San Antonio Meteorologists talk climate change
Published: January 16, 2013
You have people like James Hansen with NASA saying we're getting better at connecting the dots between extreme weather and climate change. Is there any reason for meteorologists to make that link on the air?
Personally, I think I have an obligation to say what I think, so that's why I'm talking to you. There are other people inside my building that would totally deny it. I just happen to disagree with them. I do think I have some obligation to say what I think. But I'm not a climate scientist, I'm an observer. I've just been doing it a long time. I've seen our climate change.
Any time new facts come up, I always put them on the air. When the ice caps melt, I show pictures. We had record sea ice loss around the North Pole last year, and we have access to those pictures, so I put them on the air. Facts are facts. We just closed out the hottest year in history in the United States. We did. It's a fact. I will mention those facts as they become available. But I can't persuade people to believe what they don't want to believe. I think the latest research I saw said about 80 percent of people believe this is happening now, but there's still 20 percent who are deniers, and they put out a lot of false data on the internet. But people will pick up on it and regurgitate it. You can't help those people.
ALEX GARCIA, FOX 29 (interview by email)
Do you believe the planet is undergoing significant climate change?
Well, you have to be careful about how you use the word “significant.” Not all researchers see eye-to- eye on what is “significant.” Let's think more along the lines of whether our not our planet is undergoing climate change. The answer to that question can be found in the atmospheric records. Thousands of measurements are made daily on land, at sea, and in the air. Additionally, we also use satellites to supplement those measurements. The datasets produced by these measurements show there is a warming trend in our global temperature. Last year was the warmest year on record here in the United States. Our average temperature was 55.3 degrees, 3.2 degrees F above the 20th century average. Clearly, the planet is warming up. There are many indicators this is happening. Polar ice is melting, glacier volume is shrinking, sea levels are rising, ocean heat content is rising.
Are humans causing it? Where does the science stand on the issue?
This is a controversial topic for some. Taking a look at the evidence and not the politics will give us a clear look at the answer. There have been many studies on this topic. The primary studies have looked at how our atmosphere responds to “greenhouse gases.” Quickly, a greenhouse gas is one that absorbs heat and re-radiates it back out. Most people quickly name Carbon Dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Many do not realize that water vapor also acts as a greenhouse gas. There are other studies that study climate variability through time as far back as 2,000 years or so. These involve studying tree-rings, corals, and deep ice cores. There are also climate models. These are complex programs that utilize the data sets we have collected to create a “model” of the climate. It's the climate models that show human-induced changes to the climate. These models show human induced changes on global temperatures through the burning of fossil fuels, and agricultural practices — burning. Clearly, as the evidence grows, the finger of climate change is pointing in our direction.
The topic has become politicized. When you bring politics into any discussion it gets emotional and off the facts of the topic at hand. Any discussion of climate change should focus on the data and facts, the science, not the emotionally charged political rhetoric.