In yet another front-page journalistic lapse, the NY Times once again equates non-scientists — Bastardi, Coleman, and Watts (!) — with climate scientists

Memo to NY Times:  TV weathermen are not climate experts.

In fact, Dr. Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech explained to me a few years ago:

Meteorologists are not required to take a course in climate change, this is not part of the NOAA/NWS [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service] certification requirements, so university programs don’t require the course (even if they offer it). So we have been educating generations of meteorologists who know nothing at all about climate change.

The reason I am repeating this basic fact for the umpteenth time — see “Are meteorologists climate experts?” — is that the former paper of record has once again equated people who don’t know about climate science with people who do (see “NYT Faces Credibility Siege over Unbalanced Climate Coverage“).

In a new, uber-dreadful he-said, she-said piece, “Scientists and Weathercasters at Odds on Warming,” the NYT‘s Leslie Kaufman gives a platform to some of the most uninformed, most widely debunked anti-science weathermen in the country, including Joe Bastardi and, yes, Anthony Watts!  Does anybody read Boykoff any more on (see  “Exaggerating Denialism: Media Representations of Outlier Views on Climate Change”)?

Wow!  I see that this is now a front page story for Tuesday and that the NYT changed the headline in the last hour to the much worse, “Among Weathercasters, Doubt on Warming.”  Great.  May I suggest instead, “Some non-scientists who don’t know much about how humans are changing the climate spout nonsense on the subject”?

Either way Andy Revkin’s blog hypes the whole damn piece:

“Meteorologists are far more likely than climatologists to question the science of climate change,” Leslie Kaufman reports in an article in The New York Times.

One reason, the article suggests, is that climate scientists study long-term weather patterns and meteorologists make short-term forecasts.

Ya think?

There are also suggestions that some meteorologists resent the primacy of climatologists with Ph.D.’s.

So there are “suggestions” that meteorologists (i.e. non-experts on climate) resent the primacy of climatologists with Ph.D.’s (i.e. experts on climate).  I can hardly wait for rumors that other people who don’t know what they’re talking about resent those people who do.

And here’s how the blog post ends:

Whom do you trust when it comes to climate science?


But Revkin is just a blogger these days with a modest, self-selected audience.  The NYT still reaches millions on unsuspecting people expecting to be informed on the key issues of the day.  And this is what passes for front-page journalism in the former paper of record:

Climatologists, who study weather patterns over time, almost universally endorse the view that the earth is warming and that humans have contributed to climate change. There is less of a consensus among meteorologists, who predict short-term weather patterns.

Huh.  People who don’t actually study the climate and aren’t actually scientists have less of a firm grasp of the overwhelming scientific evidence on human-caused climate change.  Stop the presses, clear page one, get me Clark Kent and Lois Lane on rewrite!

Note also that Kaufman uses the weakest possible attribution statement:

humans have contributed to climate change

I don’t think you could find one climate scientist in a thousand who disagrees with that statement.  I’m not sure you could find one scientist in a hundred who disagrees with that statement.   Our scientific understanding today is that humans are the primary cause of warming in recent decades.  One can simply assert that it is basic physics that “humans have contributed to climate change.”

Joe Bastardi, for example, a senior forecaster and meteorologist with AccuWeather, maintains that it is more likely that the planet is cooling, and he distrusts the data put forward by climate scientists as evidence for rising global temperatures.

“There is a great deal of consternation among a lot of us over the readjustment of data that is going on and some of the portrayals that we are seeing,” Mr. Bastardi said in a video segment posted recently on AccuWeather’s Web site.

Joe Bastardi knows absolutely nothing about climate science and has been consistently spinning illogical and self-contradictory tripe on the subject.  His beloved satellite data clearly shows we’re warming.  And, in any case, it’s far from clear how much he really knows about meteorology, based on recent statements:

In MSM-land, being consistently wrong or illogical never discredits you.

But if the media can present you as a contrarian, someone who is supposed to hold one view, but in fact holds a contrary view, then you are the dream “expert” (see “Contrarian Chic: Why can’t the media tell the difference between an attack on dubious ‘conventional’ wisdom and an attack on genuine scientific wisdom?“)

Such skepticism appears to be widespread among TV forecasters, about half of whom have a degree in meteorology. A study released on Monday by researchers at George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin found that only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was “caused mostly by human activities.”

More than a quarter of the weathercasters in the survey agreed with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” the researchers found.

The split between climate scientists and meteorologists is gaining attention in political and academic circles because polls show that public skepticism about global warming is increasing, and weather forecasters “” especially those on television “” dominate communications channels to the public. A study released this year by researchers at Yale and George Mason found that 56 percent of Americans trusted weathercasters to tell them about global warming far more than they trusted other news media or public figures like former Vice President Al Gore or Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential candidate.

The George Mason-Texas survey found that about half of the weathercasters said they had discussed global warming on their broadcasts during chats with anchors, and nearly 90 percent said they had talked about climate change at live appearances at Kiwanis Club-type events.

Several well-known forecasters “” including John Coleman in San Diego and Anthony Watts, a retired Chico, Calif., weatherman who now has a popular blog “” have been vociferous in their critiques of global warming.

As an aside, the NYT article shares an awful lot in common with a January Columbia Journalism Review article, “Hot Air:  Why don’t TV weathermen believe in climate change?”  The CJR article notes:

In the fall of 2008, researchers from George Mason and Yale universities conducted the most fine-grained survey to date about what Americans know and think about climate change”¦.

When asked whom they trusted for information about global warming, 66 percent of the respondents named television weather reporters. That was well above what the media as a whole got, and higher than the percentage who trusted Vice-President-turned-climate-activist Al Gore, either of the 2008 presidential nominees, religious leaders, or corporations….

There is one little problem with this: most weathercasters are not really scientists. When Wilson surveyed a broader pool of weathercasters in an earlier study, barely half of them had a college degree in meteorology or another atmospheric science.

Yes, in just 2 years, there has been a 10 point drop in the public’s trust in weather reporters on this subject, but only a two point drop in the public’s trust in Obama on this subject.

The CJR article is far more straightforward on dismissing the uninformed weatherman:

Coleman had spent half a century in the trenches of TV weathercasting; he had once been an accredited meteorologist, and remained a virtuoso forecaster. But his work was more a highly technical art than a science. His degree, received fifty years earlier at the University of Illinois, was in journalism. And then there was the fact that the research that Coleman was rejecting wasn’t “the science of meteorology” at all””it was the science of climatology, a field in which Coleman had spent no time whatsoever.


But the NYT simply quotes Bastardi’s disinformation, links to the inane video I debunked, gives the views of Coleman and Watts (with a link to his anti-science blog), but never debunks their views or mention how utterly outlandish they are:

And yes, careful readers will notice that my headline is flawed.  You can’t keep calling it a “journalistic lapse” if the newspaper keeps doing it again and again.  At some point the individual pieces of data reporting simply become evidence of an overall anti-scientific approach to the subject:

Memo to rest of media:   Asking a meteorologist to opine on the climate is like asking your family doctor what the chances are for an avian flu pandemic in the next few years or asking a mid-West sheriff the prospects for nuclear terrorism. The answer might be interesting, but not one you should stake your family’s life on, let alone the lives of billions of people.

This story is so depressing that I’m going to end by reposting something I ran several weeks ago:

UPDATE:  This piece has been updated.  More to come!


57 Responses to In yet another front-page journalistic lapse, the NY Times once again equates non-scientists — Bastardi, Coleman, and Watts (!) — with climate scientists

  1. Alex White says:

    The interesting part of the article is that TV weathermen are amongst the most trusted by Americans on climate change. This makes it very important for climate change activists and organisations to focus on education (especially at universities and colleges). Cross-disciplinary education is also essential (to get those journalism students).

    More here:

  2. LucAstro says:

    I do not understand why this sloppy reporting by the NYT is not considered a scandal in itself, far worse potentially than that of the East Anglia email scandal who revealed nothing that questionz the scientific basis of AGW.

  3. caerbannog says:

    I really liked these comments (shamelessly copy/pasted from the comments section):

    Having been a TV weather anchor in three major markets, I can say that TV weather announcers, even if they have meteorology degrees, are TV personalities, not meteorologists. They derive their reports from the National Weather Service forecasts and they try to minimize the damage from being wrong by identifying when a forecast is marginal, adding quibble words to protect themselves.

    I’ve never met a TV weather person, meteorologist or not, who understood how science works. I’ve met a lot of quacks and hacks, though. My degree is in geophysics, and I talked my way into the “profession”, which is really a racket. I left because TV news is aimed at stupid people, a shill for anxiety based advertising.

    For TV weather people to have any credibility at all regarding climate science is absurd. Their so called skepticism is just contrarianism, without even a hint of scientific reasoning or investigation.

    There are a lot of self serving reasons a broadcast “meteorologist” would take a contrarian position. They won’t get hate letters if they sound skeptical, but they will be buried by complaints sent to the news director if they try to educate the public about climate change, and the news director will chastise them for not being impartial. Every journalist suffers from this faux objectivity syndrome.

    There was a climate change documentary at Sundance this year, and during the Q&A the producers said they started out skeptical and soon became convinced that climate change is real. And they said that this is a settled issue everywhere but in the United States.

    I’m just wondering what kind of a future a country can have when it is so easily swayed by stupidity, so eager to voice ignorant opinions, so little comprehending of how nature works and so contemptuous of how science strives to understand nature.

    How can a dumb down country remain a world power?

    ************* and ***************

    TV meteorologists are often more “TV” than “meteorologists.” Most, but not all, have a Bachelor’s degree in meteorology, and in my experience as a meteorology professor, they tend to be weaker students than average. Many receive only a small amount of coursework in climate and climate change. Those who pass through my courses get strong fundamentals of radiative transport, greenhouse warming and the results of the lastest IPCC report, but not much more than that. If you read the results of the actual survey you will find that many of these TV meteorologists are not approaching climate science from a scientific approach, but more of the typical approach you find from the non-scientifically trained general population. It is rather unfortunate that TV meteorologists are looked to as experts in the area of climate change – once again, people need to realize that weather does not equal climate, and that a PhD takes quite a bit more work than a BS.

  4. This NY Times piece is very important because it reports on still another example where scientists lose out to the non-scientists. We have seen this problem over and over again. It also happens in politics. The serious politician who tries hard to consider the facts of an issue invariable loses to the personality who is carefree of the facts and appeals to emotion only. Our problem of communication with the public will not be solved in time, I fear. Political action at the top is essential; therefore, our leaders must receive and understand our communications. Judging by how hard the UN tries and how hard Al Gore and James Hansen and Joe Romm and Tom Friedman try, I have developed a deep pessimism about expecting timely action from our government. I write columns, send e-mails, lecture the public, and sign petitions but my position among the powerful is lowly indeed so my influence is marginal, to my regret.

  5. Sou says:

    The word ‘meteorologist’ as used in the USA seems to be different to the way it’s used in other parts of the world. I would describe a meteorologist as someone who is actively engaged in serious research of weather and climate. Such people would normally be expected to have a doctorate and work for a scientific research organisation.

    I would not describe a TV weather announcer as a meteorologist, even if they once took a course.

  6. Everett Rowdy says:

    One great challenge is that the people who understand climate change best, the scientists, are operating under two assumptions that once were true but are no longer:

    1. The media strives to be an objective credible source of information.
    2. People base their opinions and decision on logic and rational discourse.

    The media has become an entertainment circus, designed to grip its viewers in anger, fear or suspense. Thus controversy is sought much more than objectivity, even if logic and scientific discourse get tossed out in the process.

    Every reputable scientific organization on earth agrees that humans are causing climate change. But that is irrelevant to many Americans. They will disagree with it because they do not like Al Gore, they hate environmentalists, they will never align with liberals or they just like to be contrarian.

    The looming question is: How should those of us who believe in climate change proceed when there are no professional media capable of critical analysis and objective reporting and when numerous vociferous detractors flatly reject intelligent thought?

  7. malcreado says:

    I think the meteorologists are correct:

    “In recent decades, humans have increasingly affected local, regional, and global climate by altering the flows of radiative energy and water through the Earth system (resulting in changes in temperature, winds, rainfall, etc.), which comprises the atmosphere, land surface, vegetation, ocean, land ice, and sea ice. Indeed, strong observational evidence and results from modeling studies indicate that, at least over the last 50 years, human activities are a major contributor to climate change.”

    Climate Change
    An Information Statement of the American Meteorological Society
    (Adopted by AMS Council on 1 February 2007) Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 88

    you can read the whole thing here:

  8. Jeff Huggins says:

    Meeting in New York City

    I just read the article. All things considered, and given the importance of the climate change issue, what an incredibly irresponsible and poor piece! It’s a piece that comes nowhere close to contributing to public understanding and to the genuine public good. Key points are left out or left entirely ambiguous. A sense of false equivalence is created. Much of the focus is on the boxing match. Concepts that could be clearly communicated are not conveyed that way. It’s a mess.

    Can we please reassign some of these folks to the Sandra B story?

    I would like to meet with Bill Keller, or The Times’ Public Editor, and/or the lead editor of the environmental desk, and I’ll be in the NYC area in late April. Will someone meet with me, for a half hour or hour?

    If possible, if he would be willing, I’d also like to meet with Curtis Brainard, of CJR’s The Observatory, if he’s based in NYC. Curtis, would you be willing to meet, to discuss the media’s coverage of climate change, the media’s supposed role in a modern democracy, the media’s supposed aim to help serve the public good, and so forth?

    The New York Times is dropping the ball. Someone, somewhere, somehow, needs to help make this issue (the problem with coverage) a higher-profile issue, in warranted ways, to the point where changes are made.

    Coming back tonight, after a walk, to see this article, in The Times, is disheartening. That’s putting it mildly.


    Leslie Kaufman

  9. Jeff Huggins says:

    Sorry: That last comment of mine ended with the name of the author of the article, which I forgot to include in the text (of my comment) itself. To be clear (just in case it’s not clear), the comment was written by me, of course, and not by the reporter. Sorry for the confusion. Cheers, Jeff

  10. Roger says:


    Ah, but what the AMS says, in support of the science, is NOT what your TV entertainer/meteoroligist is saying. Go back and re-read the thread.

    caerbannog’s quotes (#3 above) capture the essence of the problem: the guys on TV are paid to draw “eyeballs” while the scientists are paid to draw conclusions that can be used (we hope) for the benefit of mankind.

    Thanks to greed, our focus on the short term, and no respect for valid science, Americans are sadly driving the human race towards extinction.

  11. Jeff Huggins says:

    By The Way

    If it’s not clear to The Times how the article could have, and should have, been written in a way that is much more clear, much more accurate, much more intelligent, much more in keeping with the importance of the issue, and much more in concert with the most (genuinely) newsworthy aspect of the situation, please do let us all know. Specific wording from the AMS Statement could have (and should have) been used as a key resource. The article mainly missed focusing on the issue that the public should be most concerned about and that a responsible news media should also be most concerned about. And so forth.

    I’d be happy to explain if The Times doesn’t get it.

    Ask yourselves, is the real and concerning issue the fact that there is disagreement between climate scientists and practicing meteorologists, presented (for the most part) as if these two groups have equivalent understanding and expertise? Is that “the debate”? Is that the problem that the public should be aware of? Really? Is that the front page issue — that meteorologists and climate scientists disagree?

    OR, instead, is the real problem, that The New York Times should be clearly pointing out (in the public interest) to the public, that practicing meteorologists do not agree with their own industry association’s statement, that they are not trained or qualified to understand climate change scientifically, that they are NOT the ones that the public should listen to, when it comes to climate change, and that the fact is that genuine climate scientists, AND the AMS itself, agree that climate change is real and that humans are the primary contributors.

    New York Times, what do you think is important for the public to understand, really? Please let us know. What is it most important for the public to understand, in order to help the public achieve its own good?

    Please do let us know if you have any questions, New York Times.



  12. Roger says:

    Excellent comments, as always. I hope folks at the Times will see you.

    Did someone (Alex, #1)say we need more education? Yes, but this is so urgent that we need a crash course for adults, and NOW!

    Now that health care is law, we all need to call on President Obama to give a prime-time “State of the Climate” address on national TV, to explain to misinformed Americans just what the deal is with climate change. We need Obama to Educate and Lead on Climate as his next act.

    That is why we will be delivering this “ask” to the president at the Citizens’ Climate Congress in front of The White House at 1PM on Earth Day (April 22nd) in Washington, DC. We hope that some of you will join us, along with many other Climate Progress readers, too numerous to mention. More at:

    If you’re too far away to attend, then please sign our petition to President Obama at the same site, asking him to Educate and Lead!

    We know that Obama ‘gets it’–we just need to encourage him to act.

  13. Roger says:

    I have a dream. (A dream that could easily end this awful nightmare.)

    I have a dream that one day all of those who are concerned about the dire consequences of climate change will work together on ONE thing.

    I have a dream that one day all of the millions of climate groups around the world will focus their attention on ONE critical official.

    I have a dream that one day, possibly on Earth Day, April 22, 2010, everyone will contact President Barack Obama and ask him to LEAD!

    To LEAD on climate, by taking an hour or so on national TV, to inform misinformed Americans about climate change and what it means for us.

    I just happen to have his address and phone number: 1600 PA Ave, 20500, and 202-456-1111. Alternatively, make a comment at

    If we all focus on ONE thing for ONCE, we could really move the ball.

  14. Richard Brenne says:

    I’ve been in these trenches for a while now, and even my meteorologist-in-charge friends at the NWS say pretty much, “The primary requirement for TV weathercasters is nice hair. Their primary purpose is selling cars and other stuff.”

    TV weathercasters are like a nurse who’s focusing on how you’re feeling usually tomorrow and for the next week.

    Climate scientists are like every scientist (mostly PhDs) studying every aspect of the science of public health. In terms of predictions, the scientists might not know how you’ll be feeling or what the weather will be tomorrow, but they know about what life expectancies are for various groups and why, and what the climate is most likely doing and why.

    For the New York Times or anyone else to create any kind of debate between nurses and every public health scientist, PhD and expert about what life expectancies are and why would be absurd.

    That’s what the NYT has become on this issue, absurd. But then they’re just selling cars and other stuff too.

  15. Charles says:

    Richard Brenne says: “That’s what the NYT has become on this issue, absurd. But then they’re just selling cars and other stuff too.”

    What he said.

  16. Elmo says:

    I read the Times article last night and had a slightly different take on it. They pointed out that weather and climate are only vaguely related, that weather models have a problem predicting past next week which makes it difficult for weather people to appreciate what climate models do. My conclusion was that weather people should stick to the weather.

  17. “The media has a lot to answer for. They have done a huge disservice to the public.”
    ….Naomi Oreskes, science historian. Debunking the Deniers:

  18. Sam Carmalt says:

    It is a pity that the Times article, which started out exploring an important observation, did not do its subject justice.

    This doesn’t detract from the important point at the heart of the article: that meteorologists, many of whom earn their living as TV weatherpeople, are far from convinced about climate change.

    But rather than critique the Times for how they reported the story, it seems to me more important to draw attention to the problem that the Times identified: that meteorologists, many of them with wide TV exposure, are the front-line scientists in conveying climate change concerns to the public, and for whatever reasons they aren’t convinced about climate change.

    From the information presented in the article – that climate change scientists are mostly PhDs working at universities, whereas meteorologists frequently only have a BS degree – the comments to this posting so far, while frequently accurate, impress me as snooty and to a great degree exacerbating the problem which the Times was reporting.

    In this vein, a better title for this blog might be: NY Times reports that meteorologists often don’t understand climate change – and that they are the public’s primary, trusted source of information.

    If, as I do, we believe that climate change is actually happening, then we’d best stop attacking the Times and instead figure out what we can do to have a rational discussion with meteorologists which will get the climate change message to them.

  19. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear Sam (Comment 16),

    I agree with part of your point, that is, that the main problem is that many of the meteorologists, on the front lines, don’t understand climate change and are thus incorrectly communicating to (and confusing) the public.

    Clearly, that problem should be addressed, as you suggest in your last paragraph.

    But, we (meaning people trying to improve society’s ability to understand and deal with climate change) can walk and chew gum at the same time. In other words, we don’t have to choose between trying to improve The Times and trying to improve the problem with meteorologists. Indeed, a part of trying to improve the problem with meteorologists involves trying to get the media to communicate clearly and to convey problems accurately. Although you have correctly “picked out” an important implication of the information in the article, that’s because, in part, you are already convinced of the reality of climate change, and you already “get it”. Please realize that that is not the case with many people in the reading audience or in the broader audience of media news organizations that are often influenced by what The Times writes. Although The Times article includes the information that allows you to see the problem, that particular problem was NOT the main focus of the article, nor did the article communicate that problem clearly.

    We aren’t picking on The Times for no reason, nor does our criticism of The Times mean that we aren’t even more concerned with the main problem, as you identify it. Instead, we’re picking on The Times because The Times often doesn’t “get” what those main problems are. They often write articles that “miss the main point” or don’t focus on it, and their articles often tend to “equate” people who understand a subject with people who don’t understand it at all, treating them as though they have equal or near-equal credibility on the matter, and thus creating or facilitating this sense that there is uncertainty and valid “controversy” about whether climate change is even real or not.

    In short, I agree with your sense of what the main problem is, but The Times article didn’t make that main problem clear, and its main focus was elsewhere, and that problem (with The Times’ reporting) influences not only this problem, but many others as well.

    Cheers for now,


  20. PSU Grad says:

    I was struck by this Bastardi quote: “There is a great deal of consternation among a lot of us over the readjustment of data that is going on and some of the portrayals that we are seeing”.

    Fine. Let’s walk the talk, oh Mr. “Senior Forecaster”. From now on, when you guys come out with a 10-day forecast, I want the day 10 forecast to remain static. If the original forecast was for sunny and 75F, I don’t want to see any changes to, for example, rain and 50F. Because that is a “readjustment of data” and, frankly, causes me a great deal of consternation. Think about it….you had your data, you made your forecast, why would there be any reason to change any of it?

    And let’s take it a step further. Stop using those models, because they’re unreliable. Think about it. What kind of model will lead you to a forecast of sunny and 75F one day, then several days later lead you to a forecast of rainy and 50F? Nope, I’m not buying it. It’s clear to me that you had an error in your original forecast and, therefore, your entire forecasting methodology is invalidated. How can we trust anyone who changes his forecast that drastically?

  21. Steve Bloom says:

    I don’t know how the rest of the Times‘ coverage is tending, particularly the front page, but could this sort of sensationalist false-balance story be a sign of an effort by the Times to compete with Murdoch’s Post for readers ?

  22. Jeff Gazzard says:

    Normally I catch up with the truly excellent Climate Progess site at the end of my UK day and either sigh, fulminate or wrap my head in a cold towel at the supreme idiocies exposed. But the NYT article, and the item, take the biscuit!

    The UN IPCC project, the ultimate target of most of the denier’s deluded output, is, journalists please note, a co-operative venture between the UN Environment Programme and – wait for it! – the World Meteorological Organisation which has, as its website states, this mission:

    “The vision of WMO is to provide world leadership in expertise and international cooperation in weather, climate, hydrology and water resources and related environmental issues and thereby contribute to the safety and well-being of people throughout the world and to the economic benefit of all nations.”

    Not bad eh? Who could argue with that? Or their scientific output?

    WMO also:

    “Encourage research and training in meteorology and, as appropriate, in related fields, and to assist in co-ordinating the international aspects of such research and training.”

    Perhaps they should aim to enrol Messrs Watts and Bastardi (great moniker by the way!) immediately on a “back to basics” course? But then again, clear non-paranoid information and real science are not their normal bedfellows.

    And before the denier blogospere cranks (sic) itself up, no, UN organisations are not communist fronts. No, really, they aren’t. Really. Honest.


    Jeff Gazzard
    Aviation Environment Federation

  23. Jeff Gazzard says:

    Sorry – typed in haste as I was fulminating: it’s blogosphere. I did get cranks right though.

    Jeff Gazzard

  24. catman306 says:

    Thanks, Joe! Getting the AMS on board will be a key change in the media’s awareness of human caused climate change. Who is the AMS? What people are in charge there? Who pays their salaries? A little investigative reporting from a blogger somewhere might help bring this source of disinformation to the attention of more Americans.

  25. B Buckner says:

    Climate scientists admit they do not have a good understanding of the effects of water vapor, cloud dynamics, and convection. Weathermen do, at least at an qualitative level if not the physics involved, and see this as major flaw in the models.

  26. Zan says:

    Re: “Memo to NY Times: TV weathermen are not climate experts.” Thank you! That is exactly what I wanted to say but there was no option to comment on that article. You are right that the NY Times is way to equivocal
    in its emphasis. Reminiscent of Kerry’s 2004 campaign, I think they are simply terrified of being called left-leaning. Truth is they would still be called that by conservatives even if they reported their news in a robot mono-tone.

  27. chris says:

    This article is very good, you have misinterpreted it. This brings to lite the reasons for the publics misunderstanding of climate science. And offers a solution to swaying them. Instead of beraring meterologist for an understandable skepticism, they know how hard it is to predict the weather, we should be reaching out to as many as possible.

  28. David Smith says:

    Great points, Jeff & Sam. When the NYT publishes one of these articles CP or or another qualified source should publish a similar article that corrects for the flaws (without the debunking commentary). It could be posted to the NYT web site and other outlets. Simple language, qualified sources, etc…

    The NYT would be better off interviewing me for these articles than line readers on weather programs. I have no governing boards or advertisers influencing my output. I am not a scientist though I have a bachelors degree. My qualification is that I am trying to understand what is going on and if there is any way that I can help to contribute to solutions to whatever the problem is.

    I don’t consider myself to be a qualified specialist in the area of climate change, but I may be more qualified than this group of so called meteorologists. I only lack publick speaking skills and good looks. Pathetic.

    The NYT is an influencial paper. We should add the NYT to the boycott list, (along with ExxonMobile).

    A concerned citizen

  29. Chris Dudley says:

    I don’t have a problem with this article. It seems to be an accurate portrayal of the situation: people who don’t know what they are talking about, weather casters, are presenting their ignorance to the public on a more regular basis than people who do know what they are talking about, climate scientists, can inform the public. The article is short enough that one might be expected to read to the end where it is explained that there is an effort ongoing to educate weather casters on climate but also a fossil fuel interest funded effort to befuddle them. If the article has been longer, I’d have wanted the National Environmental Education Foundation mentioned in the first paragraph but I’ll forgive the wish on the part of Kaufman to save the dramatic bits for last.

    It is worth noting also that Andy ends on the same note as Joe with the Colbert clip. Might be worth keeping the powder dry?

  30. Art Perlo says:

    The NY Times article had a revealing sentence. Discussing who is skeptical about climate change, it cited a study showing that only 64% of meteorologists agreed that there was evidence of human-driven climate change, and “Only economic geologists who specialized in industrial uses of materials like oil and coal were more skeptical.”

    In other words, even scientists tend to believe whatever will keep their paychecks coming. This is clearly true in the case of oil and coal geologists. Perhaps it is also true of meteorologists. Could it be that TV stations are more likely to hire a meteorologist who makes cynical wisecracks about climate change, as opposed to a meteorologist who reports the boring truth?

  31. fwhite says:

    Was it really a “lapse”? And do you think the NYT really cares about “truth” in its climate science reporting? Truth is irrelevant, as Robert Jensen points out in his devastating CounterPunch piece, “The Collapse of Journalism / The Journalism of Collapse”

  32. caerbannog says:

    The word ‘meteorologist’ as used in the USA seems to be different to the way it’s used in other parts of the world.

    In the USA, the term “tv meteorologist” generally means “one who is paid to move his lips when he reads.”

  33. Seth Masia says:

    Some decades ago, when I worked for SKI Magazine, the ski industry was frequently infuriated by TV weatherguys who ranted “Blizzard coming! Your life is in danger! Don’t go outdoors!” The solution was to take those guys out and teach them to ski. The message changed to “Snow’s coming! Get the snow tires on and wax your skis!”

    I’ve no doubt that fossil fuel interests have an outreach program to local broadcast news organizations. Who within the climate science community has the resources and initiative to counter it?

  34. Slightly OT maybe but I have just caught wind of Lovelock having a few things to say, some less than helpful e.g.

    ‘Scientists, he says, have moved from investigating nature as a vocation, to being caught in a career path where it makes sense to “fudge the data”.’

    if the article quotes him accurately that is. Can anybody trust any journalism these days to quote without distortion?

    Full article at:

    Lovelock: ‘We can’t save the planet’

  35. Jeff Huggins says:

    Simplicity is Beauty / The Question

    By using this title, I’m not suggesting that this comment is simple. Instead, I’m suggesting that there is a simple question that reporters should ask themselves, and keep in mind, when writing articles about important subjects.


    The following questions are not the same:

    (Read these questions as if you were a news reporter or science writer, preparing to write an article about an important matter.)

    “Given that I’m a writer for such-and-so paper, what will titillate and entertain readers?”

    “Given that I’m a writer, how can I best show off the cleverness and eloquence of my writing style?”

    “Given that I’m a writer, how can I turn the most heads?”

    “Given that I’m a writer, how can I capture the attention of passersby in order to get them to buy our paper off the rack today rather than the competitor’s paper?”

    “Given that I’m a writer, how can I avoid displeasing advertisers, even if they will be displeased if I convey understanding to the public that the public should understand in order for the public to achieve its own genuine good?”

    “Given that I’m a writer, how can I maintain (and perhaps increase) my own salary or my own job security, even if doing so requires me to compromise the degree to which I convey important understanding, clearly, to the public?”

    “IF I were a READER—a member of the American public—what would I want to learn and genuinely understand about the issue at large (i.e., climate change), commensurate with its importance, and the present part of the matter, commensurate with its importance, in order to help me make wise choices that best serve my genuine well being, my family’s genuine well being, and the genuine public good?”

    Now, if the news media are genuinely serious about their special aim, and role in society, to seek to serve the public good, then which of the above questions should a writer ask herself or himself when choosing what subject to cover, how best to cover it, and how to write the actual story?

    The last question, don’t you think?!

    Writers should ask themselves, “if I were a reader, what would I need to understand in order to form views and make wise choices that will be good for me, for my family, for my future generations, for society, and etc.?” “What would be most important for me to read, to know, and to understand?”

    Then, writers should write articles that provide readers with that information. That’s the best way to figure out how to write something that actually serves the public good.

    You see, the above questions are NOT the same. There are some overlaps, and stories can be written in ways that accomplish more than one goal, to varying degrees. But, these questions don’t reflect the same goals. Priorities matter.

    Too often – far too often – it seems that writers and editors lose track, choose entirely self-serving goals, or muddy all of these things up. Indeed, I think that many of them don’t get it. What are the schools of journalism teaching, anyhow?

    A good example is the recent article covered in this thread.

    If you were an average living-and-breathing human being, trying (presumably) to understand something better, in the interest of making good choices for your own well-being and for the well-being of your family and grandkids and so forth, and for the public good ideally, and if you didn’t already have an understanding of the topic that the article is going to cover, then which of the following would you prefer to read about and understand?

    A. That meteorologists and academic climate scientists disagree about whether climate change is real or not. There’s a controversy! Some people have doubts! Blah blah blah. Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

    OR …

    B. That meteorologists, who are the people that the public most associates with knowledge about weather-related matters, are not actually scientists who are trained to understand the key factors that influence climate trends, nor do most of them even agree with the official statement of their own industry association. In short, the public shouldn’t think that meteorologists (or at least TV weather people) are the people to trust regarding climate change. And, indeed, perhaps society should consider that TV meteorologists should be required to have such training. In any case, the vast majority of qualified scientists agree that climate change is real and mainly caused by human activities. (See list of organizations.)

    Put another way, if it would be good for you to be able to know whether your ship is sinking, so you can make plans to plug the hole or jump in a lifeboat, would you rather hear from someone who can credibly tell you that your ship is indeed sinking, or would you rather hear that Joe and Sally are having a spat about whether the ship is sinking, even though Joe (who says it is) has his eyes open and his feet are covered with water, and Sally has a blindfold on and is sitting comfortably on a couch on the top deck, listening to jazz with her headset on?

    Any thoughts?

    Be Well,


  36. SecularAnimist says:

    The New York Times, like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, is committed to deliberately, elaborately and systematically misleading and disinforming its readers about the scientific reality of anthropogenic global warming and consequent climate change.


    For money.

    It’s really that simple.

  37. Marc Anderson says:

    I don’t think the article is that bad. It points out the difference, which is newsworthy, and attempts to explain the reasons and consequences. I didn’t come away with the impression that it gave undue legitimacy to TV weathercasters.

    It does suggest that their opinions carry weight so it would behoove us to educate them. If more of them studied climate change in any depth, my guess is that they’d communicate more knowledgeably and responsibly. Lets support the organizations that are trying to do that.


  38. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Coming next in the NYT: Do you want your brain surgery done by a board-certified surgeon or a chiropractor?

  39. Kota says:

    As far as I can tell newspapers and television do not ‘report’ news they ‘sell’ news. To the highest bidder. Most ‘news’ marketed by papers, magazines and broadcasting is some contorted effort to distribute advertising to as many people as they can. This often results in these bizare convoluted hacked up stories where there is a little something for everyone from the advertisers to the whole range of their targeted public.
    My bet is these marketers would really rather just sell us pages of advertising or run non-stop commercials so they don’t even have to pay people to make up stuff that they then call news.

  40. MapleLeaf says:

    I wonder of Watts had a hand in this article?

    That aside, what Stephen said @17. History is going to paint a very sorry picture of the media’s awful conduct on this important file, especially since last November.

    No disrespect to weather forecasters, but for the most part, they are typically not qualified to speak to the complexities of climate science. They do have the tools and background to learn it pretty quickly should they wish to do so. That still does not make them an expert. And here, I am talking about qualified meteorologists with solid backgrounds in thermodynamics, mathematics, dynamic meteorology etc.. I’m confident that Anthony Watts is not capable of deriving the vorticity equation or omega equation from scratch….nor will he know what a Kalman filter is or does. I qualified meteorologist will.

    Pretty much at the bottom of the pile, for the most part, in terms of knowledge about climate science we have TV weather casters, who are almost exclusively not even remotely qualified to speak to the subject of climate science. Just look at the horrible track record of Bastardi and Watts on climate science…..

    Weather casters essentially deal with nowcasting and short-term forecasting which is an initial value problem. Modelling climate is a different ball game, and actually easier is some respects than forecasting tomorrow’s weather so long as one can get the boundary conditions and drivers (forcings) nailed. I am willing to be that most weather casters think that climate models are run the same way as numerical weather prediction models, and that climate models are unreliable because of the rapid growth of initial errors and uncertainties. Well, no. Initial value problem (weather forecasting) versus boundary problem (climate modelling).

    I guess it boils down to the fact that TV weather casters deal with weather, not climate. And the two are not the same.

  41. MapleLeaf says:

    An addendum to #40. I want to be clear that there is a huge difference between the experience and qualifications of a National Weather Service forecaster and a TV weather caster, unless the TV weather caster is a retired NWS forecaster.

    It is my understanding that the many NWS forecasters have Masters’ degrees in meteorology– in fact, I understand that one is required to have a MSc in meteorology to work at the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in OK, and that many of the forecasters at the SPC regularly publish in the peer-review literature.

  42. richard pauli says:

    Interesting to read a small blog do a superb journalistic presentation of this very issue… posted about a month ago, I guess the NYTimes missed it.

  43. Richard,

    Thank you for linking to my blog post about why weather forecasters and meterologists are so skeptical. :)

  44. mike roddy says:

    The Times is clearly whorish these days, but Revkin may actually have a little more credibility, so don’t underestimate the influence of his blog. I commented on Dot Earth about how horrible and irresponsible it was to set up this little intellectual duel. Who knows, maybe he’ll wake up some day.

  45. I read this post before I read the New York Times article. While the article could certainly have done more to lead readers to the conclusion that meteorologists are wrong disagree with climate scientists, I don’t think the article is as terrible as this post makes it out to be. Most of it is simply reporting the fact that meteorologists are more skeptical of climate change than climatologists, and presenting sourced, factual explanations for why that might be. Most of the “yeah, but” responses that Joe makes here are actually in the article already, albeit in less-strident form.

    I don’t think it’s fair to describe the article as having set up a false equivalence. It doesn’t say that meteorologists are the same as climate scientists. In fact, it goes into a fair amount of detail (at least for an article of this length) to explain the differences between the two groups. The only way I can see that you could raise false equivalence as an issue is if you are arguing that for the article to exist _at all_ constitutes a false equivalence. That is, if you are arguing that it is somehow misleading for the NYT to report at all on the differences in the climate-change views of meteorologists and climate scientists.

    I could see an interesting argument being made that the article could have done more to lead readers to conclude that meteorologists don’t know what they’re talking about. But there’s a difference between that, and the assault that Joe makes on the reporter’s and the Times’ professional integrity. I know he’s all about advocacy. But I have a similar reaction to this piece as I do to the more strident writings of Glenn Greenwald. Yeah, I agree with the basic position he’s coming from, and think the arguments he’s making are pretty much right. But there’s a risk in being too much of an advocate. You can get so wrapped up in the battle, in scoring point after point for the home team, that you end up presenting an overstated case that alienates those who aren’t already in your cheering section.

    In the real world, as the article makes clear, TV meteorologists have a lot of influence. That’s an important fact for those who want to advocate for particular policy choices. Ranting at the Times’ writers and editors as irresponsible shills misses having a discussion of that larger point, which for me would have been more interesting than a re-airing of the 27 different things that the article got wrong — especially when a lot of those things are things the article is actually saying already.

    [JR: Actually, the article is worse than the post makes it out to be. This is a front-page story in the (former) paper of record that reprints straight disinformation from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. It would have been a bad story five years ago. Now it is unconscionable. Try reading the CJR piece, which is closer to how journalism ought to be done. Future generations will be baffled by such articles.]

  46. Leland Palmer says:

    A lot of these articles are based on the George Mason University poll of weathermen.

    Curious about the funding of George Mason University, I looked them up on the Media Matters Conservative Transparency website:

    It turns out that George Mason University is the recipient of large amounts of conservative foundation funding, including receiving something like 25 million dollars from the Koch family, who control Koch Industries, the largest privately owned fossil fuel corporation in the U.S. The Koch brothers also fund the notorious AGW denial think tank the Cato Institute.

    David and Charles Koch, sons of the ultraconservative founder of Koch Industries, Fred Koch, direct the three Koch family foundations: the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. David and Charles control Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company and the largest privately owned energy company in the nation; they have a combined net worth of approximately $4 billion, placing them among the top 50 wealthiest individuals in the country and among the top 100 wealthiest individuals in the world in 2003, according to Forbes.

    Following in the footsteps of their father, a member of the John Birch Society, the Kochs clearly have a conservative bent. Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute, while David Koch co-founded Citizens for a Sound Economy (now FreedomWorks), where he serves as chairman of the board of directors. David also serves on the board of the Cato Institute. The Koch foundations make substantial annual contributions to these organizations (more than $12 million to each between 1985 and 2002), as well as to other influential conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, media organizations, academic institutes, and legal organizations, thus participating in every level of the policy process.

    Oh, George Mason University also got 230,000 directly from ExxonMobil.

    This continues a pattern of AGW denier funding, in which ExxonMobil gives small contributions to AGW denier institutions, and the conservative foundations including the Scaife, Bradley, and Koch foundations do the heavy lifting to fund these organizations.

    Kind of makes you wonder how these poll questions to the TV weathermen are worded, doesn’t it?

    Kind of makes me wonder if there has been a long term program of hiring AGW denier weathermen among our corporate media, too.

  47. Sable says:

    fwhite # 31:

    Thanks for the link. Perceptive article.

  48. Jeff Huggins says:

    Yes, The Article is Bad

    I got the paper itself, and the article is bad. I agree with Joe: For a number of reasons, it’s even worse in the paper … all things considered.

    Indeed, it sits on the front page today, along with an ExxonMobil advertorial, and the article doesn’t even get into the points that ultimately mention (to a degree) the things that help audiences understand that climate scientists have more relevant expertise, and so forth. In other words, the part of the article that’s actually ON the front page is terrible. There is something wrong at the Times. The people calling the shots are either not motivated to serve the public good, or else they don’t really “get” the climate problem after all, or else they are hopelessly incompetent, or perhaps a mixture of all three. But, in any case, there is something wrong.

  49. davey says:

    The Times article written in way too coy a manner. It mentions that TV weathercasters are not experts in climate science but then goes on to approvingly describe and quote Bastardi, Watts, Coleman et al. Kaufman doesn’t mention what Joe writes above -namely that Bastardi, Watts and gang clearly have little understanding of how the climate system works and that their ideas are easily discredited. By leaving this information out Kaufman does not give a reader who is unfamiliar with the differences between meteorologists and climatologists enough information to develop an informed opinion on who to trust. This is really lazy, half-hearted journalism.

    As an aside I’d like to draw a distinction between weathercasters and meteorologists. Joe is a bit sloppy in his post and uses meteorologists and weathercasters interchangeably. The two are not the same! TV weathercasters are on air primarily to entertain. Their knowledge of how the atmosphere works ranges from close to nil to very extensive (Tom Skilling, for example). A person with a bachelor’s or master’s in meteorology is well aware of how the atmosphere works, but they may not have much exposure to how it works on a climate-length time scale.

  50. Mike#22 says:

    Given: Most readers of the NYT do not have sufficient background knowledge (and desire) to understand the climate system and the role of green house gasses.

    It follows that: Most readers cannot have sufficient knowledge to judge which Expert is telling them the truth whether it be Al Gore, James Hansen, Joe Bastardi, or TVMOB.

    Further: In the absence of other guidance (actual science) most people will identify with an Expert based on their comfort level with what the Expert is saying. Many of the consequences of unchecked global warming are extremely uncomfortable to contemplate (and remote in time or place and so harder to visualize)–a lot of people would rather not.

    Recognizing: There are lot of Fake Experts available, whether it be those Weather Experts on TV with good hair, or the well heeled (crocodile apparently) Experts drawn from the ranks of fossil fuel funded interests.

    Wondering: Maybe those Weather Experts have become deniers through the process above–identifying with Fake Experts.

    Therefore: A lot of people end up believing what the Fake Experts say. As we well know, they are inhabiting a fantasy world that does not intersect with reality on the climate change issue.

    Wondering: Is NYT just responding to their readership’s comfort levels on climate change by giving room for both Real and Fake Experts? Or that the NYT staff is unable to reliably distinguish the two?

  51. dhogaza says:

    The good news is that the piece on dotearth seems to have awoken the masses, and the handful of reliable denialists over there are being overwhelmed by people who are more or less laughing at the idea that tv weather readers know diddly about science.

  52. David B. Benson says:

    dhogaza has the right of it in comment #51.

    Amazing to see the pasting that the telly weeathercasters are receiving over there.

  53. MapleLeaf says:

    Jimmy @53,

    Yes, Dr. Romm may not be a climate scientists, but had you taken the trouble to consult even the most basic sources of information (e.g., Wikipedia) you would have found this:

    He then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1982 and a Ph.D. in 1987, both in physics. He pursued part of his graduate work at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

    There are quite a few physicists who have easily made the transition to meteorology and climate science because of their very solid background in thermodynamics and mathematics.

    Additionally, Dr. Romm clearly takes the time to consult with scientists and experts in the field of climate science and related disciplines, and goes to great lengths to present the science in a professional and factually correct manner.

    Jimmy, you have done quite a bit of bad mouthing here. I would also not be surprised if you are happy to listen to Anthony Watts pontificate about climate science, right?

    As for the record snows in the northeast USA, that has all been explained at great length and detail by experts such as Dr. Masters. Some aspects of AGW are going to be counterintuitive. Please do not be so arrogant as to claim to know more about this incredibly complex subject than people who have invested decades of their life learning and researching this subject. Certain people who tend to think that they know more than the experts do are known to suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  54. Richard Brenne says:

    Lionel Smith (#34) –

    Well, I think you can trust that Lovelock hasn’t been misquoted here because it’s a radio interview.

    I’ve always been a big fan of Lovelock’s but I disagree with him here: The Climategate Scientists were not fudging data and fudging data is not common with anyone I know at NASA, NOAA, NCDC, INSTAAR, NSIDC, NCAR or any major research university, so I have no idea what he’s talking about here.

    If anything, science continues to get more rigorous. He implies that scientists are influenced by money which of course is true to a degree, but for every dollar every climate scientist makes, many thousands are made in the fossil fuel and related industries. So when you follow the money it does not lead to where he suggests, but to the opposite.

    And his idea that we’ve done nothing wrong is ludicrous in the extreme. Ignorance is no defense, and anyone who can afford a car, TV and a dozen other electrical appliances could afford to educate themselves about the biggest issues in human history.

    And he treats people with cars like slaves that have no choice but to drive dozens of miles to and from work. It is not a wise choice to choose to live dozens of miles from most jobs and this has always been the case.

    The entire design of empires like the U.K. and U.S. has been to extract as much resources and cheap labor from as many poorer countries as possible so that about 10 per cent of the world’s population can live with more extravagances than almost any pre-20th Century royalty.

    Maybe a Buddhist, Hindu or anyone else with a moral compass might bring up the concept of karma (or in other traditions justice, or reaping what you sew) with James.

    And to say that all of this is okay and that the whole point of it all is just to enjoy life in the kind of nonsensical orgy of cheap and abundant fossil fuel we’ve had so that all future generations can have little or nothing in comparison is immoral.

    I’ve seen these threads in his books and talks before but there was so much good science and thinking that I overlooked them. Until now.

  55. Jonathan Gray says:

    I understand your frustration and appreciate this review. That said, I read you before I read the NYT article. The actual article seemed to come at the problem differently, noting the difference in the credentialing of the main players (TV weathercasters and actual climate scientists). If anything, I felt the article called attention to why TV personalities have a PR advantage in the debate that climatologists need to recognize and do something about. Well, technically, we all need to do something about this and not just blame climatologists for not reaching more people.

    For too long in popular debate folks have confused weather with climate. Articles like that in the NYT (as well as your blog) do much to get folks to see the difference. Now if only the NYT would do a better job at tracking the money and showing who is paying, directly and/or indirectly, for the denialism. Exxon? Koch? OPEC?

  56. Richard Brenne at #54

    Agreed, Lovelock not misquoted, sadly.

    I too have had thoughtful times reading Lovelock’s writings which come across as something of a ‘curate’s egg’.

    Now, sadly, he really seams to have lost the plot and given ammunition to the likes of Morano from who’s Denial Depot site I followed a link to this:

    where Lovelock is cited in a piece extolling yet another nay-saying climate research paper, this time on arctic temperatures and the AO – similar slant to the Mclean, De-Frietas, Carter study so recently dismantled.

    McClean has really showen himself up on The Drum, he clearly does not know when to stop digging. Start the trail at the Rabett’s on the ‘McLean Whinges’ article.

  57. Susan Anderson says:

    I was fascinated about George Mason U and Koch Industries (lately neatly dissected by Rachel Maddow!). I observed this years ago when I saw that a lot of faux hot air was being bolstered from George Mason, and am glad (well, really, sad) to see this confirmed. However, not everything there is corrupt.

    Several here have pointed out that a careful reading of DotEarth demonstrates not quite such a stark picture of misrepresentation. It does point out what is going on in the real world. Also, it seems to me to embody a kind of wishful thinking that maybe it will turn out to be not true after all (what a hope!) and a misguided reaching out for the “middle” which tends to net too many like Michaels et al., not to mention the Freeman Dysons (and god forbid, now we have a lot of Motl – who’d use string theory as a credential for observing and concluding about the real world?!). Unless you wish to spend your time preaching to the choir, DotEarth is a kind of mild place to get your toes wet in the real world of persistent denialism. They do quite a good job of credentialing those who think they can ignore the problems. Andy Revkin relies of a cadre of overworked people to point out error, but I think he is finally making the effort to at least point out the more blatant falsehoods among the assertions in the comments.

    Quite a thing, those comments. Would that it would continue, but it won’t, no doubt.