Friday, January 8th, 2010

Weathermen In America Free To Believe That Global Warming Is A Scam

WHAT A CUTE BEARThis is a very nice story about a fun renegade weatherman who is free to oppose global warming! This weatherman is in good company with other weatherpeople, it turns out. "Twenty-nine percent of the 121 meteorologists who replied [to an Emory University study] agreed with [KUSI's John] Coleman-not that global warming was unproven, or unlikely, but that it was a scam. Just 24 percent of them believed that humans were responsible for most of the change in climate over the past half century-half were sure this wasn't true, and another quarter were 'neutral" on the issue. "

32 Comments / Post A Comment

Moff (#28)

Well, and they're right so often.

Rod T (#33)


Snookie from Jersey Shore did the morning weather on Channel 11 this morning (according to her Twitter which, yes, I am following).

Quinacridone (#81)

Ooh, I'd love to see a collaboration with Mr. G.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

See this is a perfect illustration of global warming deniers' frankly brilliant tactical approach. There is no fucking way they can get any decent number of actual scientists on their side. But weathermen (who generally hold no scientific credentials whatsoever) (seriously, SARAH PALIN did weather forecasts) are consistently polled the most recognized and liked members of any local network news team. They sort of look like scientists, and they talk about science-y stuff, right? Real scientists seem totally oblivious to the fact that this is enough for most people.

brent_cox (#40)

When I was growing up, the TV weatherman would also do a half-hour live show as "Mr Cartoon" in a small studio with a bleacher full of kids. His costume consisted of sunglasses and a garish sports coat. Just sayin.

KarenUhOh (#19)

"Coleman started his career at WCIA in Champaign, Illinois, doing the early evening weather cast and a local bandstand show called At The Hop while he was a student at University of Illinois."

KarenUhOh (#19)

Jesus, Coleman, you're a TV weatherman. Go back to memorizing you handy lay definition of 'isobar,' and humming "It Never Melts In Southern California."

kneetoe (#1,881)

Has anyone else noticed that the weather predictions on PBS are always a little worse–colder in winter, hotter in summer–than other sources? Liberal bias?

libmas (#231)

So if he's "in good company" and he founded The Weather Channel, how exactly is he renegade? As weatherpeople go, he sounds pretty mainstream.

libmas (#231)

And yeah, I know I sound like a pill here. Apologies. I sometimes get touchy about adjectives.

hockeymom (#143)

Here is a weather story.
My first job at 22 was as a TV anchor (I sucked).
One weekend the weather gal got sick and I had to fill in.
So I'm standing at the weather map saying "it's going to be 70 tomorrow and sunny" and all of a sudden I start to really look at the map.
There were all sorts of lines and arrows and clouds and temperatures and I realized that I had no fucking clue about what I was doing and my mind froze.
Unfortunately, my mouth did not.
I hear myself launch into a story about some storm in the gulf and a family of four that was swept out to sea and died.
I get back to the set, we go to commercial break and the anchor says "When did that happen?"
And I said "It didn't. It just came out of my mouth, I have no idea why I said it, should I make a correction?"
He looks at me and says "Nah, nobody fact-checks the weather."
The news went on and I finished up with a segment on kittens up for adoption.

My point is, there are some really good meteorologists out there. There are also plenty of cranks.

NicFit (#616)

Woah at 22 I was stuffing envelopes, but I've always had a random, unrewarding career.

hockeymom (#143)

I made $10,500 dollars a year. AND I had to be in a dunk tank at the county fair.
Not so rewarding.

HiredGoons (#603)


hockeymom (#143)

Only if somebody else writes down what I should say.

Aren't you all delightfully smug. Not all meteorologists are weathermen, and in fact it IS a scientific discipline concerned with matters not dissimilar to those studied by climatologists. Meteorologists (whether they be TV weathermen, government scientists, or private consultants) have expertise that is somewhat applicable to the science of climate modeling, as opposed to, say, the scientific wisdom of journalists, bloggers, or anonymous commenters.

YES, the weather predicted on the TV is often incorrect. THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT. Weathermen are skeptical of climate models because they know that meteorological models are often incorrect, despite the fact that they are based on far more solid inputs and can be constantly adjusted based on new data. Compare that to climate models that are based on proxies like tree rings and ice cores (nobody has thermometer data for 1000 AD). Taking all that into account, do you really believe that climate models are unimpeachably more accurate than meteorological models?

Meteorologists have every reason to be skeptical of largely unproven climate models, and the CJR article, this blog post and other takes around the internet completely fail to address the specifics of their criticism. I'm ALL FOR completely transforming the way we produce and consume energy, but denouncing everyone who raises a legit scientific criticism of climate models as an idiot or a creationist is counterproductive and unscientific.

NicFit (#616)

Hasn't the iPhone replaced weathermen/meteorologist/climate-change-deniers yet?

iplaudius (#1,066)

None of the major universities offer a doctoral program in meteorology. This is because it is not a primary science. It is a discipline in every way derivative of original work done in other fields.

Comparing meteorology to primary science is like comparing chiropractics to scientific medicine: the practice may help people every day, but as a discipline, it's not where original research happens.

Meteorologists aren't prepared to answer or test the kinds of questions that come into play with global warming.

Don't ask a chiropractor to diagnose cancer.

Don't ask a meteorologist to diagnose global warming.

HiredGoons (#603)

Nobody said anything about meteors.


Van Buren Boy (#1,233)

They don't have a legitimate scientific criticism. Credible criticisms of climate models are about the extent and severity of climate change, not whether or not it is ocurring.

I agree with you, actually — but don't variations in the extent and severity of climate change make a huge difference in determining the extent of our societal response?

I'm not a disbeliever in climate change, but I thought this CJR article was lazy, focusing on some weatherman schmo who thinks global warming is a hoax, instead of addressing a far more relevant issue: how accurate are climate models?

HiredGoons (#603)

Your logic is faulty insofar as assuming that any societal response will be based on logic, reason, or pragmatism.

Van Buren Boy (#1,233)

They do make a difference in regards to our response. However, it would be foolish to not act with the best information we currently have instead of hoping to be proven wrong in the future. Also, many climate models have been shown to actually underestimate the effects we are currently seeing (i.e. temperature increase).

Also, CJR is the Columbia JOURNALISM Review. The accuracy of climate models are addressed in peer reviewed scientific journals not amongst TV weather personalities.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Yes, and really all environmental policy(all policy period?), pretty much, is an attempt to manage risk and the surrounding uncertainty. I would argue that how best to do so is, in fact, what is going on now through a rather complex and often cumbersome political process–in the US and worldwide.

That said, this has nothing to do with weathermen who deny global warming, and predicting global climate trends is not all that similar to predicting local, short-term weather. All the global models show/predict the same trends, with variation applying to scope/scale. And potential outcomes are expressed in probablities.

For a somewhat relevant basic discussion, try

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I'm definitely considering "weathermen" and "meteorologists" to be separate groups of people that overlap. No credentials other than a good smile and a soothing voice are required to be a weatherman.

And actually, there's a very simple answer to your question: "[D]o you really believe that climate models are unimpeachably more accurate than meteorological models?"

Yes, and here's why. Weather predictions have to be accurate within tiny constraints of place and time. A climate researcher would NEVER try to predict the exact temperature in a single city at a certain hour. Huge amounts of chaotic variance make that an extremely difficult thing to do.

Climatology, on the other hand, is dealing with huge sweeping trends over large areas in a broad timeframe. As with any data-gathering, the larger your sample size, the more your noisy, chaotic individual readings resolve into nice, neat normal curves.

Likewise, trying to predict a single reading is damn near impossible. Trying to predict a broad trend over a whole bunch of readings is comparatively easy and reliable.

Thanks for your reply. Here's my question: when the "sample size" is largely based on proxies and not actual data, doesn't that introduce potential error into the final analysis that can potentially counterbalance the added accuracy of studying sweeping trends? My skepticism of models is based on the lack of accuracy of some of them so far: take Al Gore's "hockey stick" graph of rapidly accelerating warming that was later debunked for cherry-picking climate proxy data (I know this is a favorite talking point of the right, but it IS relevant). While "Climategate" was wildly overblown, it also raised some of the same concerns about the validity of proxy data underlying climate models.

I would love to get my hands on some layman-geared information that shows why climate models ARE accurate. In essence, this is the heart of my beef with the CJR article and so many reactions to it: instead of saying, "No, weathermen, climate models ARE accurate and here's why," the response is just ad hominem attacks and armchair psychoanalysis.

In short, I wish more of this response was like what you have offered, Doctor Disaster. I am NOT a global warming skeptic, but I do like to be personally convinced of scientific concepts before I buy into them.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Again, climate models all show the same trends, with differences in degree. And demonstrating recent warming does not require going back into the distant past and using proxies for temperatures. Instrument-based reading go back about 150 years and show that temperatures have increased in recent times. Based on our current understanding of what drives temperatures, these increases are only explainable in terms of human inputs. For more, try In general, addresses these and other matters in detail.

Much appreciated, kneetoe! I'm looking forward to checking this out.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

The hockey stick is actually a really good example of the steadying effect of using many different sources. There were serious flaws in the original version, because information was gathered from too few types of sources, and as you mention, any given proxy measurement could be confounded by an unknown factor.

As a result, an exhaustive review was ordered by congress to address the shortcomings of the '98 hockey stick. A huge part of the review was checking single proxies against other proxies. Just as taking more samples normalizes your data, using many different proxies evens out oddities individual sources might display.

And notably, the revised '06 graph, which incorporated a ton more data and sources and accompanied a report critical of the '98 methods, was actually not much different from the '98 hockey stick! Even revising and improving the analysis and gathering methods didn't actually move the graph around much, thanks to the large (and growing) data set in question.

Aren't you all delightfully smug.

Yeah, that's kind of the point here.

HiredGoons (#603)

Our weatherman (Tom Messner) was a complete and utter nerd

and my parents used to joke that my mom had a HUGE crush on him, and so when he came to our school (my mother taught history) I told him this, much to the chagrin of my mother and the delight of her colleagues.

Irony is lost on 10 year olds.

MissPeacock (#2,932)

James Spann, one of our local weathermen here in The Ham, went on Glenn Beck about two years ago to nod his head vigorously and declare that there was no such thing as global warming. It was another shining moment for my city and state.

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