Weather forecasters and climate science have a stormy relationship
Surveys of meteorologists show that 25% think global warming is a scam, while many others think it is manmade and harmful.
Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 11:43 AM
Photo: Brandon Croft/Flickr
TV weathercasters get a lot of grief every time they predict that the sun will come out tomorrow and rain clouds roll in instead. Is that why so few of them talk about climate change, or why so many of them flat-out deny it?
"They get reminded each and every day anytime their models don't prove to be correct," Ed Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, told NPR. Meteorologists can't always accurately predict what the weather will be like 24 or 72 hours in the future, and that apparently leads many of them to doubt how climate scientists can create models of what will happen decades from now.
To help them get over that hurdle, the Center and the organization Climate Central have started a program to teach meteorologists more about climate change and give them well-research material catered to their local markets. The project got its start in 2010 but got a boost in early 2011, when the American Meteorological Society (AMS) established what it dubbed the Committee to Improve Climate Change Communication, "to help facilitate communication among members of the weather and climate community so as to foster greater understanding about the spectrum of views on climate change."
The committee asked the Center for Climate Change Communication to survey AMS members about their perspectives about climate change. Only about a quarter of the association's members responded, but of those that did 89 percent indicated that global warming is happening and that it would be harmful over the next 100 years.
Perhaps more importantly, the survey showed that there was a great deal of internal conflict within the AMS about issues related to global warming and that they would be supportive of AMS taking a more active role in educating the public and policy makers about global warming. (The preliminary findings of this survey, published in February 2012, are available here.)
One of the earliest meteorologists to take advantage of materials provided by the Center for Climate Change Communication and Climate Central was Jim Gandy of WLTX in South Carolina. The organizations provided detailed information about how climate change would affect that region, something Gandy would not have had time to dig up on his own. His station gave him a regular 90-second slot to discuss climate change. The series reportedly went over well, Gandy told NPR, even though South Carolina is what he called a "dark red" state.
Of course, not all weathermen want to talk about climate in such terms. Last December Rolling Stone reported on several TV weathercasters who were ignoring climate change or actively hostile to the idea. A separate survey found that more than 25 percent of TV forecasters think that climate change is a "scam" and a "manufactured crisis" designed to destroy the American way of life. That's a bad forecast for change.
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