Accuracy in Media

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that if currently-mild weather conditions persist in the United States through February, it could be the warmest winter in recorded history.

Multiple media outlets pointed to climate change, but NBC News found that some experts disagreed with the media’s assertions about climate change.

NBC News headlined the discussion, “What happened to winter? Jet stream science explains unseasonable warmth in U.S.,” and acknowledged a jet stream caused much of the warm weather and not climate change.

It debunked the climate change narrative from the start and pointed out that “it may seem like another symptom of global warming, the warmer-than-usual conditions are more directly caused by an Arctic weather pattern that is trapping cold air in the polar region.” In other words, an Artic jet stream weather pattern caused the country’s warm winter conditions.

NBC News asserted that “climate change is not necessarily to blame” because warm weather is not directly caused by climate change. It blamed Arctic Oscillation, which “is currently trapping frigid air in the polar region and preventing it from flowing south.” Due to the oscillation’s waves, polar air brings rain and colder temperatures to the south or could bring hotter weather further north than usual. Scientists told NBC News that it is unpredictable, but it “can have a profound impact on weather systems around the world.” There are concerns whether the Arctic Oscillation will continue to affect the world’s weather in the future and become an annual weather system, but that is purely speculation at this point.

The media emphasized climate change during this 2020 presidential campaign cycle, but it was incorrect for asserting that this warm winter season was directly caused by climate change. Instead of pivoting back to climate change talking points, other media outlets should have done their due diligence in researching the Arctic Oscillation.

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