keep going down the road they’re on. Well, perhaps they will lose American population, to be replaced by illegals. Either way, it’s a downward spiral.

    There’s at least one thing not on a downward spiral in state: utility rates.

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  4. With luck, California will slide into the Pacific, but the best we can hope for is that instead of seceding from the union, we get together and throw them out.

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  5. Gerry D:
    With luck, California will slide into the Pacific, but the best we can hope for is that instead of seceding from the union, we get together and throw them out.

    People have been hoping for that slide into the ocean for decades without success. Don’t hold your breath. The seceding-from-the-Union thing might work out.

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  6. drlorentz:

    Gerry D:
    With luck, California will slide into the Pacific, but the best we can hope for is that instead of seceding from the union, we get together and throw them out.

    People have been hoping for that slide into the ocean for decades without success. Don’t hold your breath. The seceding-from-the-Union thing might work out.

    But will the ocean take them. They don’t like nose breathers there.

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  7. 10 Cents:

    drlorentz:

    Gerry D:
    With luck, California will slide into the Pacific, but the best we can hope for is that instead of seceding from the union, we get together and throw them out.

    People have been hoping for that slide into the ocean for decades without success. Don’t hold your breath. The seceding-from-the-Union thing might work out.

    But will the ocean take them. They don’t like nose breathers there.

    How about alternate nostril breathers?

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  8. drlorentz:

    10 Cents:

    drlorentz:

    Gerry D:
    With luck, California will slide into the Pacific, but the best we can hope for is that instead of seceding from the union, we get together and throw them out.

    People have been hoping for that slide into the ocean for decades without success. Don’t hold your breath. The seceding-from-the-Union thing might work out.

    But will the ocean take them. They don’t like nose breathers there.

    How about alternate nostril breathers?

    As long as they are not releasing CO2 they are okay. Was that a video of a Grate White?

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