Television Weathermen Aren't Climatologists, Tell Your Friends

television weather photo

photo: Mr. T in DC via flickr.

Continuing on the climate is not weather theme: If you read only one thing over the next two days on climate change make it this piece from Columbia Journalism Review entitled Hot Air: Why don't TV weatherman believe in climate change?. In case you didn't know, it turns out that less than a quarter think humans are responsible for it. In short the reason is probably because, by and large, they have no training in climate science whatsoever. Here's a bit to wet your appetite:TV Weatherman Most Trusted Climate Change Source
Referring to a 2008 study done by George Mason and Yale universities on what Americans know about climate change, and who do they trust when getting information about it,

66 percent of the respondents named television weather reporters. That was well above what the media as a whole got, and higher than the percentage who trusted Vice-President-turned-climate-activist Al Gore, either of the 2008 presidential nominees, religious leaders, or corporations. Scientists commanded greater credibility, but only 18 percent of Americans actually know one personally; 99 percent, by contrast, own a television.

The trouble is, based on an earlier study, barely half of TV weather reporters have a degree in meteorology or another atmospheric science and only 17% have a graduate degree.

Short Term Forecasting Much Different Than Observing Long Term Trends
Combine that with this next passage and you get to the crux of the problem. Author Charles Homans describes it as a problem about what weather reporters know, and think they know:

Meteorology has a deceptively close relationship with climatology: both disciplines study the same general subject, the behavior of the atmosphere, but they ask very different questions about it. Meteorologists live in the short term, the day-to-day forecast. It's an incredibly hard thing to predict accurately, even with the best models and data; tiny discrepancies matter enormously, and can pile up quickly into giant errors. Given this level of uncertainty in their own work, meteorologist looking at long-range climate questions are predisposed to see a system doomed to terminal unpredictability. But in fact, the basic question of whether rising greenhouse gas emissions will lead to climate change hinges on mostly simple, and predictable, matters of physics. The short-term variations that throw the weathercasters' forecasts out of whack barely register at all.

Read the original, it's pretty fascinating, covering a bit of the history of TV weather reporting, outreach and education to weather reporters, discrepancy between weather reporter's opinions and that of the American Meteorological Society, and more: Hot Air: Why don't TV weathermen believe in climate change?
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