Television meteorologists from four southeastern states met May 14-15 at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science for a Yale Forum-managed workshop on understanding and communicating climate change science.

Underwritten by a grant from the McCormick Foundation of Chicago to Yale University, the third in a series of ongoing Yale Forum meteorologists’ workshops featured a faculty of climatologists and researchers from Rosenstiel, Rutgers and Yale Universities, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. They were joined by experienced meteorologists from The Weather Channel and WHNT-TV in Huntsville, Al., and by a veteran science writer who has penned leading books on broadcast meteorology.

Presentations focused on the body of scientific evidence supporting a human influence in observed warming of the planet; on the relationship between a warming planet on the frequency and severity of hurricanes and extreme weather events; and on research exploring impacts on water resources, corals, and coral bleaching across southern Florida and the Gulf Coast states. Experts also presented results of recent research on public and audience attitudes toward climate change and on challenges in effectively communicating with the lay public on related issues.

CBS’s Coverage – Good to ‘UNTIL’ The Last Drop?

A CBS Evening News camera team shot footage throughout the morning session for a network broadcast that evening exploring meteorologists’ sometimes-conflicting attitudes toward science widely accepted in the climatology community. That segment featured workshop presenter Danny Satterfield, chief meteorologist of the Huntsville CBS affiliate, and the contrarian views of KLSA-TV meteorologist John Coleman in San Diego and of a prominent Huntsville climate skeptic and climatologist, Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

The 2-minute/46-second CBS Evening News segment “did not give more credence to the contrarians than to mainstream science – nor did we give them ‘equal time,'” producer Phil Hirschkorn said the next day in an e-mail commenting about the piece. “If you watched with a stopwatch, the balance weighed heavily in favor of pro-global warming theory.”

Challenged about the final soundbite from the on-air correspondent that “It may take 100 years to see who’s right,” Hirschkorn said, “We went back and forth on the last soundbite and how to give Dan [Satterfield] the last word. In hindsight, we may have been better off with the original soundbite, where Dan had commented that even for some very smart meteorologists, when it comes to climate change ‘they make a right turn into a brick wall — forget the science, that’s what they think.’ That may have been a stronger way to button things up.”

But Hirschkorn added that the “wait 100 years” closing line from the on-air reporter played-off from a point made in the piece by Satterfield.

“Rather than giving credence to contrarians, what was meant was, literally, we won’t see if the (dire) predictions are true … for decades. [parenthesis and ellipsis in original] I think that is fair. Perhaps that point didn’t come across.”

Additional details on the Miami workshop will be reported in future posts to this site.

Topics: Climate Science