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TV weathercasters, supported by Mason research, are increasing Americans' understanding of climate change

July 24, 2020   /   by Anne Reynolds

For the past 10 years, George Mason University has worked with Climate Central to support television meteorologists with science-based, localized information about climate change impacts and solutions. New research published today in the American Meteorology Society journal concludes that climate reporting by television weathercasters, as enabled by this program, Climate Matters, appears to be increasing the climate literacy the American people.

Among the article’s authors were Ed Maibach, a University Professor and the director of Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication (4C), and Teresa A. Meyers, a research assistant professor at the Center for Climate Change Communication.

The study is based on nationally representative surveys conducted twice-a-year since 2010 by Yale and Mason, and on comprehensive records of when and how often Climate Matters stories were aired in U.S. media markets.

Their research found that in communities where weathercasters are reporting more frequently about climate change, the public is developing a better understanding of the fact that climate change is happening and that it has potential to harm them, their family and other members of their community.

Television weathercasters are effective channels for climate change information: They are trusted sources of news with a considerable audience that is large and diverse—economically, racially, and in terms of education. Most of them are trained in meteorology or other relevant science, allowing them to understand the consequences of climate change, and are skilled communicators, allowing them to articulate those consequences.

The Climate Matters program, piloted in a single media market in 2010 and subsequently launched nationwide in 2013, develops and offers a range of educational and localized climate reporting resources designed for these weathercasters. The weathercasters worked the information into their on-air weather reporting, used it for longer-format on-air news stories, posted it to social media with comments, and presented it during in-person public presentations at schools or in the community.

Climate Matters now supports more than 900 weathercasters with localized climate science analyses and production-ready graphics, in English and Spanish. They broadcast in more than 90% of all U.S. media markets. The program is produced in partnership with the American Meteorological Society, Climate Communication, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In 2017, Climate Matters expanded its focus to support journalists across all media types with Climate Matters in the Newsroom. The network now supports more than 600 journalists and includes the following media partners: the Carole Kneeland Project for Responsible Journalism, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Radio Television Digital News Association, and the Society of Environmental Journalists.