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Weather Untergrund

April 4, 2010

Or, “der grundlose Blödsinn vom der, die nur über das Wetter für ein Beruf quatschen kann (oder ‘muss’, weil ihre jobben daran abhängt).”

No, sorry, I’m not quoting from today’s Spiegel article. My pathetic and dwindling German should give that away. I’m making a howler of a multi-layered play on words about this ridiculous statement from CNN fliegende-quatsch-monkey Chad Meyers. When doing his segment earlier in the week, Meyers implied (claimed?) that meteorologists are more reliable sources on climatology than climatologists. His reason? Because the money is private in meteorology:

I also think it has something to do — follow the money a little bit. Meteorologists aren’t paid by the government, the ones on TV, the climatologists are. If there’s nothing to talk about, will their jobs really be all that secure? So, follow the money a little bit, I think you’ll find 10% and 15% and every little corner has to do with it.

Puh-lease.

Perverse incentives aside, ThinkProgress makes a few interesting observations. Read there first. I’ll just add my own two cents.

First, Meyers is actually entirely ambiguous about who’s following what money. Given the video and from his intonation, as well as from ThinkProgress’s analysis, it does appear that Meyers implies that it is the climatologists who may lose their jobs “if there’s nothing to talk about.”

But it’s not clear to me that talking about the weather is talking about something. There’s a reason, dear Chad, that many people think that those who talk about the weather are precisely those who have nothing to talk about. Add to this the following: I think I could make a strong case that those with the government jobs, not those with the private sector jobs, are the ones who are in secure positions. Why should they worry about their jobs? Government jobs don’t go away.

Second, it probably bears noting that many climatologists are also academics, not government employees. They may depend, in part, on the government for grants, but climatology existed long before concerns over global climate change. Those jobs don’t go away as easily either. Ergo: all the more reason for them to tell it like it is.

Finally, this raises, once again, the distinction between climate and weather, which, in a way, can be reduced down to a distinction between climatologists and weathermen, which then can be rehydrated in order to help to explain some of the mistrust of climate science in the general population.  That nice point is covered here. The weather people are in many ways the climate gatekeepers.

Most of our exposure to climate information tends to come through our meteorologists, who are, for lack of a better term, often “not qualified” to talk intelligently about climate science. Meyers is a case in point, as Brad Johnson points out. He just sports a pretty face and a BA in meteorology.

Relying on your meteorologist for his thoughts on climate research is a bit like asking your dentist whether your chest x-rays indicate cancer. In this case, it’s maybe even a bit like asking the hygienist.

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