Yale profile of Wunderground.coms Jeff Masters: The ignorance and greed that human society is showing [on climate change] will be to our ultimate detriment and possible destruction.

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"Yale profile of Wunderground.coms Jeff Masters: The ignorance and greed that human society is showing [on climate change] will be to our ultimate detriment and possible destruction."

Journalist Julie Halpert has a terrific Yale Forum profile of the prolific uber-meteorologist.  Masters, a CP favorite, pulls no punches on global warming.  The piece is excerpted below.

When Jeff Masters was 10, he helped launch the “mad scientist club” in his Birmingham, Michigan, school, writing a 100-page thesis based on observations from his telescope.

By the time he was 12, he was diligently tracking the strength of wind gusts from a weather station he had set up in his backyard. The Midwest’s extremely variable climate conditions intrigued him. “I was always interested in weather,” he says….

Wunderground.com’s Jeff Masters’ dream job “” ‘the truth’ and presenting what he sees as the best science.

Today, at age 50, all-things-weather are his job and his passion. A co-founder of The Weather Underground (wunderground.com), Masters created most of the software that formats the National Weather Service data used on the website, and also the imagery on the tropical page. And as a blogger on that site, he’s also become a committed advocate for the need to address human-caused climate change….

From College Degrees to Hurricane Hugo Scare

After receiving his bachelors and masters degrees in meteorology from the University of Michigan, he says, he was “burnt out from school.” On a lark, he applied for a job with the hurricane hunters as a flight meteorologist for NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center. From 1986 to 1990, he spent his time flying into the eye of hurricanes.

“It was a dream job” that satisfied his huge fascination with weather, he said: “What better way to seek out the most intense storms and most interesting weather phenomena?”

He relished the thrill of the experience, but a near brush with death, flying into September 1989′s Hurricane Hugo, gave him a fresh perspective. The team had underestimated the weather, expecting a weaker storm. “We shouldn’t have been in the eyewall of a category five hurricane,” Masters says, thinking back and adding that they hadn’t paid adequate attention to the warning signs.

The plane’s engine caught fire and there was extreme turbulence. But the pilot was able to keep control of the plane, allowing it to land safely. Masters decided that would be his last flight, and says now that he still suffers from lingering effects of the “traumatizing” experience.

Wunderground.com “” 10 to 11 Million Page Views a Day

He returned to the University of Michigan in 1990 to get his PhD and developed an internet-based weather-education project, the precursor to The Weather Underground, which he co-founded with Perry Samson, his PhD advisor. The Weather Underground launched in 1995, becoming the first commercial internet weather service, and among the first using real-time features of the internet for weather education. Today, it’s the 80th largest site on the internet, getting between 10- and 11-million page views a day and 15-million unique users a month….

Masters reads plenty of other blogs, and is a fan in particular of John Cook’s blogs at skepticalscience.com. He also frequents realclimate.org, climateprogress.org, and desmogblog.com, which he thinks does well at unveiling climate deniers’ public relations campaigns intended to counter climate change science….

Masters considers himself different from most meteorologists, many of whom he says are unreasonably skeptical of climate change science. He says he thinks their skepticism stems in part from bachelors degree meteorology students’ not being required to study climatology or climate science as part of their formal degree requirements.

Masters says he believes that the conclusions of the IPCC report are “genuine, valid, and probably understated.” And he is critical of what he sees as well orchestrated and well funded climate misinformation campaigns.

“They’re able to persuade even intelligent people with a background in meteorology” that climate change isn’t occurring, he said. “It’s going to be a terrible wake-up call when the climate becomes unstable, and we’ll kick ourselves for being resistant to cutting our use of fossil fuels.”

He’s shared these views in his blogs, not surprisingly leading to hundreds of “hate e-mails” a year. Critics call him biased and chastise him for defending scientists named or involved in last fall’s hacked e-mails controversy at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. While he respects the right of these people to voice their point of view, he doesn’t pull punches: “The ignorance and greed that human society is showing in this matter will be to our ultimate detriment and possible destruction,” he says.

He urges his 14-year-old daughter to educate herself on climate change. “It will be the defining issue of their generation,” he says, though he admits these pleas fall on unconcerned ears for now, as she still has “one foot in the world of childhood.”

…  He plans to continue being “a spokesperson for the best science we have on what the planet is doing and where’s it is headed.”

Julie Halpert is a Michigan-based freelancer who has been covering environmental issues for the past 18 years for many outlets, including Newsweek, The New York Times and public radio. She also teaches an environmental journalism class at the University of Michigan.  This was original posted on the Climate Change and the Media.

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17 Responses to Yale profile of Wunderground.coms Jeff Masters: The ignorance and greed that human society is showing [on climate change] will be to our ultimate detriment and possible destruction.

  1. mike roddy says:

    Keep up the great work, Jeff.

    There does appear to be a bias against climate science in the field of meteorology that is not entirely explained by their lack of coursework on the subject. Examples are Watts, Bastardi, and Lindzen.

    Why do you think this is true? Do you see a way to break through and educate them?

  2. Douglas says:

    Very nice. I’ve become a big fan of Masters’ Wunderblog. He’s also got a great supporting cast of bloggers with Ricky Rood and now Christopher Burt, an expert on record temperatures, among others.

  3. Doug Bostrom says:

    Masters’ account of his 1989 flight is great, makes it easier to understand how even such a powerful sense of curiosity could be dampened:

    A second massive jolt rocks the aircraft. Gear loosened by the previous turbulence flies about the inside the aircraft, bouncing off walls, ceiling, and crew members. Next to Terry Schricker, our 200-pound life raft breaks loose and hurtles into the ceiling. Neil Rain fends off screwdrivers, wrenches, and his airborne toolbox with his arms. The locked drawers in the galley rip open, and a cooler loaded with soft drink cans explodes into the air, showering Alan Goldstein with ice and 12-ounce cans. Hugh Willoughby watches as invisible fingers pry loose his portable computer from its mounting, and hurl it into the ceiling, ripping a gash in the tough ceiling fabric. At the radar station, Peter Dodge shields himself and the Barbados reporter from two flying briefcases. Next to them, Bob Burpee grabs two airborne boxes of computer tapes, but has no more hands to grab a third box of tapes that smashes against the ceiling, sending the tapes caroming through the cabin.

    Then it gets worse.

    Full story here: Hunting Hugo

  4. Scrooge says:

    The only way I see a way to educate meteorologists is to make climate change part of their education but anything to change that now would probably be to little to late. One thing people including wx forecasters need to realise is that weather forecasting and climate change are two completely different animals. A lot of meteorologists don’t seem to realise this so we see the D-K effect.

  5. Esop says:

    The link between US meteorologist and climate denial is a strange one. Not sure how it is in other European countries, but here in Norway, I can’t remember hearing of a single meteorologist being a denier, or even a true skeptic. Probably has to do with the fact that our winter climate changed dramatically in the late 80′s (when global temps really started to climb).
    One single cold and snowy winter (2010) after a string of nearly 20 extremely mild ones caused denialism to spread like wildfire through the general population this year, helped along by a rather cool summer.
    The press is regurgitating every comment from the deniers and print very little to none on the record smashing global temps.
    Another winter with extreme negative AO/NAO and nothern Europe will go into a GOP like state of denial, a truly radical change over the past year.

  6. Scrooge says:

    Esop that’s interesting what you say about another cold winter. I know some European forecasters are calling for another frigid winter. I just don’t remember when the arctic dumped two years in a row. Also my “belief” was the polar outbreaks usually occur when the earth is in a warm phase like this previous winter.

  7. Esop says:

    Scrooge:
    Looks like we are heading into another winter with negative AO:
    http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/daily_ao_index/month.ao.gif
    However, this might change quickly.

  8. Paulm says:

    #ESOP, yes the US denial is odd. The UK mets certainly subscribe to AGW.

  9. Sasparilla says:

    That’s a very interesting perspective Esop, I had no idea. One of the many expected fallouts (longer term) of climate change would be a early diving / shutdown of the gulf stream that currently brings significantly warmer weather to Europe than its latitudes warrant.

    I wonder if this is a good forshadowing of how things would go (socially on climate change) were the gulf stream to radically slow down / dive early and bring colder weather to Europe…

  10. catman306 says:

    Wouldn’t you think that without a stable climate, 3 month and 6 month forecasts will be very difficult.? But will the 5-day retains its present accuracy?

  11. Scrooge says:

    Catman306 initially I wanted to say yes the 3 to 6 month outlook would be harder but that shouldn’t effect the accuracy of a 5 day forecast. But since what I learned about weather was in the dark ages I guess the accuracy of the outlooks would depend on the quality of the models.

  12. Chris Winter says:

    Must… stop…italics…

  13. Bill W says:

    This is an extremely slanted story. Heck, even the comments are slanted! I’d say about 15 degrees to the right.

  14. riverat says:

    Here’s my try to stop the italics.

    Did it work?

  15. Ed Hummel says:

    I tend to agree with Jef Masters about undergraduate meteorology students generally not being exposed to rigorous climate courses. I didn’t take my first course on climate until graduate school at Rutgers in the mid 1970s and was lucky enough to be a student of Mark Shulman who in turn was a student of Reid Bryson at Wisonsin. Though Bryson’s ideas about the “human volcano” leading to disastrous cooling were soon overtaken by the much more compelling case for CO2 induced warming, I was still exposed to all the studies of climate that had already taken place for 150 years before that time and I have been easily able to keep up with the ongoing research since then. Even though the whole climate system is almost astoundingly complex, the actual physical drivers are in reality very simple to understand. The difficulty is in figuring out just how everything interacts and which factors become the predominant forcing agents. I would have to say that to anyone following the research and having even a rudimentary knowlegde of climate dynamics, it should be obvious to anyone with any brain what is actually happening to our climate, especially in light of what’s been going on this past year all over the globe. To quote George Tenant on another occasion and in a much different context, this whole thing should be a “slam dunk” as far as convincing the public that we are in extreme danger of losing our civilization, if not our whole species. But our culture is controlled by business interests whose whole goal is to eliminate any obstruction to their profitable excess. Part of the way they succeed is in keeping the general population ignorant of anything meaningful and instead has them concentrating on the most irrelevant tripe imaginable. That’s why I tend to be pessimistic that anything meaningful will happen until it’s way too late to do anything to stop catastrophic change; it’s not in our present “economic genes”. Our only hope is for some real widespread disaster to occur soon to wake people up to reality, and even that will probably get spun to benefit the multinationals to the detriment of the rest of us. We certainly live in intersting times!

  16. I’m one of your biggest fans, Jeff. Your work is vitally important. Thank you so much for all your efforts.

  17. Sarah says:

    I demand equal time for left slanted words!

    We also have a local denier weather reporter (Karl Bohnak) on the tube who spreads his poison through public talks and a book.