RENO, Nev. — Dozens of meteorologists who prepare forecasts delivered on newscasts gathered at a weather conference at Lake Tahoe to learn the latest climate research and discuss ways to make it meaningful for viewers.
The Operation Sierra Storm conference this week was started for TV meteorologists, but it has evolved to include leading climate scientists, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported .
Earth system scientist Noah Diffenbaugh was invited by the organizers to present his research and lead discussions aimed at helping meteorologists translate complex issues such as global warming for TV audiences.
If he’s asked whether he believes in global warming, Diffenbaugh said during his presentation Tuesday that the issue is not about belief.
“If you believe in thermometers, you have no choice but to believe in global warming,” Diffenbaugh said. “Global warming is a measurement; it is not a matter of politics. It is not a matter of belief.”
Diffenbaugh, who teaches at Stanford University and edits a scholarly journal, focuses his research on the connection between climate change and specific weather catastrophes.
While climate researchers like Diffenbaugh primarily communicate their research through academic publications, meteorologists are tasked with conveying intricate topics to a non-expert audience, which sometimes includes viewers who dispute the notion that climate change is human-induced and a threat to communities.
“We are still a visual medium; it still at some point has to entertain people,” said Brandon Miller, a meteorologist and supervising weather producer for CNN International. “And that can be tough to do when it comes to climate change.”
Angela Fritz, the deputy weather editor for the Washington Post, said it’s critical for meteorologists to be able to accurately and effectively communicate climate change issues to people, so they can make sound choices about their communities.
“The only scientist most people see on a day-to-day basis is their local weather person,” Fritz said.
With a lack of scientific literacy in communities, meteorologists are put up against efforts to undermine scientists’ work to inform people, Fritz said.
“The worst thing that happened with climate change was that it became political,” Fritz said. “That was a very intentional move by people who knew what they were doing.”
The meteorologists discussed how the presentation of climate issues has changed as evidence supporting the increasing threats of human-induced climate change has become stronger.
“Is it a reality? The answer is yes. Is it caused by man? The answer is yes. What’s our future? That is the question we cover,” said Paul Goodloe, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel. “Although it has been politicized, we are not political. We cover what it is, and it is reality.”
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com