Russia Fires: Why You Can’t Trust the Numbers

Posted: August 13, 2010 in Bad Data
Tags: , , , , ,

As you must have read, scorching weather has ignited peat fires across 35 regions in Russia. At its height last week, smog produced from the raging fires meant visibilty in Moscow was just 300 metres. The fire emergency status has been cancelled in three regions but the scale of the disaster can be guaged somewhat from this Goolge Earth picture:

At the height of these fires, figures for the scale of the blaze range from 5 thousand  to 8 thousand square kilometers.  That is equivalent to setting the entire nation of Trinidad and Tobago alight. Or, if you take the larger figure, an area three times the size of Luxembourg.

This is a large range, I know, but fires tend not to be discrete. I think the picture is a much better guage of the scale. Thank you Google Earth. However, the figures given so far is a death toll of 54. And deaths are discrete. But these numbers coming out of Russia tend also to be discreet in that Interfax news agency are quoting doctors in Moscow as saying they’re being told not to put ‘heatstroke’ as a cause of death in order to keep the offical (i.e. publishable) statistics low.

Don’t believe everything you read. Numbers tell you nothing if you don’t know where they come from.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s