Climate Cast goes to Washington

The National Mall and Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial Saturday. Paul Huttner/MPR News

The MPR Weather Lab just returned from four days in Washington, D.C. where I was invited to talk about climate change communication at a workshop at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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The workshop was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Law Institute, and focused on how we communicate uncertainty in science. Of course climate science communication was a major theme.

I was asked to talk about how we approach communicating evolving climate science in Minnesota Public Radio’s Climate Cast program.

My mission? To talk about what we know and don’t know about extreme weather events and the links to climate change. How do we credibly and ethically communicate those links to our audience? It can be a complicated balancing act.

Group workshop discussion at Carnegie. Paul Huttner/MPR News

The amazingly impressive group included an accomplished collection of journalists, scientists and lawyers and focused on how we can effectively approach science communication across disciplines.

The attendees included AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, The Nation Environmental Correspondent Mark Hertsgaard  (a native Minnesotan), Jason Samenow, weather editor for The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, and Marcia McNutt, former U.S. Geological Survey director and current editor-in-chief at Science Magazine. She’s also a Minnesota native.

It was a well-focused and eye opening workshop. It gave me some valuable new perspectives on how we approach communicating climate science to our MPR News audience.

Hopefully it will help inform our discussions as we continue to grow our reporting on evolving climate science and invite some of the world’s top climate scientists on the show. In a national landscape of seemingly diminishing credible climate science reporting resources, we are committed at MPR News to expand our coverage on one of the most important scientific issues of our time.

MPR Weather Guy does D.C.

Of course no trip to Washington D.C. would be complete without a few historic digressions. I have been to D.C. before, but it’s been a while. The capital has a way of reminding you just how special our nation is.

Looking east toward Washington Monument from the World War II Memorial. Paul Huttner/MPR News

I experienced some pretty interesting events during my trip.  I’ll share a few. Call it Uncle Paul’s D.C. Weather Lab excellent adventure.

Near miss with White House fence jumper?

I arrived late Friday. After getting checked in to my hotel near the White House, I decided an evening stroll over to 1600 Pennsylvania sounded like a good idea. It was around sunset, and the fading evening glow lit the White House just as the lights were coming on.

White House crowd at front gates near sunset Friday evening. In 13 minutes somebody will jump the fence and run into the White House front door. Paul Huttner/MPR News

According to the time stamp on my phone I took my last photo at 7:1o pm Friday evening. I began walking away from the White House a few minutes later.

What I did not know was that somebody in the crowd or on the street near me was about to jump the White House fence in the next few minutes at 7:20 pm, and make it all the way into the front door. Did I walk right by or stand near the person who was about to jump the fence?

In this era of ever increasing security around the White House it appears I was one of the last groups of people to be allowed to walk right up the the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue. A new, second barrier has now been installed about 12 feet away from the fence.

Sunny Saturday on the National Mall

No doubt about it, you feel the energy and sense of history when walking the National Mall.

One of the cool attractions near the Mall for a news guy is the Newseum.  This modern collection of all things news is a hands-on history of one of the most important rights in our Constitution.  To remind everyone, the text of the First Amendment is written on the building:

Newseum along Pennsylvania Avenue. Paul Huttner/MPR News

Some of the more eye opening exhibits at the Newseum include the largest sections of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany and the twisted broadcast tower from the World Trade Center in the Newseum’s 9/11 Gallery.

And yes, you can even get a cheesy shot with America’s favorite pretend Anchorman.

The Newseum is definitely worth the trip if you are in D.C. and the view of the Capitol from the balcony is stunning.

Newseum Capitol view terrace with family. Nephew Mathew Underwood and new baby Iggy. Beth Underwood

MPR Weather at the White House

The highlight of the trip came Sunday. I was honored to be invited for a private tour of the West Wing of The White House.

Outside White House West Wing west entry Sunday. Jeff Stephens/The White House

You can feel the energy just walking into the west entrance of the West Wing. The White House Situation Room was no doubt a buzz of activity as I stood a few feet outside the door.

I was fortunate to walk on the west colonnade and see the Rose Garden, the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office.

Photos are not allowed on tours inside the West Wing, but I was able to poke my head into this doorway being opened by President Obama in this White House photo.

President Barack Obama opens the door to welcome Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, in the Oval Office, Oct. 29, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

The last stop on the tour? The White House Press Room. Photos allowed here.

Near the podium in the White House Press Room. Jeff Stephens/The White House

As a journalist, I’ve been to some pretty amazing places. The West Wing has to be at the top of the list. Unless you’re a White House correspondent, it’s a probably once in a lifetime event.

Monday at The Washington Post

On Monday after the workshop I had the good fortune to visit the Washington Post newsroom with Jason Samenow. Jason is a fellow meteorologist and the editor of the very popular Capital Weather Gang for The Post. I’m a big fan of Capital Weather Gang, and it turns out Jason is a fan of Updraft.

Jason Samenow in front of the Washington Post. Paul Huttner/MPR News

As we were visiting the Post, the U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria were just minutes away from being announced by the White House.

Washington Post Newsroom Monday evening. Paul Huttner/MPR News

It was a joy to represent the MPR Weather Lab during my trip to Washington, D.C. this week.

We now return to your regular weather programming.

  • Craig Edwards

    Well done chief.

  • Gary F

    Did you get to play golf or hit a bucket of balls with the President?