Anomalous Radar Activity Around Melbourne

I just love it when event transpire such that I can bring you two of my favourite subjects in one Tetherd Cow Ahead post. Today’s is such a post and it’s brought to you by the Melbourne Age which is carrying an article that combines the stupidity of the newspaper business with the beliefs of a loony. It runs under the headline ‘Weather has conspiracy theorists strung out’

INEXPLICABLY odd images1 on Bureau of Meteorology radar. Cyclones off the Australian coast and the most intense storm to hit Melbourne in living memory. A controversial US military facility in Alaska suspected of research into weather control … It sounds like the plot of a sci-fi conspiracy thriller.

Yes, there’s no quibbling there – that’s exactly what that hodge-podge of unrelated factoids sounds like (although I’d be inclined to add the word ‘bad’ just before ‘sci-fi’). So the implication here is that it’s going to turn out to be The Truth, right, as opposed to the fiction of a ‘sci-fi conspiracy thriller’? Well, you’d be totally wrong if you were thinking that.

The story goes on to detail the following points:

•The Bureau of Meteorology radar has been recording ‘a number of very strange patterns – rings, loops, starbursts’ around Melbourne.

•There have been some big storms here.

•The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility in Alaska has powerful transmitters and radars.

From this, the correspondent spins up a vacuous story that says in essence that websites ‘specializing in pseudoscience’ have ‘leapt on the notion’ that the three things above are connected and the ‘government’ is trying to control the weather.

Is anybody else feeling the need to stick their head in a bucket of ammonia?

To simplify: this is a story which is actually just a free plug for the nutty ideas of lunatics, while all the while pretending to ‘news’ by distancing itself from aforementioned lunatics. And, to put the icing on the cake, the story is embellished with an image of the recent SpaceX Falcon 9 launch, which has exactly NO relevance to anything at all.

As I’m reading this, I find myself thinking ‘Who the hell is responsible for this guff and how do they get to be working on a news desk?’ So I scroll up to the byline. It will probably come as no surprise to you at all to find that the literary genius behind this story is none other than reporter Stephen Cauchi, who has provided us with much mirth previously here on The Cow with his non-news style of journalism.

Which brings me to the second of my favourite Tetherd Cow subjects – insane people. Mr Cauchi’s main source for the above-mentioned conspiracy turns out to be someone who is very familiar to anyone who’s spent time around the pseudoscience traps – a fellow who goes by the name of Colin Andrews. Now, just to set you up, Mr Andrews has about ZERO credibility as any kind of authoritative source. In fact, if you were actually trying to find a less credible spokesperson (for anything except nutty ideas I guess) you’d have your work cut out for you.

Colin Andrews first came to prominence as an ‘expert’ on crop circles back in the 1980s, and contrary to all common sense, still believes that they are made by ‘aliens’. Since that time, he has advanced all manner of implausible conspiracies across numerous disciplines. In this case, Mr Andrews’ ‘government weather control’ paranoia centers on some ‘anomalous’ radar screen captures from earlier this year when the south coast of Australia suffered some unusually fierce storm activity. This is a couple of them:

Well, yeah, sure, these ones are from the Bureau of Meteorology radar in Broome in Western Australia, but close enough, right?

These are the ‘inexplicably’ odd radar images to which Mr Cauchi refers in his first paragraph. Rather than conclude (as might any rational person) that the radar images are simply quite explicable as imperfections in the way that a meteorological radar functions, Mr Andrews’ brain oscillates to the most wildly improbably alternative – that the images are some kind of government weather control experiment that has been cunningly contrived to appear like a radar imperfection.

Mr Andrews persists in this belief even when told as much from someone who works for the Bureau of Meteorology:

Re: The round radar prob in WA, it is a BOM Radar unit which has its lower rain level threshold setup too low, ie, too sensitive, which gives the noisy radar reading like that. Nothing to do with HAARP, which, as you know, is in Alaska. I see images like this a lot, as I work for the Bureau of Meteorology in QLD.

And you know what? You too can see images like this on Australian meteorological radars if you feel like clicking on every radar station that the BOM offers. If you think like Mr Andrews, you’re likely to find a LOT of government hanky panky. It’s a wonder the government has any time for actual governing.

After giving plenty of airing to Colin Andrews’ hair-brained ideas, the Age article goes on to seek opinions from authoritative skeptics, who quite reasonably call the idea ‘silly’. We could have started with that conclusion and made the whole story one sentence long, viz:

We asked a sensible person, Mr Tim Mendham (president of the Australian Skeptics), what he thought of noted loony Colin Andrews’ idea that the government is controlling the weather, and he said it was silly.

I guess that doesn’t make for ‘pizazz’ but the content is exactly the same as the story as it stands.

Anyhoo, after a lot of stupid waffle, the article rounds off with:

The Sunday Age tried to contact Mr Andrews, who is based in the US, but there was no reply. That could be because, according to his website, he was in Oregon for last weekend’s 11th annual UFO Festival.

Smirk smirk smirk. Well if that’s your attitude Mr ‘cynical’ Stephen Cauchi, why are you making this nitwit’s ideas out to have any credence at all?

It makes me feel quite nauseous to note that this was No. 1 on the ‘most read’ list of Top National Articles in The Age today.

Well done Melbourne Age! Another pin on the board for the Great De-Braining of the Human Race.2

UPDATE: At the time I wrote this yesterday, there were no comments on the article. Now there are 19. After reading them I actually feel like walking over to the train line near my house and throwing myself in front of the 10:15 to Flinders St Station. WHY WAS I BORN INTO A WORLD WITH THIS MUCH STUPID?!

The comments are now closed and the one I left was evidently deemed unsuitable for inclusion – evidently it made a little too much sense.

  1. Why, why, why do reporters continue to use this kind of language? The images are ENTIRELY explicable in any number of ways. They are ONLY inexplicable in the mind of Colin Andrews. Stephen Cauchi, you are an IDIOT. []
  2. Or, one optimistically hopes, another nail in the coffin of the old news media. []