You can see the success of weather science versus medicine and automotive safety by going here and clicking on "Declining Death Rates." You'll see that meteorology has been the most successful science at saving lives at a tiny fraction of the cost. Without storm warnings, we would lose 1,000 to 1,100 lives to tornadoes in an average year and, in a year like 2011, we would lose more than 2,000. The reason storms seem trivial is because of the great success of the weather enterprise (NWS, broadcast meteorologists, private sector weather companies). The death rate has been cut 97% since the 1930's by tornado warnings and independent research shows the public's favorite way to receive those warnings is via television.
|Cancer Death Rates (lower numbers are better)|
|Tornado Death Rates|
Today, I read one of the most reprehensible stories about meteorology in a long time. It is by the Associated Press' television writer David Bauder. Mr. Bauder seems to have done little or no background research on the subject of weather and television and the huge value of weather warnings and weather awareness. Why are images of a hurricane in the Philippines important to show to U.S. audiences? It has been more than nine years since a major hurricane has struck the United States and many have forgotten how vicious those storms can be (ask Andrew or Katrina's survivors). So, it is important for people to be reminded in case we are not so lucky when hurricane season 2015 rolls around.
He also quotes a blogger named Andrew Tyndall on the subject of ABC News' increased emphasis on weather:
“If Ginger Zee reported in the role of climatologist rather than meteorologist, I would praise ABC’s ‘World News Tonight’s' decision as a daring intervention into a crucial national and global debate,” he said. “Instead, she is more like a pornographer.”
I was left speechless by that comment. Ginger is an extremely hard working, agenda-free scientist who does a terrific job in a position with tight constraints. Calling her a pornographer is beyond the pale. What is shocking to me is that Associated Press would include that comment. And, there was no comment in the story from Ginger. That disregards Journalism 101 where people who are criticized should be given a chance to rebut the criticism.
Scientific research shows the United States has the most violent weather of any nation on earth. So, it is not surprising that weather is often newsworthy. It is a shame Mr. Bauder completely missed a great opportunity to educate people as to why television and weather complement each other rather than writing an unfair, and unfortunate, story.