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.
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:
- Joe Bastardi can’t read a temperature anomaly map and so spins another conspiracy theory: Says pre-1978 temperatures use “magic readjustment”
- Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi admits, “Earth continues warmest winter since satellite measurements started”: Then he invents a new, self-contradictory theory of warming.
- Meteorological Malpractice: Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi pushes the “70s Ice Age Scare” myth again
- O’Reilly’s weatherman, befuddled Bastardi: “Global cooling is actually a cause of drought in California”
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:
- Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts
- Must-read NOAA paper smacks down Anthony Watts “” Q: “Is there any question that surface temperatures in the United States have been rising rapidly during the last 50 years?” A: “None at all.”
- Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one”
- Dust Bowl-ification hits Eastern Australia “” next stop the U.S. Southwest. Anti-scientific WattsUpWithThat says it has “nothing to do with the dreaded Climate Change” and “has an unappreciated benefit”!
- Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS)
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:
- Science Times stunner: “”¦ a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity.”
- And the 2009 “Citizen Kane” award for non-excellence in climate journalism goes to “¦.
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!