Friday, July 22, 2022

Derek Mackie: Thunderstorm Asthma - health crisis or hype?

Imagine my surprise, while skipping through the OneNews website looking for “quality” articles to read, I came across this:- 

Thunderstorm Asthma on the rise due to climate change - study 

 My first response was “What the Hell!” 
Not that other common “What the @#*%” saying, as some of you coarser readers may have expected.  Yes, the one with the very bad word that rhymes with a common waterfowl, best served honey-roasted asian-style. 

 The story’s opening line was stark indeed:- 
Climate change has changed the way we eat, the way we travel - it’s even splitting up albatross life partners.” 

 Mastering my emotions, I realised the way I eat and travel hasn’t changed a bit. And, sad though it is, splitting up is just part of life. Like everyone else in this position, albatross couples need to seek relationship counselling and then, if that fails, pair up with a new significant other. 
But please, don’t expect privileges and favouritism like entitled ethnic and gender minority groups do. I mean, albatrosses might be a faunal minority but they are white after all! 
Glad to have set the record straight, I forged on. 

 The gist of the article is that stormy and extreme weather is becoming “much more common” due to man-made climate change…APPARENTLY.
This is leading to higher incidences of….wait for it…. Thunderstorm Asthma!  Or TA, as it’s known in the medical research world. 

Despite the above claim, all the official records show that there has been NO increase in ALL types of extreme weather events, with some actually DECREASING in both frequency and intensity over the last 50 years or so. 

 I was intrigued and followed the link to a study published this month by The New Zealand Medical Journal.  That should inspire confidence, right?
Mind you, considering the recent appalling behaviour displayed by the New Zealand Royal Society, in regards to seven prominent academics who dared suggest that Maori cultural practices and beliefs were not on a par with science, it does make you think twice about the reputation of once-respected institutions and the quality of their publications. 

 Not wishing to show bias, I kept an open mind and read on. 
Sure enough, there it was in black and white. 
Thunderstorm asthma is the increase of asthma cases within hours of thunderstorms. During a thunderstorm, airborne allergen particles, like pollen and fungal spores, are broken down into fine respirable particles that can be inhaled and trigger asthma symptoms. 
….Thunderstorm asthma is a growing threat to public health” 

 But it’s potentially much worse than that, as our intrepid OneNews reporter Zoe explains, quoting an allergy “expert” who appears to specialise in making sweeping generalisations. 
FORECAST higher temperatures MAY make for a longer growing season, POSSIBLY resulting in more plant growth which MAY lead to more pollen.
Oh no, it’s a double whammy…MAYBE!! 
So, leave the house at your peril and PERHAPS get exposed to higher doses of pollen, whipped up by THEORETICALLY more frequent thunderstorms, which MAY then assault your bronchial tubes leaving you POTENTIALLY gasping for air. 

 Just when you thought you would never breathe easily again, Zoe provides some welcome relief, courtesy of our allergy “expert” again. 
NZ has quite a problem with dust mites, another common cause of allergic asthma, because of our temperate, damp climate. 
However, as MODELLED temperatures rise inexorably in the confines of their UN computer programs, POSSIBLY scorching the planet, we COULD become a lot drier so dust mites MIGHT die off - yippee! 
We’re saved…POSSIBLY! 

 Wait a minute! According to our “experts”, we’re going to get much drier….but have more frequent thunderstorms…promoting more plant growth, producing more pollen? 
Isn’t that counter-intuitive? Much drier… but very wet at times with more plants. 
I wonder if this occurred to our intrepid reporter? Or MAYBE she was just too overawed to make the connection while interviewing an “expert”. And PERHAPS she was so stoked at writing another alarmist climate change article that her brain failed to spot the oxyMORON. 

Official meteorological records show that our modest amount of global warming has increased average levels of precipitation globally. This is to be expected as higher temperatures drive higher evaporation rates. Incidences of severe drought have DECREASED over the past 50 years, as expected.

 Back to the NZMJ study, which says places like Waikato are particularly vulnerable to Thunderstorm Asthma because of the extensive pastoral farming and grass. 
No way…..that’s where I live! And, I have asthma. I’m the perfect candidate to validate this pioneering piece of ……highly valuable research. 

 The thing is, I haven’t noticed my asthma getting worse during thunderstorms and I’ve lived in the Waikato for 25 years. We get them fairly regularly but my air passages remain free and clear. Cold weather usually sets me off…so global warming is the perfect antidote! 
Maybe I’m a statistical anomaly. You know, one of those figures that get swept under the rug when they disagree with a scientific theory so they don’t make the graphs look bad. 

 I pushed on, a tad despondent that I was excluded from the main group of wheezers who ALLEGEDLY double over in the Waikato every time there’s some thunder-and-lightning. 
Aren’t humans strange? We’d rather be sick than left out! 

 Surely, quality research like this would be backed up with medical observations involving consenting asthma volunteers whose symptoms were directly measured while tied to a chair in a thunderstorm. 
I consulted the Method section of the paper and found:- 
Nine electronic databases were searched (Academic Search Premier, Medline, Ovid, Google Scholar, Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre, Science Direct, Health Source Nursing/Academic Edition, Scopus and CINAHL Complete). A total of 372 articles were retrieved and were further screened for duplication and relevance, after which 30 articles remained. Articles not published in English were excluded as no translation services were available.” 

 Right - so this was all second-hand data. OK, nothing necessarily wrong with that. 
But, hold on. Only 30 out of 372 articles were kept. The others were discarded for duplication and lack of relevance. And anything in a foreign language was ignored. 
These days that would rule out many NZ publications riddled with Te Reo and largely unintelligible to us monoglots. 

 Surely, translating an abstract can’t be that hard to show if these articles supported or, just as importantly, negated the theory. 
PERHAPS this demonstrates a lack of dedication from modern-day researchers when it comes to presenting as balanced and accurate a picture as possible - “it’s foreign, Kylie, just bin it” 
The term “relevance” always makes me suspicious. As in, “this contradicts our theory so it’s not relevant”. 

 The following statement from the study really made me sit up though:- 
A single TA event has been reported in New Zealand to date, but much of New Zealand may be at risk of future events given that ryegrass pastures are widely distributed, and summer thunderstorms can occur anywhere."
The case happened in Hamilton in December 2017. Exactly where I live!

 Reassuringly, there have been NO incidences of TA reported anywhere in the World since 2018
Doesn’t it seem weird that, for a phenomenon which is supposedly a growing threat to public health, it’s becoming scarcer? 

 Let’s apply the sniff test! 
So, in a country which has large swathes of agricultural land, pasture and forestry, with perfect growing conditions (before the big dry SUPPOSEDLY sets in), leading to some of the highest pollen levels in the World, and has thunderstorms fairly regularly…..we’ve had ONE event. 

 Poo, that smells a bit off! 
Or, speaking scientifically, the evidence is scant and inconclusive. 
In fact, considering our current warming has been ongoing for about 170 years and up until 2017 we were a modern, advanced, scientific democracy, you would have expected New Zealand to be over-represented in the TA reporting stakes. 
Then again, the researchers only say we MAY be at risk of future events - that classic disclaimer covering a multitude of research sins and shortcomings. 

 The study’s authors conclude with:- 
We recommend developing rapidly deployable public messaging to support the health emergency management response to future TA events, together with the instigation of routine aeroallergen monitoring.” 
I imagine this would be some sort of mobile alert, akin to a civil defence tsunami warning, where asthma sufferers' phones start vibrating and beeping manically while displaying a flashing lightning bolt hitting a pollinating flower. 

 Of course, this COULD increase stress, PERHAPS manifesting as spontaneous outbursts, such as “What the honey-roasted duck!”. 
And, MAY cause panic as individuals race for their inhalers, POSSIBLY triggering pre-TA asthma attacks in the process. 
I feel a scientific paper coming on! 

 Years of reading highly dodgy articles on man-made climate change have left me incurably sceptical about most “scientific research” these days. 
Do some people get worse asthma in thunderstorms? Yes, I’m sure they do and always have…and some don’t and never will! 
The key question is not if they do but, is there real data to demonstrate TA is getting significantly worse and, if so, is climate change the definitive cause? 
Or, is it just reported these days because researchers are strongly encouraged and financially rewarded for linking every medical event to climate change, from asthma to sunburn to sweat rash? 
I’ll let you decide!

 Scare stories like this are all too common in our media. Tenuous tales of how most things are getting worse due to climate change…or overpopulation….or Covid…or whatever the next “crisis” they think up. 
The “experts” are trotted out to impart their portents of doom, but on closer examination usually deal in speculation, with little or no hard evidence. 

 My advice is take a moment to look at the claims rationally and decide whether the media hype fits your own experience and observations. And never ignore your gut. 
If it looks like a dead fish, and smells like a dead fish…it’s almost certainly a load of old burley! 
Then, depending on your deliberations, either relax and make yourself a coffee…. or run around like a headless chook - your choice! 

 Ending on a bright and optimistic note, the One News reporter then tells us where the best place to live is, if we are an unfortunate sufferer of allergy induced asthma. 
Clearly, not the Waikato - silly me! Wellington maybe, or Westland, or Stewart Island? 
Close, but no cigar - it’s the Middle East! Dry, hot…and no plants! Who would’ve guessed. 

 Mind you, our allergy “expert” RECKONS we’re going to get much dryer, as temperatures PERHAPS skyrocket, so you could just wait it out. 
If our intrepid reporter and allergy expert had bothered to read the NZMJ report they would have found that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and Israel have all reported one TA event each, so it looks like the Middle East is just as bad as NZ. 

 MAYBE their relocation advice should be taken with a pinch of salt. But if you can’t wait and you’re happy to trust their judgement, surely Alice Springs would be worth a try. It’s a lot closer than Abu Dhabi with no visa required. 
Whatever you do, don’t go to Melbourne which has reported the most incidents of TA (7) - way more than any other location. But strangely, none in the last 6 years! 

 By the sounds of it about a million of us Kiwis are planning to leave NZ anyway but that’s due to our government’s incompetence, economic mismanagement, and separatist agenda. 
Although, some MIGHT, PERHAPS, POSSIBLY suffer from TA as well. 

 So people, when Dan tells you “heads up, it’s a thunderstorm watch” go get that 6-pack of inhalers ready and hide under the bed sheets. But watch out for those dust mites!

 Derek Mackie is a geologist with a keen interest in current affairs.


Ray S said...

If your name is Joe Public and you dare to question a "climate expert" about his or her "findings" and "predictions" you will be shot down because you are a moron and have insufficient knowledge about anything and consequently must not be heard.
Shame really, there is probably more collective knowledge floating around among the Joe Publics than all of acedemia.

K said...

Very very good... Beware life can be sooo dangerous.

Anonymous said...

My BS antenna was activated when I first saw this crap. This is at least the second attempt in msm.
So thanks for the article with the research data as it makes me feel less like an intuitive know-all and more like an informed know-all.
Unfortunately we have had the propaganda through a whole generation now and the young ones are bullish on this. My son thinks I'm a terrible old climate change denier while this science is settled. So I asked him if all the other science is settled as well. As a scientist he couldn't give me an answer. He said "Mum I feel bad that this is coming between us". I said "Don't worry, it doesn't matter if I think the Earth is flat, it's only a belief. Why should it come between us?"
P.S. The Earth is round.

Anonymous said...

I see the article took a swing at farm land as well. We can't have these evil ryegrasses in NZ anymore. Although they do contribute to our $57 billion export earnings. The quicker Ardern and her paid propaganda experts go the better.