This week in Boston, Mass., the nation's broadcast meteorologists will meet in their yearly conference sponsored by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). You probably don't have it marked on your calendar, but from the point of view of the planet, it's the most important meeting of weather reporters in history. Because the burning question in Beantown is whether weathercasters will embrace their responsibility to communicate how climate change is creating a new normal of dangerous, extreme weather.
Given the climate change-fueled storms, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires that have dominated the past year, global warming will undoubtedly be a "hot" topic at this year's conference. But, amazingly, many broadcast meteorologists remain lukewarm to the subject: The majority of weathercasters, including many with AMS certification, don't believe that humans are causing climate change, let alone that it's dramatically shifting our weather patterns. These meteorologists are missing the opportunity to be journalistic heroes who can inform the nation about our increasingly poisoned weather.
For those weathercasters who want education on the subject, the conference will have plenty to provide, with panels like "Applying Climate Change to Google Earth," "Climate Change and Ocean Stories," and "Hot Topics for the Station Scientist." But the source of the climate communication deficit is mostly not educational, it's about politics. The ideological bent of some forecasters, and the pressures to avoid "controversial" subjects that might affect ratings, are leading some meteorologists to ignore science when airtime arrives. That's why the staff of Forecast the Facts will be attending the conference, carrying a message from thousands of our members: that reporting on global warming is a professional and moral responsibility.