The science behind the showbiz

Why do we care so much about what TV weatherpeople think about climate change/global warming? If there’s a scandal to be had, perhaps, it might be that with all the electron-sucking, radar spitting, neutron enhancing gear, determining what the weather is going to be 24 hours from now is a giant crapshoot that the weatherpeople quite often get wrong. We accept the consistency of inaccuracy and we love them anyway. But when it comes to global warming, all bets are off.

Next to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater (btw, interesting story today on Republicans preventing it from moving to the expanded Mall of America, which appears to run counter to the “too much regulation on business” mantra.), there’s no more popular showbiz in these parts than the 5 minutes of TV weather.

rfairbourne.jpgOn last night’s news — thrown in somewhere among the segments on why people are late and how to save for your kids’ college — WCCO meteorologist Mike Fairbourne — the last meteorologist standing after Paul Douglas got canned — defended himself against criticism spawned by a Star Tribune article that outed him as one of 31,000 “scientists” claiming the human impact on global warming is overblown.

“I’m amazed people won’t allow me an opinion,” Fairbourne said. “‘I’m not debating global warming.”


The WCCO weather offices must’ve been a fun place to work back when Douglas and Fairbourne were both in it, because Douglas toes the American Meteorological Society line on global warming: it’s happening, it’s real, and the enemy is us. Douglas, in his Star Tribune articles, would also occasionally relay how much fun he has on his snowmobiles and ATVs, two contributors — one might argue — to an increase in carbon emissions.

On her blog, WCCO reporter Esme Murphy posts an e-mail on the subject from Douglas:

My attitude: all of us are certainly entitled to our opinions, but I tend to defer to the professional climate scientists on matters of the atmosphere extending beyond 15 days or so. There are thousands of (peer-reviewed) climate scientists all saying pretty much the same thing, man is having an impact. How big? Don’t pretend to know, but to just cover your eyes, put your hands over your ears, and make believe that a 38% spike in greenhouse gases (from man) won’t have any impact at all on the atmosphere seems like a leap of faith…and believability.”


Media watcher Brian Lambert posits that this whole ruckus is more about politics than science:

The fundamental issue in this “debate” is, of course, politics, not science. Fringe groups such as the OISM, to which Mike Fairbourne lent his name, are invariably politically conservative–deeply conservative –and attack “consensus science” of actual experts, as opposed to TV weathermen, bio-chemists, and whatever from a partisan political perspective much more than one based in science.

… but Lambert gives the TV weather folks who have made their opinions known, credit for doing so. He doesn’t explain, however, why a weatherperson’s opinion matters so. They’re not climatologists.

As for tomorrow’s weather? Your guess is as good as theirs.