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.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
people
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Cover Supervisor...

English and Drama Teacher needed in Wrexham

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher needed in Wrexham The ...

English Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher The school, the childW...

English Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher The school, th...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits