OMG -- More Smoke!

Kudos to a reader who pointed this one out to me from the Mail online.  It is a favorite topic of mine, the use by the more-scientific-than-thou media of steam to illustrate articles on smoke and pollution.

Check out the captions - smoke is billowing out.  Of course, what they are likely referring to -- the white plumes from the 8 funnel-shaped towers -- is almost certainly pure water.  These are cooling towers, which cool water through evaporative cooling.  These towers are often associated with nuclear plants (you can see that in the comments) but are used for fossil fuel plants as well.  There does appear to be a bit of smoke in the picture, but you have to look all the way in the upper left from the two tall thin towers, and one can see a hint of emissions.  Even in this case, the plume from the nearer and smaller of the two stacks appears to contain a lot of water vapor as well.  My guess is the nasty stuff, to the extent it exists, is coming from the tallest stack, and it is barely in the picture and surely not the focus of the caption.

The article itself is worth a read, arguing that figures from the UK Met office show there has not been any global warming for 16 years.  This is not an insight for most folks who follow the field, so I did not make a big deal about it, but it is interesting that a government body would admit it.


  1. Bob Beck:

    Maybe we need to reduce our hydrogen footprint. That water vapor is, after all, a greenhouse gas.

  2. DOuglas2:

    Oh, but there is smoke billowing in that photo. In the upper right quadrant, from the chimney. So the caption is accurate. It can also be seen in this photo of Drax power station in Yorkshire:

  3. Fred . . . Always Freddy . . .:

    ya . . saw that one too . . . in the same article the ever so smart reporter has a caption on a picture with about "floating icebergs"

    I guess that is to differentiate them from those dastardly sinking icebergs.

  4. fredrick.:

    Warren did mention that smoke. The point is that they chose the site because of the copious amounts of steam which is produced, which makes the picture look oh so nefarious.

  5. fredrick.:

    Dihydrogen monoxide, sometimes referred to as Hydrogen Hydroxide, is dastardly stuff and should be eliminated. Call your congressperson!

  6. Ted Rado:

    Hey guys! Remember that most people (ALL journalists) are technically illiterate. In our democracy, they have every right to say stupid things. Hopefully, there is enough correct info out there to prevent a TOTAL screwup.

  7. Gil:

    Why shouldn't water be considered dangerous if runoff or even its vapour is damaging surrounding houses and buildings? Likewise if much of the hardcore ice at the poles was never part of the hydrologic cycle then it would be as bad as releasing long-locked carbon dioxide or methane.

  8. MNHawk:

    The steam of smoke is a staple of modern journalism. I think they teach that in J-Schools.

  9. HenryBowman419:

    ALL journalists is right, I think. After all, Andrea Mitchell (NBC News), in discussing Felix Baumgartner's remarkable "skydive", stated that Mr. Baumgartner had gone faster than the speed of light!

    Now, that's pretty fast!

  10. Harry:

    That steam is radioactive, Coyote.