Filmmaker and author Michael Moore has often made fun of television news broadcasts for being preoccupied with weather and sports rather than more substantial news stories. We do tend to obsess about the weather—probably far more than we think about climate or energy policy.
But studies indicate that meteorologists and weathercasters (those latter having no formal meteorology degree and credentials) are among the most trusted sources of information in the United States when it comes to global warming. And, frankly, these are folks who own a powerful local communications platform for informing the public about climate change. We listen to them.
But weathercasters mostly speak in sound-bites about the immediate forecasts. They rarely have time to look at the big picture—and they’re not asked to comment on science or policy. In any case, climate change and current weather events are two different things entirely—the most significant impacts of climate change are gradual and the precise amount of warming or change in a particular area or region is uncertain.
Still, it’s encouraging to know that weathercasters and meteorologists from around the country met in Portland recently and attended a day-long series of lectures by climatologists, broadcast meteorologists, and researchers, exploring new and emerging scientific evidence on climate change and ways to frame and integrate climate change information for their on-air and off-air audiences.
Weather anomalies often prompt questions from the public, said Anthony Broccoli, director of the Center for Environmental Prediction, Rutgers University, speaking to workshop participants. “Those questions can provide meteorologists opportunities to report on climate change and science in direct and understandable terms.”
Broccoli and others worked with participants to think through the most effective ways meteorologists can explain why science matters and what it may mean for local weather, the relationships between climate change and frequency and intensity of severe weather, and the role of policy in addressing climate change.
I say: power to the weathercasters! We trust them and they have our attention on a daily basis. Most importantly, they are really good at explaining scientific information in language everyone can understand—that’s their job. And while their role in informing the public about this issue is not crystal clear, they are in a position to act as trusted translators of climate science and policy when they have a moment to step back and think “big picture.”
Image courtesy: World Bridge Media.