More on Weathermen as Climate Skeptics

NYT weighs in with front-page treatment

The New York Times’s front-page story on high levels of climate skepticism among TV weather forecasters might have seemed a bit familiar to regular CJR readers. That’s because the cover story of our January/February issue provided a longer, more detailed account of the same phenomenon.

Still, hats off to the Times; it’s an important story that deserves more attention. TV weathermen are the “gateway” to the news for many Americans (the weather reporter often being the most popular segment of local news broadcasts) and often serve as the de facto “voice” of science at their respective stations. And the Times’s article also added a few details. In particular, the paper’s Leslie Kaufman reported that:

A study (pdf) 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.”

And that:

A study published in the January 2009 newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, the professional association of earth scientists, found that while nearly 90 percent of some 3,000 climatologists who responded agreed that there was evidence of human-driven climate change, 80 percent of all earth scientists and 64 percent of meteorologists agreed with the statement. Only economic geologists who specialized in industrial uses of materials like oil and coal were more skeptical.

It’s nice to see the Times following up on these peculiar trends and adding detail to the ongoing narrative. And we hope that you’ll go back and read our cover story by Charlie Homans, an editor at The Washington Monthly, as it goes into much more detail on the history of (and explanations for) climate skepticism among TV weather forecasters, as well as what is being done to improve some of their misconceptions.

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Curtis Brainard writes on science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.