Hollywood Style Weather Reports Incite Global Warming Fears

In the midst of all the recent global warming alarmism, have you considered the role that the "Hollywoodation" of weather reporting has played?

After all, much as news reporting has become more and more geared towards titillation in the past couple of decades, so has the media's presentation of climate events, especially extreme ones like Hurricane Katrina.

With this in mind, it only seems logical that the over-hyped coverage of all things weather-related has added to the nation's fear of global warming irrespective of whether or not such fears are warranted.

Such was certainly suggested in an article published in Saturday's Toronto Star which accused American media of being prone to "storm porn" (emphasis added throughout, h/t to NB reader Linda):

Has the weather gone Hollywood?

In an effort to grab higher ratings and boost advertising in a fiercely competitive market, some television stations are being accused of exaggerating, dare we say hyping, their weather forecasts.

Crippling ice storms, devastating tsunamis and powerful hurricanes enthral viewers like a drawn-out O.J. Simpson trial or the heart-wrenching coverage of 9/11. Hurricane Katrina had us mesmerized for weeks - and the ad revenue flowed.

It used to be that weather forecasters were criticized for getting it wrong. Now, in true Chicken Little style, it's being suggested they're consistently overstating their predictions - the depth of snow, the severity of wind-chill factors - urging the audience to brace for the worst.

David Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment Canada, calls it "storm porn."

Yes, he's heard the criticism that "some news producers go to their meteorologists and tell them to make it bigger and badder." But that is in the U.S., he says, where broadcasters like CNN disperse teams of "atmospheric paparazzi" to catch the wind and rain behaving badly.

And, such reporting has consequences:

"This is weather as entertainment," says Mark Fieder, president of the real estate company Avison Young. Because Fieder and his family are avid skiers, weather reports are important. "I'm frustrated by the constant overstatement of weather reporting," he says.

Fieder relies on accurate weather reports to plan his week, particularly his weekends, most of which are spent at resorts north of the city that are a sometimes-treacherous two-hour journey by car.

"It's not that they're wrong," he says. "I can understand mistakes. But it seems to me the weather predictions are consistently worse than what actually comes."

Bringing this closer to home, how much have the grossly exaggerated hurricane predictions the past two years negatively impacted tourism on the east coast?

Last summer, I received several e-mail messages from hotel operators and fishermen in Florida claiming that business was down dramatically because of tourists' concerns about tropical storms that never materialized.

Sadly, there are other consequences to this hype:

[Gordon McBean, a professor at the University of Western Ontario] wonders if so much of our fascination with weather is connected to our growing fear of global warming.

There is the day-to-day, need-to-know weather and there's the big picture, notes McBean. Perhaps our interest in weather extremes - "the rains in Vancouver, the fires in Kelowna and Prairie droughts" - fuel our end-of-the-world fears about melting ice caps.


I'd call that a metaphysical certitude...how 'bout you?

Environment Hurricane Katrina Global Warming Weather Hurricanes
Noel Sheppard's picture