Local weatherman doesn't know which way the wind blows on global warming

Categories: Environment
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The earth is not flat. We know this from science. Germs cause disease. We know this from science. The world is warming, and human-emitted greenhouse gases play a huge role in that process. We know this from science. Well, most everyone knows this except WCCO meteorologist Mike Fairbourne, that is.

Fairbourne publicly pronounced that the environmental movement uses "squishy science" on climate change, and signed a petition that claims there "is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate."

This is Flat Earth Society stuff at this point. Really.

Let's give Fairbourne the benefit of the doubt and assume he just doesn't understand the issues. See, meteorologists are not climatologists. In fact, there's no guarantee a meteorologist has taken a single course on climate change -- to do so is not required for certification by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service.

This doesn't mean Fairbourne hasn't taken a class in this field. Many meteorologists have, and have thought a lot about these issues, and I don't mean to imply otherwise. But it's incorrect to on-face consider members of the profession experts, and odd that the Star Tribune would seek out the opinions of two other meteorologists for inclusion in the story. As Joseph Romm, author of "Hell and High Water," has written:

Asking a meteorologist to opine on the climate — or even the cause of recent extreme weather – is like asking your family doctor what the chances are for an avian flu pandemic in the next few years or asking a mid-West sheriff the prospects for nuclear terrorism. The answer might be interesting, but not one I’d like to stake my family’s life on.

The overwhelming majority of the world's top climate scientists believe human-caused warming is very real. They cite a mountain of evidence obtained from years of rigorous peer-reviewed studies. These are the people with the tools to make this judgment, the people out in the field with actual instruments and research budgets. New research is coming out all the time, including the most comprehensive ice core data ever gathered from Greenland, that just shores up what we already know.

Every so often, a list comes out of "scientists" who are global warming skeptics. These lists, like the Inhofe 400, invariably turn out to include non-scientists, random people, and individuals who were put on the list without permission. There are a few global warming skeptics that are actual scientists. They are almost all frauds and charlatans, and most of them have done research at the behest of and on the payroll of fossil fuel companies.

Also, can we please stop with this?

[Fairbourne] noted that in the 1970s "we were screaming about global cooling. It makes me nervous when we pin a few warm years on squishy science." ... Another Twin Cities TV meteorologist, Dave Dahl, is of kindred global warming spirit with Fairbourne.

Dahl, in his regular afternoon weather spots on KSTP Radio (AM 1500), reads the record high and low for the day, illustrating extreme temperatures that are often many decades old. "More proof of global warming,'' radio host Joe Soucheray typically responds with sarcasm. Then Dahl chimes in with an affirming comment, such as "crazy" or "you got it, Joe."

[geeky] What we call "global warming" is really more accurately termed "global climate change," because when humans emit greenhouse gases and warm the climate, that sets in motion all kinds of unpredictable consequences. One possible example: warming melts ice in Antarctica, causing the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to break off. The resulting influx of water changes the salinity ratio in the ocean, affecting currents. We mess with a system we don't fully understand, at our peril. This is why, paradoxically, global warming could actually trigger an ice age. Runaway warming is one potential scenario; bizarre climactic swings resulting in more extreme weather events represents another. So no, the fact that it snowed a lot this winter does not weigh against global warming.[/geeky]

I apologize for getting wonky. But then again, taking climate change classes will do that to you. Maybe I should have become a meteorologist.


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