A January/February 2010 cover story in the Columbia Journalism Review offers an insightful overview of television meteorologists and weathercasters and their views toward climate change.
Charles Homans’ six-page piece, titled “Hot Air: Why don’t TV weathermen believe in climate change?,” perhaps goes a tad too far in suggesting that those involved in informing broadcast meteorologists (including this website) have concluded, “however improbably, that the future of climate change policy in the United States rests to a not-insubstantial degree on the well-tailored shoulders of the local weatherman.” (The “not-insubstantial degree” qualifier there may give the conclusion sufficient wiggle room.)
But Homans does capture the increasing recognition of the importance of broadcast meteorologists in improving public understanding of climate science issues, something they do not only on-air but through frequent community off-air presentations before civic groups, schools, and the like.
His piece cites the common refrain that TV meteorologists are perhaps the only scientist many Americans see in the course of their day. “There is one little problem with this,” he continues: “Most weathercasters are not really scientists” in the generally accepted academic sense of the word.
Homans, an editor with The Washington Monthly, is perceptive in reporting that a key factor in meteorologists’ awareness of climate science “came down to the weathercasters themselves, and what they knew – or believed they knew” about climatology. Despite the “deceptively close relationship” between meteorology and climatology, he pointed out, the two are fundamentally different areas.
(Homans’ freelance piece for CJR focuses extensively on KUSI News TV meteorologist John Coleman, the subject of a separate News Note in the January 19, 2010 posting.)