Sunday, September 6, 2009

Weather presenters grapple with uncertain climate

Peter Capella in Agence France-Presse: Familiar faces and voices took to the stage at the World Climate Conference over the past week as weather presenters grappled with a core issue, how best to inform their audience about climate change. Wedged between the pondered complexity of climate scientists and the demands of the average viewer or listener for certainty come rain or shine, the weather men and women act as a go-between -- and the scapegoat if the forecast errs.

"The truth is we're the ones out there and the face they trust," remarked US TV weather anchor and meteorologist John Toohey-Morales during the Climate Broadcasts Forum in Geneva. After two decades in the geopolitical and research arena, the science behind climate change is more conclusive and reliable than ever, meteorologists and officials said.

…Weather forecasts have gained a degree of reliability that allows presenters to give their audience an idea how to dress or tend livestock for the next day or five. But climate predictions seasons, years or decades down the road are another matter.

"We are challenged to communicate uncertainties and present them as certainties," Ugandan weather journalist Patrick Luganda pointed out. The impacts of climate change are still painted with a broad brush, both in terms of their effect on weather and their geographical spread, and are often steeped in scientific jargon and raw data.

While weather forecasting can give precise temperatures and predict drizzle, sun, snow or frost locally the next day -- "deterministic" in the jargon -- climate predictions involve probability and wide patterns or areas…..

Snow flakes by Wilson Bentley ; ; Plate XIX of "Studies among the Snow Crystals ... " by Wilson Bentley, "The Snowflake Man." From Annual Summary of the "Monthly Weather Review" for 1902. Bentley was a bachelor farmer whose hobby was photographing snow flakes. ; Image ID: wea02087, Historic NWS Collection ; Location: Jericho, Vermont ; Photo Date: 1902 Winter

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