By Michele McDonald
A pilot program that began at George Mason University four years ago to help weathercasters explain climate change is going nationwide, thanks to a new $3 million grant.
The three-year grant from the National Science Foundation plans to help television weathercasters inform their viewers about how climate change affects them locally, says Ed Maibach, director of George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication and lead investigator for the project.
“This program illustrates what Mason is capable of doing because it spans the research of climate science and translates that information so decision-makers and the community can be better informed,” Maibach says. “It’s the perfect example of making science accessible to citizens.”
Mason launched the pilot program with Climate Central, a nonprofit science and journalism group, in 2010. More than 150 weathercasters are participating in the Climate Matters program, which provides localized TV-ready climate data and graphics. These weathercasters are at 110 stations in 75 different markets, including 22 Spanish language weathercasters at 18 stations. The new grant is expected to add 200 more meteorologists to the program.
“Weather is becoming more extreme in every region of the country,” says Climate Central’s Heidi Cullen, who is the co-lead investigator on the project. “Local TV weathercasters have a truly unique opportunity to explain these weather changes to members of their community. They are trusted, they have unparalleled access to the public, and they are truly talented science communicators.”
The Weather Company, the American Meteorological Society, National Weather Association, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and Yale University also are partners on the Climate Matters project. This team approach ensures the most current and credible scientific information is available, Maibach says.
“TV meteorologists are an important part of the natural disaster early warning system in their community,” says Keith Seitter, American Meteorological Society executive director. “This project will help them fulfill that role in new and important ways.”