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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 09/17/2009

Poll: A Cup of Climate With Your Weather?

By Dan Stillman

* Full Forecast Through Weekend | Summer or Fall: Which Is It? *

If you think the health care debate is heated -- just wait. Climate change looms as the next hot topic in this nation's political discourse, especially as Congress considers legislative action to cap U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions and world leaders prepare to negotiate a new global warming treaty at a December conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

By now most people understand that weather is not the same as climate, and similarly, a meteorologist is not the same as a climate scientist. Still, more and more meteorologists -- with varying degrees of climate science knowledge -- are expressing their views on climate change. And that trend is likely to continue as the climate debate gets louder in the coming months.

So, our question here today is...

By Dan Stillman  | September 17, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Media  
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Dan, the far more relevant question in my view would be "How do you feel about your favorite weather forecaster reporting on climate change."

The problem with local TV weathercasters' work on climate change to date - and this is a gross generalization of course - has been excessive editorializing either for or against the scientific findings of certain studies, like those of the IPCC. Rather than giving opinionated takes on the science, weather forecasters might reduce the risk of alienating viewers if they were to play the story straight and report the facts from all angles, avoiding any advocacy.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | September 17, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Great comment Andrew. And I actually considered phrasing the question exactly as you suggested, or trying to intertwine the commentary and reporting angles into the same question. But I decided the more interesting poll would be gauging people's attitude toward meteorologists offering their opinions (which as you acknowledge has been common) rather than how people feel about meteorologists simply reporting on climate change. The latter is also a valid question, and is a good idea for a future variation on this poll. But thought I'd start with the juicier one first :)

Posted by: Dan-CapitalWeatherGang | September 17, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Since I'm primarily interested in weather, and that's what this site focuses on, I think there's been a bit much climate stuff lately (seems like every day there is a new but similar argument being had). Then again, the weather has not been too interesting latly. I do think everyone should be free to comment on it as they see fit though.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | September 17, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I like it when TV meteorologists report on climate-related and other weather-related topics, as well as explaining the model guidance. This is why I consider Tom Skilling and the rest of the WGN weather crew among the best in the profession.

On the other hand, the Weather Channel occasionally spends too much time on RERUNS of "Storm Stories", etc. at the expense of real-time weather reporting! This means you can't always get the current forecast when you want it, unless you are among the lucky few who have TWC's Weatherscan channel on Comcast or other cable services. In addition, the satellite TV services cannot broadcast TWC's "local on the eights" forecasts, making cable superior to satellite in that respect. I'm not sure whether Verizon FIOS has "local on the eights" & would be interested in knowing whether it's on FIOS. [If not, then cable is superior to FIOS at least in that respect!]

Posted by: Bombo47jea | September 17, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Bombo: Agreed: Tom Skilling rocks!

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | September 17, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Interesting question - since meteorologists study weather, you'd assume they are qualified to discuss climate.

Well, let's see if that stands up to a little scrutiny:

Joe Bastardi,a well know Accuweather meteorologist, recently gave his thoughts on global warming. Please look at his video here.

Among other topics, Joe talks about sea ice in the arctic and uses a March, 1959 photo of the USS Skate surfacing in arctic to "prove" that the arctic has ice free periods in the past.

Well, Joe got his photo interpretation completely wrong. Joe misread a polynya as open arctic waters. This undermines his entire arctic ice has melted in the past argument.

Joe is certainly qualified to speak on long range weather, but his misread of the March, 1959 photo raises concerns to me about his ability to analyze climate trends.

Meteorologists, like others, are free to speak out on topics that they know. The title, itself,does not convey expertise in climatology.

Posted by: dkod | September 17, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Like anything else, it's not what you know that kills you, it's what you think you know and is wrong.

In this, as in much else, it depends on the meteorologists training and how much time they have spent thinking and reading about climate. Some of them obviously have, others have not, but as pointed out above, there are lots of tells.

Posted by: EliRabett2003 | September 18, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

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