Long Island Sound Might be in Better Shape this Summer. Or it Might be in Worse Shape. It's Hard to Tell. No, It's Impossible to Tell. We Think.
See if you can figure out the point of this story.
To start, the reporter asserts:
Water quality in Long Island Sound could continue to improve if this summer follows the apparent cyclical trends that have been cataloged in the past. decade
But then, despite the cyclical trends (which he never refers to again), he hedges:
The factors that go into gauging water quality are complex enough that researchers find it difficult to make accurate predictions, said Matthew Lyman, an analyst with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
And he quotes Lyman as saying, quite reasonably, “…it's really impossible to predict…”
So in the first three paragraphs we learn that water quality could improve if the (mythical) cyclical trends continue but that it’s difficult to make accurate predictions. No wait, it’s not difficult, it’s impossible.
Hypoxia levels during the past couple of summers have been relatively average …
So hypoxia in 2005 and 2004 was relatively average. Relatively average? Meaning what exactly? And then this:
The summers of 2001 and 2002 featured smaller areas of severe hypoxia, which came early but dissipated when it got unseasonably cold in August, Lyman said.
Except that the hypoxia maps (here and here), which Lyman compiles and which the reporter had easy access to via this webpage, don’t show any dissipation. In fact they show significant hypoxia in September 2001 and significant hypoxia in late august of 2002.
Next, we learn:
If cool temperatures persist, this summer could start with relatively good water quality conditions…
But (there’s always a but):
But some researchers, such as Alistair Dove, a professor at Stony Brook University in Long Island, predicted conditions will be worse this summer because of the mild temperatures in the winter.
“Some researchers” is a reporter’s euphemism for “I really only interviewed one person but other researchers probably agree with him and I need to make my story sound more authoritative.”
And finally, the conclusion:
Still, while a mild winter will likely give way to a warm summer, the weather in this area is known to change.
And the kicker quote:
"It's really a confluence of events that lead to these problems and make it real difficult to make robust predictions," Dove said.
So the Sound might be in good shape this summer or it might be in bad shape. It’s hard to tell. No, it’s impossible to tell.
Maybe instead of trying to predict the unpredictable, we should do something different: wait and see what happens, and then report it.