Posted by: pyeager | February 11, 2012

Are Meteorologists Good Source for Climate Change Information?

By Paul Yeager, author of Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

A recent post Huffington Post blog (who I also write for) was critical of the influence of meteorologists as it relates to the climate change discussion, citing their tendency toward skepticism of what is considered scientific consensus.

As a meteorologist myself, I try to defer to the climate experts as it relates to climate research and don’t feel obligated to understand all of the details of the science in the unrelated field of climate science, unless climatologists are interested in helping meteorologists are interested in understanding all of the details related to forecasting the weather.

I will say that the tendency of meteorologists to be more skeptical than other scientists as it relates to the climate change debate is most likely because of their knowledge and experience in dealing with the weather for years.

There is a tendency among non-weather experts to judge the climate change debate based on their own local weather or global weather patterns over a short period of time. Meteorologists understand better than most about the intense variability of weather from location to location across the globe and from one season to the next–and often understand that meteorological factors that influence those change are naturally occurring atmospheric phenomena.

Any climate changes that are occurring would need to be judged in addition to those weather factors, kind of like judging weather ocean levels rising needs to be judged based on knowledge above and beyond that of high tide.

I’ve too often heard that “it’s been a cold weather in the U.S., so there is no global warming” while other parts of the globe have more than compensated for the U.S. cold. That was the case in each of the past two winters. I’ve also too often heard that “the warm in the U.S. this winter is proof of global warming” while other parts of the globe have experienced cold that has more than compensated. That’s what’s going on this year.

As long as meteorologists need to explain that global temperature trends are not a reflection of the weather in one country or of one season, they will be viewed as skeptics even if they, like me, willingly admit that they are not experts in the science that truly does determing whether the global climate is changing.

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