Leading researchers from several major universities and from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are teaming with leading meteorology and climate science professional societies, and with experts in communication and journalism, in a new National Science Foundation-funded initiative designed to help broadcast meteorologists better communicate with the public on issues related to the changing climate.

Building on previous projects with broadcast meteorologists, the initiative is designed to support TV meteorologists’ and weathercasters’ on- and off-air efforts to improve overall public understanding of global climate change and potential regional and local impacts. The partnership is led by Principal Investigator Ed Maibach of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication.

The partnership focuses on broadcast meteorologists based on analyses showing them to be respected and potentially influential communicators when it comes to helping Americans better understand weather and related climate issues and impacts. Maibach’s research indicates that two-thirds of the nation’s TV meteorologists have an interest in addressing climate change as part of their on-air and off-air communication, but many point to barriers impeding their efforts.

The partnership includes climate and social scientists from George Mason, Yale*, and Cornell Universities, NOAA, the American Meteorological Society, the National Weather Association, the American Association of State Climatologists, the American Geophysical Union, Climate Central, and the National Environmental Education Foundation.

The partnership’s plans call for it to work with three distinct groups of TV meteorologists and weathercasters:

  • The 55 percent indicating they concur with climate science evidence as represented by organizations such as the National Academy of Science and the United Nations/World Meteorological Organization’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change;
  • The 20 percent who identify themselves as being undecided on whether global climate change is currently happening and/or on whether human activities are a significant contributor to the observed warming; and
  • The 25 percent who currently reject climate science research that global climate change is occurring and/or that human activities are a significant contributor.

The project is one of 15 major climate change science education initiatives launched by the National Science Foundation under its Climate Change Education Partnership Program. The individual programs seek to connect climate scientists, experts in theories on how people learn science, and formal and informal science education experts in order to help improve public understanding of climate issues and help prepare the next generation of scientists, educators, and communicators.

Designed around environmental and geographic themes to fully reflect varied effects from one part of the country to another, the programs seek to “prepare individuals and their communities to make their own evidence-based decisions,” an NSF program director said in announcing the new programs in early September.

Additional information on the partnership is available at here.

*The Editor of The Yale Forum is a participant in the NSF-funded project described in this article.