6 May 2014

White House Invites Weathercasters As Part of Tuesday’s Climate Assessment Release

Posted by Dan Satterfield

A good friend of mine will be sitting down with the President of The United States tomorrow.

Jim Gandy Chief Metr for WLTX TV in Columbia S.C.

Jim Gandy Chief Metr. for WLTX-TV in Columbia S.C.

Meteorologist Jim Gandy (and another friend, John Morales) are part of a group of on-air meteorologists who will be at the White House for the release of the U.S. Climate Assessment tomorrow. Jim was involved in a study at George Mason University (led by Dr. Ed Maibach) that looked into educating the public about climate science, and he’s one of a growing number of my fellow on air meteorologists who are working to educate their viewers about what increasing greenhouse gases are doing (and will do) to our climate.

There will be the usual cries of hoax etc. as this report is released, (by those with little or no knowledge of atmospheric physics), but I bet few to none will come from my fellow on air meteorologists. This is actually quite a change from just a few years ago, when there was still considerable doubt voiced by many, but among those who have a background in the science it seems to have dropped significantly. Why? The main reasons are that the science has become  overwhelming, and those that have repeated some of the most commonly heard myths have been rather embarrassed when they were unable to back up their claim with published science.

Most people see only one person connected to science each day: the person giving them the forecast on TV or online. The White House knows that we are a key group of science communicators, and so does the Heartland Institute (a conservative think tank that has been heavily funded by oil/gas/coal interests). Heartland has had a hand in some of the most ridiculous misrepresentations about the science over the past 15 years, and they too are trying to influence us with frequent emails and recently invitations to a “so-called” climate conference in Las Vegas. I can tell you that the response by many weathercasters to that invitation was amusement and ridicule.

From the draft National Climate Assessment

From the draft National Climate Assessment

Almost all on air weather folks (at least those with a degree in atmospheric science) are members of the American Meteorological Society, and the society has done much to educate those who work in other areas of atmospheric science (like I do in day-to-day synoptic forecasting). The AMS Committee on Station Science (full disclosure I’m currently chairman) has invited several scientists to present at the AMS Broadcast Conferences, and have made broadcasters aware of recently published research as well. Past AMS President Dr. Marshall Shepherd has a piece in the Wash. Post that is well worth reading as well.

So, if you hear someone tomorrow saying that the planet is cooling, or that the warming is natural, or due to the sun, you can be sure they are not repeating something they read in a science journal. Instead, they are giving you a political opinion. In this case, the White House has a ton of peer-reviewed science on its side, and the Heartland Inst. has a lot of money from fossil fuel companies.

I suspect that there may be some claims that Jim and John are “taking sides” by interviewing the President, but the only side they (and those of us who are communicating climate science) are taking is the side of scientific evidence. Without science on your side, you will always lose in the long run, because as Richard Feynman said: “Science is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves”.

Note: I am speaking for myself here and not the AMS/AGU.