By Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans
Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.
‘You have the chance to shift the public view a little’<h4> <a href="https://twitter.com/KeithCarson?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor" target="_blank">Keith Carson</a>, <a href="https://www.newscentermaine.com/" target="_blank">WLBZ/WCSH</a>, Maine</h4><p>At the beginning of his career, Carson wasn't fully onboard with the idea that climate crisis was occurring and it was caused by humans. Carson began working in the field in 2006. Today, though, he says: "Frankly it's getting harder and harder to deny it scientifically." And now he knows how easy it is now for anyone to twist facts and create even more divisiveness.</p><p>These days, Carson regularly shares information about the climate crisis and other scientific topics with viewers through a nightly science segment called "Brain Drops".</p><p>For Carson, the issue is bigger than just climate change. "If people are going to dismiss science and the scientific process, it opens the door for other regressions," in scientific thinking.</p><p>Carson talks about climate change with his viewers about once every two weeks. "I think it's important to do, but not to hammer it daily. It's against human nature to change minds, and hammering it home daily would make some people dig in more." He approaches the topic like many of his colleagues do, by simply presenting the facts about what is happening.</p><p>Weathercasters, he says, have a unique opportunity because they are an integral, well liked part of the community, "and you have the chance to shift opinion a little".</p><p>While Carson does get some pushback from viewers, most of those who comment on his climate reporting are not his viewers, he says.</p>
From stories on breweries to ranchers: find a way to relate<h4><a href="https://twitter.com/Elisa_Raffa?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor" target="_blank">Elisa Raffa</a>, of <a href="https://www.ozarksfirst.com/weather/" target="_blank">KOLR10/KOZL</a>, Springfield, Missouri</h4><p>Raffa, a self-described science geek, believes her job is to educate her viewers about how climate change will impact them. She's done stand-alone news segments about how climate change will impact fishing in local lakes, a local coffee shop and a local brewery. One piece detailed how ranchers must be more careful with their cattle as black vultures move into the region because of warming temperatures.</p><p>"It gets people to look at climate change outside of the political realm," she says.</p><p>Raffa is careful to ask objective questions about things such as precipitation and temperature, and rarely outwardly underscores climate change as the problem. Her sources usually do that themselves. That hits home with viewers who see climate change from a relatable perspective.</p><p>"Climate change will impact us in so many ways, and I love teaching my viewers and helping them learn how they can prepare and adapt and be more resilient," she said.</p><p>In addition to her special reports, Raffa talks about the climate crisis in subtle ways during her forecasts. She highlighted a recent uptick in morning high temperatures hoping to show her viewers that overnight temperatures are increasing.</p><p>"This is what I signed up for," she said. "This is a science issue. It's my duty to communicate this to the public. If I don't, who is going to?"</p>
‘I used to be more subtle … but now we see more effects’<h4><a href="https://twitter.com/jorgetweather?lang=en" target="_blank">Jorge Torres</a>, <a href="https://www.kob.com/kob-tv/jorge-torres/3075716/" target="_blank">KOB-TV</a>, Albuquerque, New Mexico</h4><p>Over his career, Torres, chief meteorologist at KOB, has become bolder in addressing climate change. "In the beginning I was more subtle, but as more and more facts become apparent, I am more open now saying this is human induced. For me the biggest aspect is carbon dioxide," he says. "We are seeing that increasing globally and we are seeing the effects locally."</p><p>Earlier this year, Torres did <a href="https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/4-investigates-the-future-of-water-in-new-mexico-/5449672/" target="_blank">an extensive news piece on the issue of water in New Mexico</a> and how smaller snow pack will impact the state's water supply. Temperatures are getting warmer and warmer as well, he says, a fact that he points out during his daily forecasts.</p><p>"Whenever the weather story allows me to say," something about the climate crisis, he does, but he ensures it is in the proper context.</p><p>The bottom line is that he wants viewers to be open-minded about it. "Don't just hear something and dismiss it."</p>
The forecaster quoting Bubba Gump<h4><a href="https://twitter.com/WGRZHeather?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor" target="_blank">Heather Waldman</a>, <a href="https://www.wgrz.com/" target="_blank">WGRZ</a>, Buffalo, New York</h4><p>As the trusted "station scientist", Waldman says that talking about the climate crisis is a natural fit for her and other weathercasters. "It fits in our identity."</p><p>Waldman and her station have unveiled a series of short, entertaining and informative videos called "the climate minute", that are online and are scheduled to run this week on TV.</p><p> Weather presenter Heather Waldman talks global heating in 'The Climate Minute' – video</p><p>The one-minute videos are time-consuming to produce because while Waldman uses information from Climate Matters, she also does her own research, reading IPCC and other reports.</p><p>She says she decided on short one-minute videos because she doesn't want to lose the audiences' attention.</p><p>"The audience isn't going to pay attention to anything for more than a couple of minutes and we use succinct, catchy images. The goal to find some sort of thing, where people say oh, this will have an impact – this is affecting me right now."</p><p>On an upcoming piece on how ocean acidification is affecting shrimp populations, she is using Bubba Gump shrimp quotes to keep it fun.</p><p>"Intrinsically we have the responsibility to present not just weather facts but climate facts – we don't want to pontificate, but we want to make them actionable and entertaining."</p>
On Monday, EcoWatch reported how National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials had sided with President Donald Trump's false claims that Hurricane Dorian would impact Alabama and against the National Weather Service (NWS) office that moved swiftly to correct the record. Now, new information reported by The New York Times Monday reveals that the NOAA officials acted out of fear for their jobs.
- NOAA Directed Staffers Not to Contradict Trump on Misleading ... ›
- NOAA Chief Violated Ethics and Scientific Integrity in 'Sharpiegate' Scandal - EcoWatch ›
- 'Sharpiegate': Commerce Department Blocks Release of Inspector General's Report - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Can the U.S. under President Donald Trump still trust government-issued weather reports?
That's the question at the heart of a Saturday report from The Washington Post that leadership at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) directed staff not to contradict Trump's claims that Hurricane Dorian would impact Alabama.
U.S. weather forecasters are the latest group to sound the alarm that the race to introduce 5G technologies may have adverse consequences.
By Mark Bourassa and Vasu Misra
Hurricane Florence is heading toward the U.S. coast, right at the height of hurricane season.