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LOCAL METEOROLOGISTS ARE MAKING THE CLIMATE CONNECTION


More and more local meteorologists are using their air time to bring climate change down to street level and communicate what this crisis means for their viewers’ everyday lives.

Who do you trust?

In this particularly divisive moment, it’s an important (and more complicated than ever) question. In the US, polling showswe trust the military, small business, police, and our churches but not major corporations or the criminal justice system – and especially not Congress.

We’re also pretty skeptical of national television news, but maintain much warmer feelings about our local reporters. According to the 2018 Pointer Media Trust Survey, 76 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in their local TV news, a full 21 points more than we have for national broadcast coverage.

If that sounds big, it’s because it is – and it’s why we’re so grateful to the local meteorologists out there who are stepping up to the plate to relay the truth about the climate crisis to audiences in cities, towns, and villages all across the country.

More and more local meteorologists are using their air time to communicate what this crisis means at the community level, making it real for their viewers in ways global forecasts and broad pronouncements can’t always do. In some parts of the country, these science professionals are going out on a limb, running the risk of alienating a large segment of their audience, which may know little about the science of climate change or may even be hostile to the very words, thanks to years of politicized disinformation.

But as the truth of this crisis becomes ever-clearer – and ever-more-evident in escalating local impacts – TV meteorologists are refusing to play it safe. They have an important job to do – and they know it.

A BIG JOB IN A SMALL CITY

“I have become very aware that not only is this a problem, but it’s real and I need to make sure that I’m communicating that as best I can,” chief meteorologist at ABC15 News in Phoenix Amber Sullins told Yale Climate Collections. “For a lot of people in my viewing area, I’m the only scientist that they are ever going to see or meet, so I have a responsibility.”

That assessment – of the responsibility of a scientist to accurately report on climate – seems to have taken hold in the meteorological community.

“We are also in many cases the main liaison between the science community and the general public,” Greg Fishel, chief meteorologist at WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina also told Yale Climate Connections. “So we have a tremendous responsibility to make sure we’re not letting any ideology into our science reporting. That we are dealing with facts and relaying them as accurately as we can to the public.”

BRAVING POWERFUL HEADWINDS

Telling the truth shouldn’t be controversial. Especially when it’s as plain as the rain and as simple as the snow.

For many television meteorologists, though, telling the truth about how climate change affects our weather can bring on a real backlash. But still they keep at it, bravely bringing the truth to millions of Americans every day. We think it’s time to give them a high-five and say, “Thank you.”