Meteorologists Add Climate Change to Their Forecasts

Thunderstorm
What's the forecast? Some meteorologists now include environmental tips along with weather predictions.
Photo by Peter Aloisio

As the U.S. wakes up to the realities of climate change, global warming has made that most ordinary of conversation topics—the weather—a hot topic. And increasingly, meteorologists across the country are incorporating tips on how to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges into their local forecasts, thanks to a new program from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), a Washington, D.C-based group that works to provide objective environmental information to the American public.

The New York Times reports that The Weather Channel is among the many broadcasters using tips from NEEF’s Earth Gauge service, which is distributed in partnership with the American Meteorological Society. The service sends out a free, weekly electronic newsletter to 95 meteorologists in 63 cities, who in turn reach out to more than 150 million viewers across the country, representing a major leveraging force. “If The Weather Channel isn’t talking about climate change and global warming, who is?” Kaye Zusmann, the network’s vice president for program strategy and development, told the Times. “It’s our mandate.”

The weekly Earth Gauge newsletters include environmental tips tailored to each city’s local three-day forecast. For example, if it is predicted to be rainy in the area, residents are advised not to fertilize their lawns to reduce chemical runoff into waterways. And as cities heat up in the summer and experience smog problems, viewers may receive tips on available public transportation options to reduce emissions. In January, the newsletter began including climate facts based on “scientific information about observed changes in climate and weather patterns, and the implications of that change,” says NEEF’s Sara Espinoza. These facts are region-specific, as opposed to projections typically associated with global warming reports, she explains.

In addition to the weekly newsletter, Earth Gauge collaborates with the Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET) to provide online environmental science courses for meteorologists and the general public. The groups are working at an institutional level to modify meteorologists’ jobs to include more environmental perspective and coverage.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.