Ever since he was a kid, Stu Ostro has been, in his own words, "obsessed with the weather." One day when he was around 11, he recalls, a lighting strike hit the house across the street in Somerville, N.J., while he and his brother watched from their porch -- sending fire trucks scrambling, and the French fries that Ostro was eating "went flying." Back then, Ostro's weather fascination manifested as a "phobia" of thunder and lightning; nowadays, as a senior meteorologist at the Weather Channel and head of its team of tornado and hurricane specialists, his obsession takes a rather different form. Try perusing his 1,072-slide-long and ever-growing PowerPoint [PDF] on extreme and unusual weather phenomena -- and how they may relate to climate change -- and you'll get some sense of it.
Ostro will speak at this Thursday's Climate Desk Live on "The Alarming Science Behind Climate Change's Increasingly Wild Weather" alongside Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis, whose work on how the warming of the Arctic is driving wacky weather complements his own theorizing. But Ostro didn't always fit this billing, because he didn't always buy into fears about global warming. As he puts it, he used to be a "vehement skeptic … not only about a human role in global warming, but also the idea that there was anything unusual about any weather we had been seeing."
Indeed, circa 1999 Ostro could be found in USA Weekend expressing uncertainty as to "whether humans are contributing to climate change or not." In this, Ostro channeled the views of many of his fellow TV weather forecasters, who have long nourished a skeptical streak, as a group, towards the notion of human-caused climate change.
"A lot of them are still where I was at," Ostro explains.
So what changed?