Television meteorologists and weather forecasters — the primary source for many Americans for science news — are predominantly skeptical of the science of manmade climate change. In fact, a recent poll by George Mason University found that a quarter of TV weather guys are outright conspiracy theorists, believing that the scientific consensus is a hoax. However, television meteorologist Dan Satterfield of WHNT in Huntsville, AL has written why his colleagues should be explaining science, not denying it:
Scientists are taught to be skeptics. Show us the data. Being skeptical is good scientific practice but ignoring a mountain of evidence while giving credit to claims in political journals instead is not scientific skepticism. It’s politics. This is why I am not afraid to talk about climate change. I think I’m obligated to do so when there is overwhelming evidence we are tampering with the very air conditioner of our planet. I have all the world’s major scientific organizations backing me up as well.
Satterfield — a real meteorologist with a background in atmospheric physics — was on the advisory panel for the George Mason poll. He was “absolutely floored” that 26% of the respondents believe global warming is a scam, and recognizes that some resistance to the science of climate change may come from the inability of models to forecast long-term weather:
It is very difficult to forecast the weather for the next 7 days and perhaps the idea of talking about the weather 100 years ahead is the problem. I used to feel exactly the same way. I’ve since learned that climate and weather are two very different things.
The climate science community needs to work hard on explaining this to TV weather people and the public at large. Weathercasters on the other hand need to take a page from good journalists and learn to set aside political beliefs and really study the science. Especially if they are going to talk about it on air. They have an obligation to do so.
“Peer review and scientific method have taken us from living in log cabins to exploring the outer planets in two centuries,” Satterfield continues. “The great thing about the way science works is that the knowledge is built upon those that have come before.”
He then demolishes a series of myths about the science of climate change, noting that peer-reviewed science has dealt with questions such as the effect of the sun, the unprecedented pattern and scale of warming, data reliability, and the “dozen other independent climate proxies that all show warming.”
“The world of science is waiting,” Satterfield writes. “All you have to do is write it up and submit it to a peer reviewed journal. That’s how science works. Political spin does not, but science does.”
There have been critics of the scientific understanding of global warming for decades, but over that time the consensus has grown. Satterfield rightly recognizes that what’s left are not skeptics, but “nutters” who believe in a giant conspiracy:
So we are left with the giant conspiracy to prevent the truth from being published. The claim is thousands of scientists around the world are all working together to prevent the “truth” from being published. The great thing about a conspiracy is this. If someone proves it wrong, you can just claim the proof is part of the conspiracy! Every newsroom gets these conspiracy calls every day. Castro shot Kennedy, Area 51, contrails are really chemical mind control, etc. News folks just call them nutters. Twenty people can’t keep a secret, much less thousands. Get real.
Dan recently finished a Masters degree in Earth Science, is a full member of the American Meteorological Society and has also been elected a member of the International Association of Broadcast Meteorologists. He has held the AMS Seal of approval since 1985, and is an AMS Certified Meteorologist. His blog is the Wild Wild Science Journal, and he is on Twitter as @danwhnt.