12 December 2013

Is A Right Wing Political Action Group Impersonating the American Meteorological Society?? Seems That Way.

Posted by Dan Satterfield

I received this from the Executive Director of the American Meteorological Society today:

Going to the Source for Accurate Information

Earlier this week, the Heartland Institute appears to have sent an extensive e-mail blast with what is more or less a press release for a paper that will appear in an upcoming issue of BAMS entitled “Meteorologists’ Views about Global Warming: A Survey of American Meteorological Society Professional Members” (in full disclosure, I am a coauthor on this paper).  A disturbing aspect of this e-mail is that it seems some effort was placed in making it appear to have been sent by AMS.  It was sent from an e-mail account with AMS in the name (though not from the “ametsoc.org” domain) and featured the AMS logo prominently (used without permission from AMS).  Only in the fine print at the bottom was it clear that this apparently came from the Heartland Institute.  The text of the e-mail reports results from the study far differently than I would, leaving an impression that is at odds with how I would characterize those results.

 If you got this Heartland Institute e-mail, or if you have read articles or blog posts related to this study, my suggestion is simple.  Rather than take someone else’s interpretation of the survey results, read the paper yourself and draw your own conclusions.  It is freely available here (http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00091.1) as an Early Online Release.

 A difference between the AMS and some organizations is the transparency and scientific integrity with which we operate.  This survey was conducted to satisfy scientific curiosity on an important topic and the results are published for all to see.  This is the way science is meant to work.

 Keith Seitter
Executive Director

Bulletin of the AMS

Bulletin of the AMS

What Heartland sent out is extremely misleading as to what the actual paper says (I’ve read it and so should you). This is not the first time that Heartland has engaged in deceptive practices like this, and I’ve written before about misleading material they have produced about climate science. It’s also not the first time they have attempted to influence meteorologists who work on TV and in radio.

In short, the real paper in the AMS Bulletin says something that I’ve long noticed.  Among meteorologists who work in the field of climate, the acceptance of anthropogenic climate change is overwhelming. There remains disagreement, but that is highest among those who do not have advanced degrees (and or) do not actively  publish in the field. Among researchers who work in the climate field and actively publish, over 90% agree that humans are significantly influencing the climate.

Among my fellow meteorologists in the broadcast field there is still a significant minority who have doubts about it. When talking with these folks, the reasons they give are very often claims that have long been shown to be incorrect. Some of the things said on air by AMS members have been downright ridiculous actually, but that is beginning to change. I noticed at the last AMS sponsored conference on broadcast meteorology that the numbers of those who are highly skeptical are dropping.

For those who are skeptical, there is a simple way of getting the attention of the majority: publish your work in a peer-reviewed journal. 

As Keith Sitter said, that’s the way science is supposed to work.

To Those Meteorologists Who Are Skeptical

Claims of a giant conspiracy, and or unproven claims that the deck is being stacked against you, (or even a nefarious collusion among climate scientists) are going to continue to be looked upon as claims based on an unshakable political world view, and not based on a true disagreement over the science. A crude attempt at making your claim appear to be from the AMS will not work either.

A decade ago, I was also skeptical of some climate science, but as I read the papers and become more knowledgeable, it became obvious that almost all of the objections raised were factually wrong (and shown to be in the peer-reviewed literature). Heartland may not have to show their work (or their contributors), but if you do real science, you must.

I enjoy reading about the real scientific debates in science, and the current controversy over the effects of Arctic Sea ice loss on Northern Hemisphere weather patterns is incredibly fascinating.  When all is said and done, the truth of the science does not depend on your world view, it depends on the published science. If you want to convince me the science is wrong, show me. Publish your work and prove the previous research wrong. Increasingly, meteorologists who are skeptical of climate change (and the public) are understanding that.

Those who cannot set aside their political views for scientific fact, never will.

Full disclosure: I’m the current Chair of the AMS Committee on Station Science

Note: Other science bloggers have written about this in particular Dr. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy.