American weather forecasters do battle over mankind's role in global warming

A A A

A leading climatologist on the Weather Channel in the United States has caused a squall in the industry by arguing that any weather forecaster who dares publicly to question the notion that global warming is a manmade phenomenon should be stripped of their professional certification.

The call was made by Heidi Cullen, host of a weekly global warming programme on the cable network called The Climate Code, and coincides with a stretch of severely off-kilter weather across the US this winter and moves by Democrats to draft strict new legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Specifically, Ms Cullen is suggesting that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) revokes the "seal of approval" that it normally extends to broadcast forecasters in the US in cases where they have expressed scepticism about man's role in pushing up planetary temperatures.

"It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather," she wrote in her internet blog. "It's not a political statement... it's just an incorrect statement."

Ms Cullen is not alone in trying to marginalise doubters, who mostly argue that recent rises in temperatures are caused by normal cyclical weather patterns. They were described as "global warming deniers" by former vice-president Al Gore in his recent film An Inconvenient Truth.

Most Americans need neither Mr Gore nor Ms Cullen to know that something is up with the weather, however. This year's "wacky winter", as headline writers now describe it, continues to serve up unsettling surprises, the most recent of which was snow falling on the beach in Malibu, California, on Wednesday. The freeze in western states is expected to have eased by the weekend, but already it may have devastated California's citrus harvest with as much as 75 per cent destroyed by ice and frost. Freezing rain and snow paid a rare visit this week meanwhile to Texas and Oklahoma.

However, it is the eastern states that have experienced the strangest conditions - a six-week period of temperatures far above their normal range for the time of year. The unusual warmth has been a disaster for ski resorts in the area, some struggling even to produce man-made snow that will stick for a second, as well as for retailers trying to sell everything from winter jackets to snow shovels and duvets.

Cherry trees are blossoming in Washington DC and in some parks in New York, where the temperature reached a bewildering 22C (72F) 10 days ago, the daffodils are in full flower. When a few flakes finally fell in Central Park a week ago - so few they could not be measured by instruments - it was the latest recorded snow fall since records began in 1878.

All of this will be political grist to Democrats on Capitol Hill, who are gearing up to take advantage of their new position as the majority party to make climate change a legislative priority.

Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House, is expected to call for a new select committee purely to devise new laws on combating global warming, probably to be headed by Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts. "It's an issue that the Speaker thinks is critical to address," her spokeswoman said.

Any new legislation is likely to include mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions by American industries, a path that the White House has vigorously refused to follow. Democrats will also explore creating a market in emission caps, similar to the one that already exists in Europe. Under such a system, individual industries would be able to buy exemptions to exceed certain emission limits or acquire them and sell them to other industries.

It is clear that Democrats are intending to seize the issue from under the nose of President George Bush and embarrass him for his refusal to give the issue more credence. However, White House aides have indicated that the President will give climate change an important place in his annual State of the Union address to Congress next Tuesday. But few observers believe he is ready to go as far as some Democrats would like in imposing mandatory emission ceilings.

Extreme weather

COLD

* In California, a state used to mild winter weather, residents of Malibu Beach and West LA woke up to a light dusting of snow on Wednesday. Farmers say the unusually cold temperatures have devastated the state's orange and lemon crop.

* Texas, meanwhile, has seen a vicious ice storm descend across much of the state, causing blanket power cuts and traffic chaos. At least 10 people have been killed in the state since the weekend, thanks to the abnormally cold weather.

* Sixty winter-related deaths have been recorded across nine states in total as moist air coming from the Gulf of Mexico has met head-on with icy Arctic air from Canada, spreading snow storms as far afield as California and Missouri.

WARM

* Eastern America has seen a spell of freakishly warm weather. In early January, New York had record temperatures of 22C as New Yorkers strolled through Central Park in T shirts in a month when the city is usually covered in snow.

* The ski industry in America and Canada has been hard hit by the lack of snow. Although a recent drop in temperatures has finally brought snowfall, ski resorts across the continent have had to make do with artificial snow for much of the season so far.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you familiar with the sayin...

Recruitment Genius: Hospitality Assistant

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£6 - £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most