Meteorologist Paul Douglas on Atheist Talk This Sunday

This Sunday morning, on Atheist Talk radio, I’ll interview Paul Douglas, America’s favorite meteorologists (at least when the weather is good).

When I first moved to Minnesota, which happened to be during a period of intense Spring and Summer storminess for a few years in a row (including this event which wiped out Amanda’s dorm long before I ever met her), I spent a bit of time while searching for a place to live watching the local news, to get a feel for the place. Coming from the Boston area, where the main local news stations aggressively compete with each other using their meteorologists, I found it interesting that there was a huge range of variation in the weather reporting in the Twin Cities. One weather team stood out above the others, led by Paul Douglas, who at the time was on WCCO (CBS). That station quickly became my go-to place for news and weather because of the quality of Paul’s weather reporting.

At the time, climate change was on the minds of relatively few people, but it was very much an interest of mine because of my research in palaeoclimate connected to my work on the New England coast and in Central Africa. Also, soon after moving here I was added to the faculty of the Lakes Research Center, a globally recognized paleoclimate facility that focuses on fresh water proxyindicators (mud in ponds and lakes). So, it was rather annoying to see at least one of the Twin Cities meteorologists implying now and then that global warming was some sort of hoax, and in contrast, refreshing to see Paul Douglas speaking of the weather in scientific but understandable terms, and taking note of, and not dismissing, the extreme weather we were having at the time.

Paul got into the broadcast business while still in high school, where he worked for WHEX-AM in Pennsylvania. Later he was to develop a series of weather related and other businesses, earning the appellation “entrepreneur extraordinaire.” He has degrees and certifications in meteorology, worked at KARE-TV in theTwin Cities, WBBM-TV in Chicago, and as mentioned, became chief meteorologist for WCCO-TV. He left that position a few years ago, and weather reporting in the area has not been the same since.

Have you seen the movies Jurassic Park and Twister? Paul’s company Earth/Watch Communications produced the weather visualizations for those films, and Paul appears in a cameo in Twister.

Paul is the author of Prairie Skies and Restless Skies.

If you live in the Twin Cities you know that Paul writes a daily weather blog at the Star Tribune, and this blog is mirrored with a more national version at Weather Nation, which is the company Paul is currently most involved in. Those blogs are unique. A typical post includes a detailed narrative of current weather conditions and weather over the next few days, allowing the reader to get the sense of an expert meteorologist thinking out loud, going through several models, evaluating them, balancing the conflicting data, throwing in a bit of gut feeling, to produce a typically accurate (insofar as it is possible to be accurate) scenario for upcoming weather. Following this, a typical post by Paul Douglas will include a summary of the latest research and findings on global warming, often linking climate change to current weather observations.

Over the last few years, it has become apparent that a phenomenon known as Weather Whiplash, likely a result of climate change, has become the predominant driver of significant weather events. Paul is one of the people who first notice this phenomenon, and his advocacy of the science of climate change and responsible meteorology had certainly helped drive research in this direction.

Readers of this blog and listeners of Atheist Talk will also be interested to know that Paul is a Reasonable Republican (a rare breed) as well as an Evangelical Christian. He has written and spoken about the need for conservatives to embrace climate change, because it is real, and to address it with the assumption that it costs more to ignore it than to tackle it. He is also involved with faith-based activities advocating for applying good science to developing good policy regarding climate change.

I’ll ask Paul about the weather (perhaps he will give us an exclusive forecast!), weather whiplash, his approaches to communicating about climate change, why he got into weather to begin with (I believe there is an interesting story there) and more. See you Sunday Morning!

HERE is how to listen live, which can only be done from Minnesota, so you'd need to have a zip code such as 55344 or something. In case you are asked.

The show will later be posted as a podcast here.

If you have a question you'd like to ask, email it in during or before the show or call during the show at (952) 946-6205.

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I thought weather is not climate (just trolling). Ah ye and I thought meteorologists' opinions about climate change doesn't count, as they are no climate experts but just "weather guys". Twist it baby!

By Jimmy Senkov (not verified) on 25 May 2014 #permalink

Jimmy, I actually didn't hear Paul Douglas expressing opinions as much as making astute observations.

So, Mr. Laden, what's the difference between an anthropologist writing about climate change and a meteorlogist like Mr. Watts, or a climate scientist like Dr. Pielke etc (insert all the experts you hate). and you? Please tell me. You're an amateur like me, who thinks more about political agenda than about the real science in that field.

By Jimmy Senkov (not verified) on 25 May 2014 #permalink

Jimmy, I am as you say an Anthropologist. I have studied the interaction between climate change, habitat change, human diet and forager extraction strategies, and human evolution. I worked with sea level issues in New England, habitat change in Central and Souther Africa, and served on the faculty of the UMN Lakes Research Center, the primary fresh water paleoclimate analysis facility in the US, possibly in the world, for about five years. My students have worked on climate change in the Holocene, primarily.

Dr. Pielke Jr. is an economist. Mr. Watts is a meteorologist. I'm a Paleoanthropologist. I'm not an amateur in this area and the realities of climate change have nothing to do with politics. Politics has a lot to say about science and climate change, yes, but the realities of the Earth's atmosphere don't even know about politics.

I hope that answers your question, Jimmy. Don't feel bad about being an amateur, though. Anyone can study this issue and enjoy learning about it.