March 30, 2010

Someone Tell the Meteorologists, Weather is NOT Climate

There's an interesting/sad/frustrating piece in the NY Times today on the rift between meteorologists and climate scientists on the science of climate change.

Basically, weathermen and women (weatherpeople?) are a much more skeptical lot on climate change than the vast majority of climatologists. Here are two of my favorite quotes from the article that say it all...

"Such skepticism appears to be widespread among TV forecasters, about half of whom have a degree in meteorology. A study released on Monday...found that only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring..."

Now call me crazy, but I'm going to guess that there's a high overlap between the half that actually have a degree in meteorology and the half that believe the global warming science.

The "debate" on weather vs. climate seems to hinge on people asking what seems like a logical question: "Since we can't predict the weather in 7 days, how can you predict the weather 50 years out then?" But that's the point -- climate models are NOT predicting weather, but climate. Here's a great quote from Dr. Heidi Cullen, a climatologist who also worked at the Weather Channel.

"They are not trying to predict the weather for 2050, just generally say that it will be hotter," Dr. Cullen said of climatologists. "And just like I can predict August will be warmer than January, I can predict that."

That's probably the best summary of the difference that I've seen. We know it's getting hotter and we have a very good idea why. So it doesn't matter if we can't tell that it will rain a week from Sunday, and it certainly doesn't undercut the science that we got snow this winter (see previous blog with hilarious clips from Daily Show and Colbert).

For more on this odd rift, see the Climate Progress site and it's series of pieces on the topic (and Romm's explanation of why most meteorologists are not trained climate experts).

In the meantime, the meteorologists may want to check with one science group that has issued a statement in support of the IPCC and climate science - the American Meteorological Society.

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