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.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
i100
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit