1.28.2009

Spot the Stupid

Newspapers have to grab a potential buyer's attention with sensational headlines. When it comes to reporting on science, they often get the story wrong as they try to translate the information for the layreader. But to get it wrong in the headline? Well that's just stupid! See if you can spot the problem with this one from Mirror.co.uk:
Sea will rise 'to levels of last Ice Age'
Sea levels will rise by a metre in the next 100 years and devastate the east coast of Britain, researchers say.

The rise, three times higher than current predictions, is based on past records rather than theory. The rise would be the same as the last Ice Age 11,700 years ago and hit lowlying areas such as The Wash.


Spot the problem yet? Well, for one, the change in sea level since the last ice age has been as much as 400 feet (150 meters). But more importantly, the change was in the other direction! Where does the ice come from in an ice age? From the water in the oceans, of course. This means sea levels drop as ice forms and moves across the continents.

2 comments:

bigjohn756 said...

I'm not real bright, but, I read the headline and immediately said to myself; "Self, why would the sea level rise when more water is tied up as ice?".

I guess that I am brighter than the headline writer then aren't I?

yunshui said...

Well... the writer is sort of correct, just not so good at getting his point across. When the last ice age ended, 11,700 years ago (give or take a millennium or two), there was indeed a substantial rise in sea level - because of all the melting ice! The passage should have read:

"The rise would be the same as that which occurred at the end of the last Ice Age 11,700 years ago, and would hit lowlying areas such as The Wash."

Makes more sense now, doesn't it?