San Diego TV Meteorologist John Coleman Arouses Scripps Ire with ‘Other Side’ Special

A San Diego local meteorologist long known for his hostility to the climate science recognized by the world’s leading climatologists and scientific organizations has aired a one-hour “Other Side” TV broadcast.

John Coleman’s piece explores what he sees as global warming myths, and it promises to “make news” disclosing wrong doing at two major federal climate centers, prompting howls from some quarters and heaps of praise from those seeing things his way.

The “iconic weatherman,” as San Diego’s independent and somewhat iconoclastic KUSI-TV News station labels him, vowed at the start of his January 15 broadcast to stick to the science and shun political and policy angles. He vowed to divulge what he said is a pattern of deceits and lies from two of the U.S. government’s leading climate change research laboratories, operated by NASA and by NOAA in Asheville, N.C., and at Columbia University in New York, respectively. He promised “information the government doesn’t want you to see.”

Coleman, whose standing among broadcast meteorologists stems in part from the role he initially played in helping found The Weather Channel, used a cadre of well-recognized climate contrarians – Craig Idso, Richard Lindzen, Lord Monckton, Willie Soon and meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo – to buttress his arguments, several times referring to them as among his “heroes” and getting like responses.

He dismissed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as little more than an “organization of bureaucrats, politicians, environmentalists, and a small group of scientists from universities and research institutes collecting large amounts of grant dollars from global warming research that furthers the agenda of the IPCC.”

He and his carefully chosen “experts” pointed to natural causes – the sun and orbital shifts – as the primary causes of warming. In a series of naïve and clearly simplistic true/false and multiple choice questions, an on-air colleague offered ditties like “Brrrrrr … I’ll take a little greenhouse effect any time.”

“We scientists,” Coleman concluded, without making any distinction between meteorology and climatology, aren’t surprised that U.S. government agencies have had their hand on the scale, cooked the books, etc. How could the government do such a thing? he asked D’Aleo. “Follow the money, I guess is the answer,” D’Aleo replied.

Not to worry, Coleman said in a concluding wrap-up segment: “We scientists” … “have truth on our side.” His “news special” concluded by pointing viewers to links such as junk science and blogger Marc Morano’s ClimateDepot for further information.

Scripps Scientist Responds

None of which sat well with nearby Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate researchers and scientists, whose perspectives were nowhere to be seen during the hour-long piece. (The station and Scripps have differing perspectives on the program’s outreach to Scripps prior to the airing.)

Scripps research professor emeritus Richard Somerville immediately posted on the SIO website a “response to climate change denialism” avoiding mentioning the KUSI broadcast or Coleman by name but clearly directed at the previous day’s broadcast.

Not mentioning the program specifically may be one way of avoiding bringing additional eyeballs and audience to it through even adverse publicity, a way of avoiding giving equal “standing” to those seen as practicing ideological science rather than “hard” science.

Somerville’s six brief points recited a familiar defense of climate science as being “firm” and “solid settled science.”

“Human activities are the main cause. The warming is not natural,” he said, and “It is not due to the sun.” He said the greenhouse effect is well understood. “It is as real as gravity.” He said “the standard skeptical arguments have been refuted many times over.”

Science, Somerville said, “does not work by unqualified people making claims on television or the Internet” but rather by scientific research and peer reviewed publications.

Commenting separately from Somerville, but clearly irked by the KUSI presentation, was another Scripps representative, this time one trained as a meteorologist and not as a climatologist.

Scripps Assistant Director Stephen Bennett, who is both a meteorologist and an attorney, aired his perspective in a posting that he said aggregates the views of some of his meteorologist colleagues in the media and industry. He was careful not to claim prime authorship of the precise wording:

Credentialed broadcast and consulting meteorologists have recently made defamatory remarks in the media and across cyberspace indicating NOAA’s National Climactic Data Center and NASA are engaged in fraudulent activity. These unsubstantiated claims insult, slander and libel thousands of scientists that have meticulously and conscientiously accumulated, compiled and interpreted weather data for 130 years. Such remarks are, at a minimum, professionally unethical and certainly do a tremendous disservice to a global population that relies on scientists to light the way for our future.

In a brief telephone interview from Atlanta, where he was attending the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, Bennett pointed to his own experience having doubted and questioned climate science research as an operational meteorologist and consultant.

Bennett’s words: “About three years ago, it dawned on me that my experience as a meteorologist did not equip me with appropriate knowledge on the state of climate change science. It was professionally humbling to realize that I had misunderstood the primary issues and I had been communicating incorrect conclusions to my clients and colleagues for several years.”

Bennett says he set out to learn climate scientists from what he now calls “the domain experts” and now feels that meteorologists “have a professional responsibility to not express their personal opinions disguised as facts” on issues such as climate change.

NASA/GISS, accused on the “Other Side” program of deceit, duplicity, and outright lying about climate science data, rejected the accusations and said it “stands by previous scientifically based conclusions regarding global temperatures.” (The Yale Forum in an upcoming posting will explore the accusations made in the KUSI report concerning malfeasance by the two NASA and NOAA agencies – GISS and NOAA’s National Climate Data Center, in Asheville, N.C.)

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