TV weathermen spread junk science about the climate

TV weathermen spread junk science about the climate

Here in Atlanta, we’ve had a string of days in which the temperature has hovered around seventy degrees — more representative of late spring than late autumn. The balmy weather has left me in a funk.

Sure, I’ve enjoyed the chance to put my toddler on the back of my bike and take her out for a ride. Yes, it was pleasant to don a short-sleeved shirt to put up my outdoor Christmas lights.  Of course, I like the long chats with my neighbors, who walk their dogs at a leisurely pace instead of rushing to get out of the chill.

But I fear the unseasonable temperatures are a harbinger of a slow-moving disaster — a serious threat to my child’s future. What will it take to get people focused on the crisis of climate change?

It would certainly help if TV weather forecasters at least noted the possibility of a link between the un-December-like weather and disastrous global warming. They are popular figures who are embraced by their local viewers as climate authorities. If they helped the public understand the dangers of global warming, the voters, in turn, would demand solutions from their elected officials.

But there’s a troubling dynamic that helps to explain why you’re unlikely to hear about global warming when you’re watching the weather report on the 6 o’clock local news: Many TV weathermen — and weather women — dispute the science of climate change, believing it’s a “scam,” according to a recent study. Their ignorance has contributed to the public’s apathy.

Even though cooler weather is expected soon, 2012 is still on track to be among the hottest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization, a U.N. agency. With the exception of 1998, all of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, climate scientists say. The longstanding consensus among scientists is that greenhouse gasses are warming the earth, melting the polar ice caps, raising sea levels and creating untold environmental havoc.

Yet, many television weather forecasters — who are not climate scientists — remain skeptical. Only about 19 percent believe that human activity is the primary cause of climate change, according to a 2011 study by George Mason University and the University of Texas. A similar fraction — 18 percent — knows that scientists have concluded that human activity is warming the planet, the study said.

Quiet as it’s kept, you don’t have to know much science to be a TV weather forecaster. Those with science degrees tend to be meteorologists with expertise in short-range climate models. They can predict the weather a week from now with relative accuracy, but they know little about long-term climate trends.

By contrast, climate scientists usually have graduate degrees and are associated with research institutions and universities. They use complicated models to study long-term weather patterns.

But there is hope the two groups can come to a consensus that elevates the discussion: TV weather forecasters are often members of the American Meteorological Society, which represents a broad range of experts in atmospheric sciences.  Marshall Shepherd, the group’s president-elect, wants to help to educate “our colleagues in the broader community,” including TV weathermen, he told me.

A former NASA researcher who currently heads the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia, Shepherd said, “We want to forge an environment where all viewpoints are welcome. At the end of the day, though, our position will be based on the science.”

That rankles some in the ranks. Earlier this year, when the AMS issued a strongly-worded statement on human-caused climate change, Glenn Burns, the popular weatherman for the Atlanta ABC affiliate, WSB, was flippant in response to a question about it.

“Our climate has been changing since the beginning of time. Only the civilizations that adapted to it have survived. That should be our goal,” he said. And Burns is by no means alone among weathermen in casting doubt on climate science.

Here’s hoping that Shepherd and the AMS can persuade TV weathermen — and women — to accept the scientific consensus. Forecasters could help to elevate climate change as a political concern. We’re running out of time before those balmy December days prove costly.


14 Responses

  1. Otter says:

    Cynthia, I was just wondering- what are the record highs for the day(s) you mention? How far back do they go? Are there strings of very warm December days at various points in time, in the weather history where you are? Have there been Very mild winters in the past, all winter long, and when?

    I suspect when you find out those details, you will find nothing out of the way about what you are experiencing now. I look forward to your answer(s).

    • ctucker says:

      Of course, there have long been strings of warm December days. However, if you read the rest of my column, you know that the past decade is the hottest on record — with far more strings of unseasonably warm temperatures than ever before. What we are currently experiencing, not just this December but cumulatively, is unusual — and alarming.

  2. William Yarber says:

    Cynthia, there is a distinction between weather and climate. You obviously don’t know that.

    I moved to Atlanta (Peachtree City) in June of ’87 from Philadelphia, Pa. It was 70 degrees that Christmas and my kids were very upset. I loved living in the Atlanta area because I could almost count on at least one day a week that would reach at least 50 degrees during each winter. That made it possible for me to play the most golf in PTC than anywhere else I’ve lived.

    Now I live just south of Daytona Beach in FL. During the winters of ’09/’10 and ’10/11, we experienced nights that reached 22 degrees and I’m only 1,000 feet from the beach. Last winter was very mild and this summer has been great. That’s why it is called weather, because it varies from season to season and year to year!

    While living in Atlanta, I found your writings to be very biased and uninformed. Science is about questioning everything, never accepting authoritative points of view just because authority says so! I strongly suggest you either spend several years learning science or stop writing about things you obviously don’t understand! Concensus and references to authority are false arguments when it comes to science.

    Here is a fact you need to check: Data from satellites and HadCRU demonstrate that the Earth’s climate has shown not statistically significant warming or cooling over the past 16 years! Don’t accept my word for it, do some honest research and find out for yourself. Actually doing your homework might improve your inane commentaries.


    • ctucker says:

      If you read the entire column, you know that the past decade has been the hottest on record. You also know that climate scientists agree that the GLOBE IS WARMING. If you don’t accept the scientific consensus, then your ignorance is alarming.

    • Otter says:

      She is apparently one of those who thinks Skeptics do not believe the climate is changing, whereas one of the central tenets of our argument is the FACT that the climate always has and always will change- and that the MWP, Roman Warm Period, indeed half a dozen prior warm periods, were much warmer than we will be by the end of the century.

      All it takes is a little research into the thousands of peer-reviewed papers which point out these facts.

      • ctucker says:

        Otter, I know you believe the climate always has changed. That makes you a skeptic toward the scientific consensus that current global warming is caused by human activity.

  3. Mike Mangan says:

    It was warmer during the Medieval Warm period, the Roman Warm Period, and the Minoan Warm Period than it is today. Civilization flourished during those times. We have yet to see anything that hasn’t already occurred long ago naturally. Besides, shouldn’t temperatures actually keep going up instead of plateauing for 16 years?

    Question authority. You’re being fed a myth by greedy UN kleptocrats and crony capitalists like George Soros.

  4. William Yarber says:

    Your last sentence tells me you didn’t read, or comprehend, my comments. Referring to authority proves nothing in science. Only ovservations, data and analysis matter. I don’t accept concensus when it comes to climate science, AGW or any other scientific discipline! Long held beliefs get challenged when new information comes to light. Theories get revised or crumble and die.

    Yes the Earth has warmed since coming out or the Little Ice Age around 1850. Our records do not extend back prior to the beginning off the LIA in 1700. Scientists have shown that the Earth was warmer in the Medieval Warm Period around 1000 AD, and that both LIA and MWP were world wide events. That the Earth has warmed is a know fact and I never challenged it. However, that fact neither supports nor contradicts the theory that CO2 (ie: man) is the cause of the warming, and not the natural variables which have caused numerous climate swings over the past 10,000 to 200 million years. What you obviously don’t understand is that effects don’t prove cause and that individual variations in weather conditions do not prove climate change.

    I have an MS in AeroSpace Engineer, 30 years working in the industrial instrumentation industry and a basic understanding of process control. CO2 is a lagging indicator and is not a cause of the Earth’s recent warming, it is a result! Weather is not climate, and changes in CO2 levels do not prove that man has anything to do with the Earth’s warming since 1850 or 1970!

    Your bias prevents you from opening your eyes and challenging your charished beliefs. So sad!


  5. If you accept the actually non existent scientific consensus you are failing in your journalistic responsibility to check the facts before spouting off.Checking the facts doesn’t mean regurgitating the MSM politically correct eco-nonsense but looking at the actual data. which is easily accessible on the web . There has been no net warming for 15 years with CO2 up nearly 9%. The earth warmed about 0.8 C in the 20th century but the warming trend peaked in about 2003 and earth has now entered a cooling period which may well last 30 yrs. Naturally when you cross over a mountain peak the last 5 or 10 steps up and the first 5 or 10 down will be the highest.Don’t be simple minded.
    For more data based analysis with links to the data so you can do your homework and form your own opinion so that you don’t have to believe anyone ( even me for example ) check my blog at http://climatesense -norpag.blogspot .com.

  6. Windy says:

    @ “It would certainly help if TV weather forecasters at least noted the possibility of a link between the un-December-like weather and disastrous global warming.”

    This seems odd to me. What would be the purpose of my TV weather person suggesting that short term temperature trends might have some correlation to longer tern warming? In my state we have a state climatologist who has a very deep understanding of climate as well as short term weather. Recently he wrote about how there has been no increase in tornadoes and provided all the historical data to show that when data is normalized to account for more sensitive detection equipment and increased population, there is no trend increase. So what you’re suggesting is that when tornadoes occur, my TV weatherman needs to remind viewers that the data shows that warming has had no effect on tornadoes but there might be a correlation? Is the TV weather person going to take the time to explain this in the manner that my state climatologist explains it? I don’t think so.

    Here is the latest global data, from a PHD scientist who specializes in oceans and tropical cyclones, on sea surface to a depth of 2 meters which accounts for roughly 90% of the heat that interacts with the Earth’s atmoshere to warm or cool the planet.

    As you can see the global anomaly is .063 degreesC for the period 1981 to 2010. Do you think my TV weather person can explain why this is and why the land is warming faster than the ocean or the Lower Troposphere? I think TV weather people should stick to weather and leave the climate to the state climatoligist.

    BTW my state climatologist is part of the same group that includes Michael Schlesinger who just published a new paper that disagrees with the IPCC estimate of climate sensitivity. While I trust the climate scientists I have exchanged information with, I would not trust my TV weather person on climate matters.

    • Windy says:

      Correction: Tha data in the temperature map data is not the top 2 meters of ocean but rather the global surface temperature from 0 to 2 meters. My appologies for my barain cramp.

    • ctucker says:

      Wendy, Most viewers do trust their local weather forecasters on climate matters. That’s the problem.

  7. Windy says:

    Climate scientists have created a new thermometer network the USCRN. They did this in order to test the accuracy of the older system that they knew contained inaccurate thermometer sites and that they had to adjust the data for. Some of the results are eye opening. In july 2012 the “official” network of older less accurate thermometers provided a USA temperature average for July 2012 of 77.6 degreesF while the more accurate network (where all temperature bias in the old network has been eliminated) gave a reading of 75.5 degreesF. Do you really want weather personalities involved in trying to explain thermometer site bias and why scientists have adjusted USA temperatures upward by .6 degreesC since 1900 when compared to raw unadjusted data? I don’t think TV weather personalities in my broadcast area are capable of addressing such issues and I doubt that they would be comfortable trying to.

    Another example for your consideration is the suggestion that you visit the Texas state climatologists web site (he is not my state climatologist that I refer to in my first comment here), as he discusses some of the science recently shared at the AGU meeting in S.F. CA. He discusses information on jet stream influences and his disagreement with some of the findings. The jet stream directly affects US temperatures and weather and while TV weather personalities may know something about the jet stream they certainly wouldn’t be able to address the issue in the same manner that the Texas state climatologist addresses it. Ultimately we find that the jury is still ot and the science on the jet stream is still unsettled and will require years more of research to determine what is the correct science.

    I also worry about political pressure on these TV weather personalities if local and state politicians exert influence on them. I live in an area where the government is extremely corrupt and it may be the case that local TV weather people may not even want to get involved in climate issues because corrupt politicians could come after them to promote a some pet agenda like a coatal project or wind farm deal. If they don’t play ball they could be fired for not promoting the political views of powerful politicians. Have you considered this aspect?

  8. Tim Groves says:

    Consensus, nonsensus, Cynthia. What does it matter as long as everyone who counts is in agreement?

    Regardless of what is happening to the earth’s climate or whether or not human activity is having a significant impact, the idea that we should all defer to a consensus of so-called experts is the very antithesis of proper science. It’s a variant of the argument from authority. Moreover, the claim of consensus would not need to be invoked at all if the science was was sufficiently well-grounded.

    Like me, you are old enough to have been an adult back in the 1980s when global warming alarmism first reared its head. Since then we’ve had about 25 years of catastrophic climate predictions being made by expert climate modelers. I believed them for years, but as time went by and it became possible to test the predictions against what was going on in the real world, anyone who was not a partisan or a true believer could see that the models did not come close to modeling reality.

    Also, there is no shortage of ignorance in this world and you may well be right about a majority of US weather forecast presenters, but since you are not a qualified climate scientist either, I assume you are counting yourself as equally ignorant on this issue and merely blindly following the consensus. If that’s the case, you could do worse than to abandon your faith in the “experts” who have convinced you of the “truth” of catastrophic anthropogenic climate disruption. You don’t need to become an expert yourself, but you owe it to yourself to learn the basics of scientific skepticism from Descartes to Feynman. Armed with that knowledge, you can go along way in separating fact from fiction, wheat from chaff, sheep from goats, and experts from charlatans.

    Best regards to you!

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