23 April 2009

Climate Change in the Windy City

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Buckingham Fountain- Grant park    by Dan

Buckingham Fountain- Grant Park by Dan

Chicago has to be my favorite U.S. city. It has a culture all it’s own, and no place in America has more interesting architecture. On a windy, and warm Sunday evening in October 1871, a raging fire consumed Chicago. Local lore blames the conflagration on a cow owned by  a Mrs. O’Leary. Unlikely, but it did start in a shed nearby.

So what occupies the site now?

The Chicago Fire Department’s training academy. I kid ya not!

Chicago from the Field Museum    by Dan

Chicago from the Field Museum by Dan

When I was invited to make a presentation at a Climate seminar I jumped at the chance. I’ve written before about the disconnect between some Weather-casters, and  Climate Scientists.

This disconnect is (IMHO) caused by a number of factors. Among them, is the wide range of education levels in TV weather. Perhaps more importantly, day to day forecasters know how difficult it is to predict weather a few days in advance. I ‘m sure this leads to doubts about the predictions of Climate for decades to come.

One way to think about it (I heard this in Chicago) is to consider a pot of boiling water. The bubbles are the weather. The water level is the climate.

I was cynical myself for a few years, but once I read the Science, and understood the difference between Weather and Climate, my cynicism disappeared. That’s why I was happy to talk with the invited TV folks. My presentation was about how they could bring themselves up to speed, on Climate Science. Synoptic forecasting (What I do everyday), is much different than climate Science. Meteorology is a VERY broad field.

Most of those who read up on it, will realize we have a serious problem. The Science is truly overwhelming. The TV Weather folks had some excellent and thought provoking  questions, and I could tell that they had thought a lot about the subject. This is good news. There are some very bright people working in front of the camera now.

The Art Institute has the best collection of Impressionists this side of the National Gallery in London.

The Art Institute has the best collection of Impressionists this side of the National Gallery in London.

I’m a member of the AMS Committee On Station Science. The average person sees just one person of science a day.

Just one.

Most of the time, it’s the guy/girl doing weather on TV. Most of my friends who do what I do, take this responsibility as seriously as I do.

The best thing about the trip, was spending the day with some VERY smart people. Dr. Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Labs. and Don Wuebbles of the Univ. of Illinois were both Lead Authors of the IPCC reports. There presentations were fascinating to say the least.  (Worrying as well)

Joe Witte, and Bob Ryan of NBC were there as well. Bob Ryan is past President of the American Meteorological Society. The only person from the TV Meteorology community, to have headed the AMS.

Tom Skilling, the beloved forecaster on WGN in Chicago was also there. Meteorologists love Tom, because he shows all the charts, and gets away with it! (The TV consultants must turn green when he is on!) The viewers know when they are being given hype or good solid Science, and Skilling gives them Science. Ask any Meteorologist who their favorite TV weather person is, and 9 times out of 10, the answer will be Tom Skilling. That should tell you something!

Paul Gross, the Chairman of the AMS Station Science Committee attended. Paul is Exec. Producer of weather for WDIV TV in Detroit. He interviewed Ben Santer after the conference, and posted the video online! It’s WELL WORTH WATCHING. You will need to click on the video that says “Global Warming: The truth behind it”.