THE BLOG
07/28/2007 01:45 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Did Someone Say Something About Humans Affecting Rainfall?

A few days ago, Rupert Murdoch's Times of London screamed "A catastrophe with mankind's footprints stamped on it." The Times' more conservative rival, The Telegraph, was more dispassionate, with its headline reading "Man-made global warming increases rainfall." Of course, the left-leaning Guardian also covered the story. Japan's leading daily, Yomiuri Shimbun, had a similar headline. So did the Toronto Star, the Vancouver Sun and The Hindu.

What did The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today have to say about the story? Absolutely nothing. While news organizations around the world were reporting about the "first evidence that human activity has altered rainfall patterns," the vast majority of US news outlets ignored the story. And it was by no means an obscure or dubious study that garnered the global coverage. Far from it. The study was conducted by leading climatologists associated with top research centers in the UK, the US, Canada and Japan. It was published in the prestigious journal Nature on July 26th, with a news release issued on the 23rd.

After experimenting a bit with various search terms to make sure I got results specifically about the Nature study, I did Google and Lexis-Nexis searches on "journal Nature," and "human activity" plus "rainfall." Google returned 58 results on those terms. Only two were from the US. The rest were from Canada, the UK, India and the Netherlands. The two US publications were Daily India, based in Jacksonville, FL, and something called the Free Internet Press. Lexis-Nexis returned 37 results for newspapers, newswires and press releases. All except one were from outside the US, and that one outlet was a specialty service called Greenwire.

Certainly the great interest in the story in Britain is partly attributable to recent events. One of the study's co-authors, Dr. Nathan Gillett, told me, "A lot of the interest in Britain was prompted by the extreme flooding we have had in the last two weeks. The study described the identification of human influence in global rainfall patterns rather than specific extreme events such as the one which occurred here - most of the coverage I saw fairly reflected this... Generally I think the media coverage of the study was quite well-balanced."

Well, lack of balance wasn't even an issue in the US because there wasn't any coverage of what inarguably is a significant story. I'll leave it to others to speculate on why our media continues to ignore major developments in the climate change crisis.