Founder of the Weather Channel discredits himself on global heating

John Coleman is the meteorologist for San Diego’s KUSI, but he’s also the man who founded – The Weather Channel. And today he posted a commentary about global heating that reads more like an irrational screed than a reasonable critique of the science and politics of global heating.

Over the course of his commentary, Mr. Coleman repeatedly claims that scientists manipulated climate data to “scam” us and the government into believing that global heating was rapid and largely human-caused:

  • “Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data back in the late 1990’s to create an allusion (sic) of rapid global warming”
  • “[PhD research scientists] all look askance at the rest of us, certain of their superiority…. They are environmentalists above all else.”
  • “So when these researchers did climate change studies in the late 90’s they were eager to produce findings that would be important and be widely noticed and trigger more research funding. It was easy for them to manipulate the data to come up with the results they wanted to make headlines and at the same time drive their environmental agendas.”
  • “There were a few [scientists] who didn’t fit the mold…. The environmental elitists berated them [and] brushed their studies aside”

In fact, throughout the entire commentary, Mr. Coleman makes only a single scientifically verifiable claim, specifically that “natural cycles and drifts in climate are as much if not more responsible for any climate changes underway.” Nearly every other claim Mr. Coleman makes is essentially based on the premise of “trust me, I’m a professional meteorologist and I’ve read the papers” and “trust me, I understand the university culture that makes researchers patronize us mehums.”

It’s just not that simple. I’ve read dozens of climatology, geology, and astronomy papers in my ongoing research on debunking global heating denier myths, but that doesn’t make me a respected climatologist, geologist, or astronomer, just a well-read amateur. Similarly, being a meteorologist doesn’t make one a climatologist either, or vice versa for that matter. Climatology is the science that studies both the average condition of the weather at a location usually over the period of years and the prevailing influences that create the conditions and phenomena of that location’s weather (adopted from Merriam-Webster Online’s definitions of climatology and climate – see also Wikipedia’s climatology entry). Meteorology is the science that studies the atmosphere and its phenomena, specifically weather and weather forecasting (also from Mirriam-Webster online, see also Wikipedia’s meteorology entry). Even if you prefer to call all atmospheric scientists meteorologists (as the Bureau of Labor and Statistics does), there is still a great deal of difference between climatologists and “operational” meteorologists like Mr. Coleman who forecast the weather.

And while meteorology and climatology are both atmospheric sciences generally and impact each other, the differences between the two sciences are significant enough that experts in one field cannot be expected to be experts in the other. In fact, given that climatology is fundamentally defined as the average weather, predicting exact weather is definitionally outside the purview of climatology.

One final point – Mr. Coleman may be right that the current furor over global heating will be shown to be nothing more than a phase of irrationality. It’s happened before, and it will happen again – some amount of irrational behavior is human nature, unfortunately. But climatologists put that likelihood at 10% or less, and that’s after most of the few studies that have contradicted global heating have been addressed using the scientific method by the very scientists Mr. Coleman denigrates.

I’m afraid that the tone of Mr. Coleman’s commentary, and his denigration of the vast majority of climatologists as liars, thieves, and cheats, says a great deal more about Mr. Coleman than it does about the science, and scientists, of global heating.

7 replies »

  1. I’ve watched a lot of John Coleman in recent weeks. He spent a lot of time on air; telling us about how the Santa Ana winds would continue to affect our recent fires. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but the whole time I kept thinking I was watching a man slowly lose his mind.

    Yes, humans are prone to irrationality. I’m more than happy to look foolish afterwards when I err on the side of caution over serious matters. Even when the risk is small, there are some things you don’t take chances with. To me, that’s the irrational stance.

  2. Fikshun, I had the same reaction to his post. There’s something more than Internet ranting going on with Mr. Coleman, I think.

  3. When I read the whole document at Icecap (a global heating denier organization), I found lots of typos, missed words, etc. It was like he snapped, then went off and wrote a missive, and then clicked “send” without bothering to edit it.

    What’s worse is that denier organizations like Icecap and the National Center for Public Policy Research jumped up and down and screamed “Look! Here’s the founder of the Weather Channel saying global warming is a scam! Hey, look at me!” with precious little thought about how bad his ramblings could actually be.

    If they keep being this unprofessional, maybe they’ll make such fools of themselves that they’ll drive themselves out of business….

    Nah, that’s just crazy talk.

  4. This is very strange since the Weather Channel itself has many shows about Global Warming and all of them support it. Why is this man actually trying to discredit his own creation?

  5. when are people gonna wake up to the fact that the global warming phenomenon is the new business frontier
    yes the environment is changing due to overfarming and deforestation and pollution but the whole global warming SCHTICK is a scam in order to place more burdens on people in the form of taxes etc
    consider how the race for oil is still being promoted along with nuclear power [ one of the most energy wastful industries ] in this so called green age but the man in the street is told he must clean up his act
    if you check history you will find that climate was HIGHER than BEFORE the industrial revolution especially in the middle ages
    the harsh reality of this world is that finance dictates in ALL professions and anyone who does not agree with the majority opinion irrespective of whether that is right or wrong has funding withdrawn and are attacked in the public domain
    it took brave people to stand by the truthful declaration that the earth is spherical rather than flat as was dictated at the time
    open your minds and your eyes
    the TRUTH is out there
    seek it