Television and the weather: some good news

Television for decades has been considered a vast wasteland, as public television advocate Newton Minnow famous characterized it in the early l960's, but these days television is, well, cliche defying. It's often surprisingly good. 

This is true both for dramatic mini-series such as the much-lauded Glee and Mad Men (which are far more ambitious and imaginative than approx 99% of Hollywood movies) and in coverage of the weather. 

A good example is Heidi Cullen, of The Weather Channel fame. Cullen has been talking about climate and global warming to a national audience for years, and recently brought out a book on The Weather of the Future. She told a scientific conference in December that she had been working on this book on nights and weekends for going on two years; her grasp of the subject shows in this editorial she recently wrote on the heat wave that has settled over much of the country. 

Yes, it has been a very hot summer after one of the most extreme-weather springs on record. It’s time to face the fact that the weather isn’t what it used to be.

Every 10 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recalculates what it calls climate “normals,” 30-year averages of temperature and precipitation for about 7,500 locations across the United States. The latest numbers, released earlier this month, show that the climate of the last 10 years was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the climate of the 1970s, and the warmest since the first decade of the last century. Temperatures were, on average, 0.5 degrees warmer from 1981 to 2010 than they were from 1971 to 2000, and the average annual temperatures for all of the lower 48 states have gone up.

Not your average weather forecaster? True, but not as far from the norm as you might think, as this recent story points out – 

As the nation moves through a year of remarkable floods, drought and its deadliest tornado season in half a century, the broadcast meteorologist has emerged as an unlikely hero.

Increasingly, the weather is becoming a bigger part of the national conversation. As scientists explore the implications of climate change and severe weather’s effect on everything from crops to urban infrastructure, broadcast meteorologists like Mr. Burns [of Atlanta, a local hero for his tornado warnings] are the ones who bring it home every day in eye-popping computer graphics.

“The weather is more extreme, the floods are wetter and the droughts are drier,” said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. “That’s going to have real implications on society, and it elevates the need for more information and a need for those on-air personalities. It’s beyond what to wear for the day or do I need to carry an umbrella.”  

Heck, on Wednesday even former weatherman David Letterman was talking about global warming:

You know when you hear that phrase "global warming?" I wonder if that's what's happening now. Because it's just hotter than it ought to be. Or is it fine? Are we comfortable with 110 degrees?    

Doesn't look too comfortable:



Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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