TV Meteorologists Warm to Climate Science

August 16, 2016

In June, I flew to Austin TX, for a conference that brought together prominent regional television weathercasters and scientists, for a concentrated update on climate science and communication.

For years, it seems, there has been a disconnect between those who  are the most familiar and trusted sources of weather information, and the climate transformation that is affecting the stories they seek to report and interpret.   In a summer like this, more and more weathercasters are being beseiged with questions about climate, and how it is impacting the seemingly endless parade of extreme events that are hitting all around the country, and the world.

The TV Mets I interviewed were smart, thoughtful, had science training, though not at the PhD level, enough to have begun digging into the data on their own to draw conclusions. Some, like Amber Sullins of ABC 15 in Phoenix, had initially been skeptical, “10 or 20 years ago”, she told me. But after doing what a scientist does “..take in the information, question, and research it yourself” – she came to understand the problem was real. Likewise Greg Fishel of WRAL in Raleigh, formerly a self described “hard core skeptic”, who finally realized that he was only seeking “information to support what I already thought..” – and began searching independently for answers.

Dan Satterfield, of WBOC in Maryland spent his own money to travel to the high arctic, where he witnessed the change first hand, as did Fishel.
I followed up with Jason Samenow,  Washington Post meteorologist, who serendipitously was working on a piece on the same topic, which I’ve excerpted below.

Importantly, all the Mets I interviewed spontaneously grasped the importance of communicating their sense of conscience, responsibility, and simple right and wrong – exactly the components of the story that help non-scientists make sense and meaning of it.

Jason Samenow in the Washington Post:

It is perhaps the most frustrating response I encounter as a meteorologist when I write about climate change. It stems from doubts about climate change or the view that it’s a political issue, one that shouldn’t contaminate straight weather reporting.

“Stick to the weather,” people say.

But climate change is a scientific reality, and it’s one that is modifying the weather in important ways.

However, despite overwhelming evidence that climate change is impacting weather, George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication found that only “a minority” of television weathercasters “feel very comfortable” presenting climate change information on air. Most say discussing climate change won’t help their careers. Some fear discussing the role of climate change on weather will upset their viewers — or even newsroom management.

But TV weathercasters need to find the courage to communicate about climate change responsibly. The science is on their side.

Greg Fishel,  chief meteorologist at WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., shifted from climate change doubter to climate change instructor after a long, self-led education.

“Broadcast meteorologists have the least amount of formal education [on climate change] of all atmospheric scientists,” Fishel told the Capital Weather Gang. “But even though we have the least education, we have most responsibility to educate ourselves so we can educate the public in the right way.”

The TV mets close to the bone moral sensibility is what hits home. Greg Fishel told me his transformation was more a matter of conscience than anything else.  Leading climate scientists have been working to bring more of that content into their own communication, as the video below shows.
I’ll be posting more from my interviews with Meteorologists throughout the week.

6 Responses to “TV Meteorologists Warm to Climate Science”

  1. […] via TV Meteorologists Warm to Climate Science — Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  2. ubrew12 Says:

    The very end of your video: two people float by clinging to their car as the flood pushes them down the ‘road’ and everybody says the same thing: “Oh My God!” And that seems metaphoric for the entire Climate Change travesty. We seem committed to turn off the Science and wait. For what? Perhaps for that moment we are looking out a restaurant window at a street turned river as people float by and, with all the impotent sympathy we can muster, shout “Oh My God!”. That’s why its important, now, for these Weathermen to bring the inconvenient science back into the living room as often as they can. Because as one of them said, “To do otherwise would be irresponsible”.

  3. […] Peter Sinclair of Climate Denial Crock of the Week seems to think so, noting that at a recent meteorologist conference in Austin, Texas, he spoke to […]

  4. […] Peter Sinclair of Climate Denial Crock of the Week seems to think so, noting that at a recent meteorologist conference in Austin, Texas, he spoke to […]

  5. […] TV Meteorologists Warm to Climate Science by Peter Sinclair, Climate Crock of the Week, Aug 16, 2016 […]

  6. Sergio Contreras Says:

    Dear Amber, my name is Sergio Contreras and I live in Scottsdale. I always look at you piece in Channel 15. I wanted to congratulate you for your portion of the news. You are the only one on TV who gives us such terrific statistics about the Weather in our state, Besides, you are the only one to show in your map Yuma aND Ajo Congratulations! Sergio.

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